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The problem of obesity is widespread because many people do not eat healthy foods or exercise enough. Obese people have too much body fat. Put simply, too many people eat too much and move too little. That means that people who weigh too much take in more energy from food – called calories – than their bodies use. But obesity is more than just being overweight. People who are obese usually weigh 20 percent or more than the recommended weight for their height and body type.

Obesity is dangerous. It increases the risk of heart disease and it can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, trouble sleeping, and emotional problems such as poor self-esteem. In fact, obesity is closing in on tobacco as the No. 1 preventable cause of death in America today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity is a problem for children and young adults, too. Between 16 percent and 33 percent of children and adolescents in America – more than 9 million young people – are obese. Because of that, kids are now getting diseases that used to affect only adults. There are lots of things that kids want to rush into as they grow up, but grownup illnesses are not among them. It’s a serious problem because today’s kids (and that means you!) are tomorrow’s leaders. We need tomorrow’s leaders to be strong and healthy. You might say that today’s eaters are tomorrow’s leaders. Did what you ate yesterday prepare you for greatness tomorrow? Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to make changes. You have the power to choose good health starting now.

Although obesity has some physical causes, such as medical illness or medications (and children with one or more obese parents are more likely to be obese themselves), the biggest causes of obesity are poor diet and lack of exercise. Obesity levels are lowest among people who consume high quantities of fruits and vegetables. Those are things you can do something about. If you are worried that you may be obese, consider seeing a doctor to talk about making healthy choices. If someone you know is obese, you might suggest that person get advice from a doctor.

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