Harvard Women's Health Watch

Keeping portions in proportion

Increased portion sizes have paralleled the rise in overweight and obesity in the United States. It's time to get a fix on how much we're serving ourselves.

Most of us worry about our weight, and personal appearance is not the only reason for concern. Excess body fat has profound metabolic consequences, putting us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and possibly depression. Nonetheless, the prevalence of obesity — a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more — continues to rise in this country. 33% of American adults are obese, compared with 15% in the late 1970s. More than 60% of women are overweight or obese.

A number of individual variables — genetic, biological, and psychological — influence susceptibility to obesity. But they don't fully account for America's expanding waistline. Our genes haven't changed. And although most of us get less exercise than we need, it's unclear whether we're much more sedentary than our parents were. What has changed is how we eat...and how much we eat.

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