Almost two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity in the US is also an alarming epidemic: one in three children is considered overweight to obese. In North Carolina, one in four children (5-11 years) and one in three teenagers is overweight.

On WUNC radio’s “The State of Things,” Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Mark Dessauer, communications director for Active Living by Design, discuss how living in a low income community can affect our physical fitness. To listen to the podcast, click the link below.

AUDIO PODCAST: The effect of living in a low income community on physical fitness

Community outreach

Community members learn about new fruits and vegetablesThe COEC staff conducts obesity outreach for community and youth groups to foster understanding of the risk factors for obesity and its other implications. Much of this outreach reflects the activities developed by the COEC as a part of the workshop it developed, The Skinny on the Science of Obesity, a free 4-hour workshop for North Carolina educators about the global obesity epidemic and how to help our kids, schools and communities stay healthy. The obesity and nutrition workshops feature engaging activities and discussions about emerging scientific research at UNC-Chapel Hill. By workshop’s end, participants have a greater understanding of the causes and consequences of obesity and practical ideas for integrating health and wellness into their lives. Nutrition lessons are available free to any interested organization.


Researchers at the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS) conduct studies to better understand how the environment and genetics contribute to obesity and how obesity is linked to many serious health conditions. They use that research to make recommendations that individuals can take to reduce obesity. Learn more about CEHS obesity research in the Obesity and Metabolic Disease Flexible Interdisciplinary Research Group (FIRG).

Habits for a healthy lifestyle

Ten tips from UNC researchers for maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of disease:
  1. Be active every day. Physical activity is not all or nothing. Every little movement counts!
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Branch out from white and yellow and go for more colors.
  3. Eat more whole grains. Whole grain foods like brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, and whole wheat flour products contain fiber and complex carbohydrates for healthy eating.
  4. Limit juices and sweet drinks. Fruit juices, soda and other sweetened beverages don’t fill you up and are packed with empty calories.
  5. Drink more water. Drink water before you get thirsty. Keep water handy at all times and drink it frequently, especially while working out.
  6. Surround yourself with healthful foods. Avoid buying a supersized or high-fat lunch by preparing healthy and correctly portioned meals the night before so it’s easier to grab it and go in the morning.
  7. Eat predictable, regular meals. Don’t let yourself get too hungry that you end up binging and overeating.
  8. Control your portion size. A true portion size depends on its nutrient value, not appetite or what the restaurant serves you.
  9. Forget about fad diets. Go back to basics. Change lifelong habits instead of going on multiple diets. Learn to eat less and enjoy more.
  10. Cut down on salty snacks. Chips, pretzels, and crackers are processed, tend to have high calories and are not very healthy. Excess sodium increases risk of high blood pressure.
Adapted from “Ten Simple Rules,” UNC’s Endeavors magazine, spring 2005.

Additional resources

Funded by NIEHS Grant # P30 ES010126