Reverse Obesity by Adopting a Plant-based Diet

Obesity continues to be a huge problem in Hawaii and the United States as a whole. Last month, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported survey results for 2007 showing that 25.6% of Americans are obese, up nearly 2 percent from just 2 years ago.1

Happily, the CDC also reports that residents of Hawaii make up one of the top five leanest states in the nation—with an obesity rate of 21.4 percent.2 However, this means one out of five residents are too fat. If you count among them, there is reason to be concerned. Research indicates that as weight increases, so does your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

How do I know if I am obese?

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI is calculated using height and weight. For example, a 5-foot, 9-inch adult who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30, which puts this person into the obese category. A BMI from 25 to 30, is considered overweight, while a healthy BMI is in the 20 to 25 range. To determine your BMI, there is a free online calculator you can use at

How do I lose weight and keep it off?

While you may be able to lose pounds quickly on the latest fad diet, to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight usually requires long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits. The key to losing weight is that you must use up more calories than you take in. Switching to a vegetarian, plant-based diet is a great way to reduce calories and help you lose excess weight. Research by the Mayo Clinic has shown that, on average, people who follow a vegetarian diet eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than non-vegetarians.3

Small changes can add up to big benefits

Dr. William Dietz, Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity makes a good point, "We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high calorie foods and sugar sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight." The good news is that even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight (e.g. going from 200 to 190 pounds) can improve your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels and decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity. Simply switching to a vegetarian, plant-based diet and getting a little exercise can easily achieve that kind of weight loss. So don’t get discouraged, losing weight doesn’t have to be difficult. If you are overweight or obese, be sure to check out this month’s Health Tip for some healthy and effective ways you can lose weight.

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, News Release: “Latest CDC Data Show More Americans Report Being Obese,” July 17, 2008:
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Report: “U.S. Obesity Trends 1985–2010,…
  3. Mayo, “Vegetarian Diet: will it help me loose weight?”:…