The word obesity has been a terrifying term associated with our health in terms of how much we weigh. As we were always taught to be moderate in everything we do - including what we eat, it is for the betterment of our health and wellbeing in the present as well in the long run.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Before we explain what obesity is, we would like to first introduce the measurement system that assists in identifying whether one is obese.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) uses a classification system using the Body Mass Index (BMI) to define overweight and obesity. BMI measures body fat based on height and weight.
- Overweight / Pre-Obese = BMI > 25
- Obese = BMI > 30
Adults are not the only ones that can become obese. For children and teens, BMI is age- and sex-specific and is often referred to as BMI-for-age.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is a chronic condition involving the excessive amount of body fat compared to the healthy weight recommended based on one’s height.
Besides the term “obesity”, “overweight” is also commonly used in this situation. By definition, an overweight person has extra body weight from water, muscle, fat, and/ or bone. Someone who is obese has a high amount of extra body fat.
However, our body needs a certain amount of fat as it acts as heat insulation, energy storage, shock absorption and other functions.
Causes of Obesity/ Factors Leading to Obesity
When we speak about the causes of obesity, the first thing that comes to mind is having too much food. This is true, but it also takes a few other added reasons that affect one’s weight.
1. Poor Diet:
- Overeating: Overeating leads to weight gain, especially if the diet is high in fat and sugar.
- Eating large amounts of processed or fast food
- Drinking too much alcohol: Alcohol contains a lot of calories
- Eating out often: Food served in restaurants or hawker centres tend to be higher in fat and sugar
- Eating larger portions
- Drinking sugary drinks: These include soft drinks and fruit juice
- Eating Frequency: In certain situations, it is not based on how many times you eat in a day, but it also boils down to the type of food eaten at every meal. Small frequent meals produce stable insulin levels, whereas large meals cause large spikes of insulin after meals.
2. Lack of Physical Activity: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed a strong correlation between physical inactivity and weight gain in women and men. If there is not enough physical activity, you do not use the energy provided by food eaten, and the extra energy is stored in the body as fat.
3. Lack of Proper Sleep: Not sleeping enough can lead to hormonal changes that make you feel hungrier and crave certain high-calorie foods.
4. Genetics: Overweight and obesity can run in families, so it is possible that our genes or DNA can cause obesity. Genetics affect hormones involved in how your body processes food into energy and how fat is stored. A person is more likely to develop obesity if one or both parents are obese.
5. Medications: Some medications like antidepressants, diabetes medications, or those that involve hormonal imbalance like contraceptives will cause weight gain. If this is a concern, you should discuss your medications further with your physician.
6. Health Conditions: Certain health conditions and diseases can also lead to weight gain, which may lead to obesity. Examples include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – a condition that causes an imbalance of female reproductive hormones
- Prader-Willi syndrome – a rare condition that causes excessive hunger.
- Cushing syndrome – a condition caused by having high cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) – a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones
- Osteoarthritis (OA) and other conditions that cause pain that may lead to reduced activity
Other factors that could lead to obesity also involve:
- Psychological factors: For some people, emotions influence eating habits and they tend to binge eat. Many people eat excessively in response to emotions such as sadness, stress or even anger.
- Social issues: Such as having a low socioeconomic status (not enough money to purchase healthy foods) or an unhealthy social or unsafe environment in the neighborhood (reduce initiative to walk or exercise outdoors).
- Gender: A person’s sex may also affect the way the body stores fat. For example, women tend to store less unhealthy fat in the abdomen than men do.
There are many risk factors for overweight and obesity. Some risk factors can be changed, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits and environments. Other risk factors, such as age, family history and genetics, race and ethnicity, and sex, cannot be changed.
Negative Effects of Obesity to Oneself and Others
While obesity might affect the patient directly in terms of cosmetic outlook, however it can also affect the people around you in terms of strained relationships if no efforts are taken to overcome this issue.
