Tarun, ace batsmen of his university team and a voracious eater, recounts how he could win any food competition hands down. Over the years, work took precedence and Tarun couldn’t make any time for physical exercise. The voracious appetite continued unchecked, though. Work pressure and constant travel made life more stressful and worsened his eating habits. And today, Tarun can barely recognize that ace batsman of the yore in him. An obese young man stares back at him in the mirror.
Obesity is not being just fat. Obesity increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels; it can cause blood clots, gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout, some cancers and type 2 diabetes; and often, it takes away a person’s self-confidence and self-worth, resulting in isolation and depression.
India has secured the dubious distinction of having the third largest number of obese people in the world – after US and China – as per a study published in the medical journal, Lancet. Alarmingly, one in every five adult Indians is either overweight or obese. Isn’t it time we gave obesity some serious thought?
Let’s begin by observing the World Obesity Day on 11th October.
1. Worldwide obesity has almost tripled since 1975.
2. In 2016, 39% of adults aged more than 18 years were overweight and 13% were obese.
3. Almost 41 million children under the age of 5 were obese or overweight in 2016.
4. More than 340 million children and adolescents aged between 5-19 years were overweight in 2016.
What is Obesity?
Simply put, obesity is excessive fat accumulation or weight more than normal for a given height. Medically, weight in relation to height can be measured with “Body Mass Index” or BMI (weight in kilograms divided by the square of his/her height in meters). World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies:
- persons with BMI of 25 or greater as ‘overweight’ and
- persons with BMI of 30 or more as ‘obese’.
Impact of Obesity
- Obesity has been long classified as a medical condition that has serious health impact:
- High blood pressure, heart diseases, and strokes
- Diabetes- insulin resistance
- Osteoarthritis- disabling degenerative diseases of the joints
- Increased risk of fractures
- Respiratory issues like breathing trouble
- Cancers like breast, colon, endometrial.
Causes of Obesity
1. Once restricted to only first world countries, obesity is on a rise in developing nations, particularly in urban settings. With 30 million Indians categorized as obese, and the number rising every day, understanding the causes of this global epidemic is critical:
2. Higher consumption of food than needed by our bodies and sedentary lifestyle.
3. Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep and boredom.
4. Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS); medicines to treat ailments like a seizure, depression, etc.
5. A family history of obesity.
Tackling obesity is not too tough; all it really needs is determination and long-term commitment to the cause of healthy living. A healthy lifestyle is important to managing weight and staying fit.
Though there are many of us who would jump to a fancy diet regime at the very mention of the word “weight loss”, it is important to note that traditional Indian food is one of the healthiest choices we can make. Everyday Indian meals have all the macro and micronutrients in balance. Here are some tips for eating healthy:
- Avoid fried, processed and junk food.
- Limit intake of fat, sugar and salt.
- Include fibre or roughage in your diet from salad; whole foods like whole weight grains like wheat and bajra; and whole fruits instead of juices.
- Avoid starvation diets at all costs.
Food portion size
No food type is evil if consumed in small portion sizes (unless forbidden by an underlying medical condition).
- Eat in proportion to the physical activity. Energy from food intake should be equal to the energy expended by the body via activity.
- Maintain a balanced diet with small portion sizes.
Work out every day
Keep your body active. Even if you cannot make time for regimented exercise, make some simple choices in your daily life:
- Limit time spent at your desk, in front of computers and television.
- Walk whenever possible.
- Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- Encourage activity during family time that everyone enjoys.
- Plan an activity regime for yourself to start with until it becomes part of your lifestyle.
Do remember to check with a doctor in case of existing medical conditions for approved list of activity.
Don’t ignore your emotional wellbeing
Body response to emotional health is very powerful. Stress and depression may lead to excessive weight gain, which in turn can lead to further stress and depression. It is a vicious cycle! Managing stress would be a personal choice of either:
- Learning to deal with existing stress.
- Avoiding the situations that lead to stress, if possible.
- Seeking family or professional help, if and when necessary.
Track your weight and BMI
Prevention and control of fat gain are much easier than subjecting oneself to weight loss plans.
- Weigh yourself, preferably at the same time weekly, fortnightly or monthly to track your weight on a regular basis. Early morning is the best time to weigh yourself.
- Watch your BMI and take necessary steps, such as diet control or exercise, to keep yourself in the recommended range.
- Parents should help their children make healthy food choices and maintain an active life; childhood habits go a long way in determining their lifestyle.
Obesity is easily preventable. Let’s observe this World Obesity Day by pledging to make healthy choices and prevent obesity.
Did you know?
Even a modest weight loss of 5%-10% of initial weight and the long-term maintenance of that weight loss can bring significant health benefits by lowering blood pressure, risks of diabetes and heart disease.
- World Health Organization. Accessed Oct 12, 2015.
- Medline Plus. Accessed Oct 12, 2015.
- National Institute of Health, Us Department Of Health And Human Services. Accessed Oct 14, 2015.
- India Today. Accessed Oct 14, 2015.
- BBC. Accessed Oct 13, 2015.
- World Health Organization