Obesity is not just about the accumulation of weight or looking your best. This is a serious condition of accumulation of body fat which can increase the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and even cancer.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is the result of the accumulation of excess fat in the body. The food we eat gives us the nutrients we need for our health and the calories we need for energy. The extra calories, which our body cannot burn, turns into fat and is stored. Continuous weight gain results in obesity. You are considered obese if your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30.
How is obesity measured?
Body mass index (BMI) is the common method of measuring obesity. BMI can be calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in meters. The value obtained is then compared with weight classification of the BMI chart. The BMI chart is classified into underweight, normal weight, overweight and obesity based on specific cut-offs. Though assessing weight with BMI is a good start, it is not the accurate method. Body composition and distribution of body fat in individuals with similar BMIs can vary widely. Like, if we consider athletes, they may have a low body fat percentage, but due to the muscle, the BMI will be high. Therefore, body fat percentage needs to be determined. There are many ways to estimate the percentage of body fat, ranging from simple measurements to expensive tests.
Waist Circumference Risk Threshold
Obesity just does not depend only upon the amount of fat, but also on the position of the fat deposit. The fat deposits the abdomen (belly-fat) is a huge risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, fatty liver and other metabolic problems. The fat accumulated hips and thighs are less associated with health problems. Hence some researchers suggest measuring waist circumference to determine obesity related health risks. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in females and over 40 inches in males suggests that an individual is at a significant risk of developing metabolic problems related to obesity.
Causes of Obesity
There are many factors that cause obesity. The main reason being an imbalance of intake and consumption. Also, factors like age, gender, genes, hormones, stress, etc. play an important role in obesity. Most of the modern-day diets includes fast food and high-calorie drinks. Obese people tend to have more appetite even after overeating and may again feel hungry.
- Genes – Genes play a major role in the metabolism and distribution of body fat. Obesity majorly runs in the families. It is not only hereditary but is also because families tend to have the same cooking and eating habits. There is more risk of a child inheriting obesity if the parent is obese.
- Emotions – Feelings like boredom, anger, depression makes people overeat even with no appetite. Stress plays a major role in obesity. You tend to binge high-calorie food when you cannot handle stress.
- Gender – Women gain more weight than men though the calorie intake is the same. Men have more muscles and muscles burn more calories.
- Age – As age progresses, the rate of metabolism and calorie requirement decreases resulting in loss of muscle and fat gain.
- Health problems – Some health conditions like depression, Cushing syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause obesity. Also, there are some medicines like birth control pills, anti-depressants, and steroids which promote overeating and obesity.
- Lifestyle choices – Some of the lifestyle choices like unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol can lead to obesity. An unhealthy diet consisting of fast foods that are high in calories and low in fibre (fruits and vegetables) boosts weight gain. Physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle stops the burning of fat and increases weight. The weight gained is directly proportional to the hours spent sitting at one place using a phone or tablet or laptop. High consumption of alcohol and sugared soft drinks can be directly linked with obesity. The high-calorie beverages along with fast food rapidly promote obesity.
The first warning of obesity is BMI greater than 30. Also, obese people experience problems like sleep apnea (breathing irregularity in sleep), trouble sleeping, varicose veins, stones in the gallbladder, joint pains and skin problems.
Risks / Complications associated with Obesity
Obese people are at higher risk of many health complications like –
- Type 2 Diabetes – Obesity affects the way insulin is used in the body, influencing blood sugar levels. This increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Cardiac diseases & Stroke – Obesity increases blood pressure and cholesterol which are risk factors for cardiac diseases and stroke.
- Cancers – Obesity also increases the risk of cancers like uterus, breast, prostate, liver, pancreas, kidney, etc.
- Sleep apnea – Obese people often experience trouble sleeping and it also causes sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
- Gynaecological problems – Obesity initiates irregular periods in women and may lead to infertility.
- Osteoarthritis – The overweight of the obese can cause stress on the joints leading to complications like osteoarthritis.
- Other issues – Obesity can cause gastric problems, liver issues, and gallbladder diseases.
Obesity is diagnosed through physical examination and some blood tests. The doctors will check the history of obesity in the family and take note of medical issues and eating habits. They also calculate the BMI, measure the waist and prescribe blood tests including lipid profile, liver function, glucose, and thyroid tests.
Obesity treatment aims to reach a healthy weight and maintaining it. The treatment regime includes changing eating habits, increasing physical activity. The actual treatment for obesity depends upon the severity and overall state of health.
A nutritionist along with a workout trainer can help you with a structured plan –
- Altered Diet – To achieve the target weight, you need to cut down the calories consumed each day. Limiting the fat and carbohydrate intake and choosing food rich in fibre and healthy fats will help.
- Exercise – Intensive exercise under the supervision of a personal trainer is most recommended. At least 60 minutes of exercise for 5-6 days a week is a must. Adding more activity in the day, using stairs instead of an elevator and moving away from the desk for short walks will help in losing the weight.
If nothing works, the BMI is above 35 – 40 and if the patient is suffering from another medical condition due to obesity, doctors may also suggest bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures performed on individuals suffering from obesity. Weight loss is achieved by reducing the stomach’ size with a gastric band or by removal of a portion of the stomach or by re-routing or resecting the small intestine to a small stomach pouch.
Like always said, prevention is better than cure. If you are at risk of obesity or are overweight, it is always advised to keep tabs on what you eat and how much you exercise. To prevent weight gain, it is recommended to exercise daily, eat a healthy diet, and watch overeating and drinking habits carefully.
You are always responsible for your well-being. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid the risk of other health problems related to obesity. So, think before you overeat and do not forget to work out every day!! Moreover, keep a reminder to move once in an hour. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Thank your body and take care of it, you have only one to live with.