People who struggle with obesity face a double-edged sword. Not only is there a social stigma for overweight bodies, but obesity has also been harshly oversimplified.

I often come across the misconception that obesity is only caused because people consume more calories than the ones they spend as if behavior could be summed up in a basic math equation. Such a simplistic analysis of obesity can be harmful as it negates its complex root causes and denies the difficulty of managing one’s weight.

If overcoming obesity was so simple and easy to do, then why is it considered a growing global epidemic with over 800 million people currently living with the disease?

The Roots of Obesity Run Deep

Many people may not fully grasp the multifaceted reasons that cause obesity. The Complex Systems Theory states that phenomena that are composed of many interacting components whose behavior or structure is difficult to understand can be called complex. Well, obesity is positively a complex condition, and simplifying it to any one cause can make treating it even harder.

This is why we need to breakdown the root causes of obesity and raise awareness about the disease. The World Obesity Day organization has identified nine main root causes for obesity:

  1. Biology
  2. Food
  3. Genetic Risk
  4. Health Care Access
  5. Life Events
  6. Marketing
  7. Mental Health
  8. Sleep
  9. Stigma

However, just because something is complex does not mean it cannot be addressed. The science of complexity gives us tools to understand the inter-relatedness of factors and causes us to pause and reflect on the key drivers that may not be intuitive.

Since obesity is associated with conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which are risk factors for the major causes of death (cardiovascular diseases), we must pause to see the relatedness of it all.

We live in an interconnected complex world and it will take a broad-based approach including a global approach, interdisciplinary collaborations, nutrition education, policy, and a sensing mindset where we learn and adapt based on evidence of impact.

The Role of Nutrition Education in Fighting Obesity

As a global nutrition company, we empower people to access important and appropriate information about nutrition, health, and well-being. One of the ways we do that is by educating consumers about nutrient density.

The concept of nutrient density, which is a measure of how much nutrition you get per calorie eaten, is important to a healthy diet. Remember, when choosing between two food items with the same calorie amount, one food choice can provide your body with the protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals we need every day, while another choice may provide empty calories from sugar and fat with no significant nutrients.

Even in food deserts and swamps, healthy eating can be achieved by making informed decisions that can only come through education. This behavior change helps our communities fight obesity.

We also need to remember that health is holistic, and balanced nutrition is only part of the equation for a healthy and happy life. A consistent exercise regimen and a supportive community are also essential to lose weight and get healthy.

Supportive Communities Have the Power to Make a Difference

By surrounding yourself with a supportive community of like-minded people, in other words, others who want to live a healthy active lifestyle, one can significantly increase the odds of reaching your goals.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who regularly walk in groups have lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, and total cholesterol. Exercise also leads to a reduction in body fat and Body Mass Index (BMI). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees.

Our independent distributors play these roles in their local communities, motivating others and encouraging regular physical activity. As coaches to their customers, they help others make healthier choices and stay on a path to better wellness, using tools, training, and materials developed by our experts in nutrition, health, and fitness.

Access to good nutrition is critical to solving the challenges posed by food insecurity, including obesity. When looking at delivering nutrient-dense foods to the most remote food deserts in the world, there is no way currently, for fresh food to compete on cost-effectively delivering safe and nutrient-dense food, compared to processed food. To help solve this problem we launched our Nutrition for Zero Hunger initiative; a global program that provides critical resources and expertise to communities around the world.

Our goal is to increase access to healthy foods and nutrition education for vulnerable populations around the world, by increasing awareness, donating nutrient-dense products, and collaborating with our global partners, such as Feed the Children and World Food Program USA.

Through nutrition education and support, we can continue to address the problem of obesity in our communities, one customer at a time.

Kent L. Bradley, M.D., MBA, MPH – Chief Health and Nutrition Officer

Kent L. BradleyM.D., MBA, MPH – Chief Health and Nutrition Officer

Dr. Kent Bradley is the chief health and nutrition officer for Herbalife Nutrition. He is responsible for all nutrition and product training. Dr. Bradley is a retired Army colonel, graduate of the United States Military Academy. He holds a master’s in public health from the University of Minnesota, an Executive MBA from the University of Denver and a medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in public health and preventive medicine and holds a certificate in corporate governance from INSEAD. An avid enthusiast for staying active through a mix of team sports and outdoor activities, Dr. Bradley’s favorite products include Herbalife24® Rebuild Strength and Herbalifeline®.