Health Risks Linked to Obesity
Some of these health complications and chronic illnesses related to obesity include:
- certain cancers (breast, colon, and endometrial)
- coronary heart disease
- diabetes (type 2)
- fatty liver disease
- gallbladder disease, gallstones
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- metabolic syndrome
- sleep apnea and other breathing problems
Obesity can also cause day-to-day health problems such as:
- back and joint pains
- breathlessness/ in serious cases – asthma
- feeling very tired every day
- inability to cope with sudden physical activity
- increased sweating
In addition to the day-to-day health problems, many people may also experience psychological problems – which include low self-esteem and may lead to depression.
Obesity: Prevention & Cure
For most, obesity can be treated accordingly by changes in diet and increase in physical exercises. For those that include the genetic and DNA factor or affected by other health issues, there are other methods to combat obesity.
Any kind of obesity treatment must acknowledge that even modest weight loss can be beneficial.
Reducing the number of calories consumed in your diet can help to lose weight. However, your body still needs to be at a healthy weight in order for it to store and release energy for your day-to-day activities.
There is no best weight-loss diet, so you could choose any one that includes healthy foods that you feel will work for you. Keep in mind that some of the diets likely won't teach you how to change your overall lifestyle, though, so you may have to continue it for a period of time if you want to keep your weight off.
1. Cutting calories: The typical amount is 1,200 to 1,500 calories for women and 1,500 to 1,800 for men.
2. Feeling full on less: By eating larger portions of foods that have fewer calories, you reduce hunger pangs and take in fewer calories.
3. Restricting certain foods: Limit the amount of high-carbohydrate, full-fat food, as well as limiting sugary drinks or eliminating them altogether.
4. Making healthier choices:
- Limit salt and added sugar.
- Eat more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and whole-grain carbohydrates.
- Eat small amounts of fats from heart-healthy sources, such as olive, canola and nut oils.
- Focus on lean sources of protein like lean meats, beans, lentils and soy.
Exercise & Physical Activity
An increased amount of physical activity and exercise can help burn calories and is an essential part of obesity treatment. Even if it is just 10 minutes of exercise, it is still beneficial than doing nothing at all!
Depending on the weight of the person, and depending on the type, duration and intensity of any physical activity or exercise, these two factors will determine the amount of calories burned.
People with obesity need to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity – for example 5 sessions of 30-minute exercise a week. This is to prevent further weight gain or to maintain the loss of a modest amount of weight.
To achieve more-significant weight loss, you may need to exercise 300 minutes or more a week. You probably will need to gradually increase the amount you exercise as your endurance and fitness improve.
Another advise of physical activity is to always keep yourself moving. Simple changes like walking few steps further from your local store or around your neighbourhood could also help. A nice recommended goal is to try to reach 10,000 steps every day.
Some changes to your daily routine and your lifestyle could play a part in combating obesity. These include examining your current habits to find out what factors, stresses or situations that may have contributed to your obesity.
As everyone is different and may have different obstacles to managing their own weight, behaviour changes will differ according to individual concerns.
Prescription Weight-loss Medication
Yes, there are prescription medication for weight loss and are also known as anti-obesity medications. They are to help you to stick to a low-calorie diet by stopping the hunger and the signals of you not feeling full.
You might need to consult a doctor for this medication, and ensure you are not having unpleasant side-effects. The main purpose of weight-loss medications is meant to be used along with diet, exercise and behaviour changes.
For some people with extreme obesity that cannot be overcome by the other weight-control options, weight-loss surgery (also known as bariatric surgery) can be taken into consideration. It can also be an option for people who have the following factors:
- Have extreme obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
- BMI is 35 to 39.9, but also has a serious weight-related health problem, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
What weight-loss surgery does is that it limits the amount of food you are able to eat, or decreases the absorption of food and calories, or both.
While weight-loss surgery offers the best chance of losing the most weight, it can pose serious risks.
Common weight-loss surgeries include:
- Gastric bypass surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass)
- Adjustable gastric banding
- Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch
- Gastric sleeve
Obesity: Never Put Beauty Over Health
While weight can be a devastating number to watch, but it acts as a reminder that our bodies are not recycle bins. It again, also teaches us that things need to be consumed in moderation – even the best fried chicken and bubble tea.
If you are having issues with your weight or knows somebody who is, come and speak to us at WhatsDoc. Our certified healthcare professionals will understand the conditions before diagnosing accordingly.
Take the effort to look at weight as a health indicator for yourself and for others.