As you probably already know, obesity is an epidemic in this country. The facts are depressing: According to CNN, one-third of the world population is now obese, while the U.S. has the highest obesity rate among children at 13 percent. Being obese leads to obesity-related conditions, like heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and even cancer.

Based on what I have seen in my office, which sees well over 3,500 patients, here are the three reasons I believe people in the Quad-Cities tend to be obese:

1. Lack of activity. Parents can help prevent children from becoming obese.

Participating in some form of physical activity would solve many problems for most of my patients. Even light physical activity can help decrease your risks for obesity, high cholesterol, depression and anxiety. This is also the case for our children, who spend more and more time in front of screens. A recent study of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old suggested that if the father is present and involved in raising them, this lowers the obesity rate among children.

2. Standard American diet and the lost art of cooking.

It’s easy to grab a bag of chips. It’s easier to go to a drive thru and order a meal or order pizza. It’s all easy. Surveys are showing that less than 50 percent of Americans eat dinner at home. Why should we cook at home? We can control what is being put into our food. What kinds of oils and ingredients are we using in our food? When we eat out, we lose control of that, and we have no idea what someone is putting in our food. What addictive additives are being used in our food to make it taste better and not necessarily healthier? This is definitely something to consider. Another thought: Cook dinner and involve your children. 

3. High levels of stress.

So, most of us have smartphones, and most of us check them regularly throughout the day. According to an article from Medical News Today, on an average day in the U.S., 65 percent of adults check personal email, 52 percent and 44 percent check texts and social media, respectively, and 28 percent say the same about work emails. This wasn’t happening 20 years ago. Now, I am not against technology at all, because it has certainly increased productivity, but it has also increased stress levels. Higher levels of stress are known to increase risks of obesity. Here’s a thought, put your phone on airplane mode during certain parts of the day. It’s a good idea to unplug from your phone. During this time, connect with a loved one, meditate or do yoga to help decrease stress.

I always recommend contacting your health care professional when looking for ways to improve your overall lifestyle.

Sayed Shah, MD, is a holistic medicine practitioner at Mandala Integrative Medicine.