Control your weight Before your weight controls you

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By 2017-08-14

BY RANALI PERERA

The ideal weight of a person depends on the height. If the weight goes beyond the healthy weight of a person of that height, the person is considered as overweight or in extreme conditions, as obese. Obesity relates to the degree of fatness of a body. It can be defined using the BMI (Body Mass Index). The BMI is a measure indicating the body fatness and is found out by dividing the body weight in kilograms from the square height of a person in metres.

According to the standard guidelines, a BMI above 25 kg/m² is considered as overweight.However, in the Sri Lankan setting, the cut-off for an overweight person is considered a BMI of 23 kg/m². A BMI above 30 kg/m² is considered obese while a BMI exceeding 40kg/m² is considered as severe or extreme obesity.

These values of BMI can be used as a reference only in adults. When considering children, the measure of fatness varies, as that depends on the child's age and gender. In children less than 5 years of age, we measure the degree of fatness using weight for height charts. In children aged 6-19 years, we consider the BMI for age with regards to the gender of the child. If the point lies above the normal range, the child will be considered as overweight or obese depending on the extent of deviation.

When considering childhood obesity, it is estimated that 85% of the children who are obese or overweight at a younger age would grow up to become obese adults, and obese parents are 12 times more likely to have overweight children than those of normal weight.

Consequences of obesity

Obesity affects the overall health of a person. Health is the wellness of not only the physical aspect of a person, but also the social and psychological aspects. Obesity affects all these components.

Physical health:

1. Increased risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia (increased levels of bad cholesterol levels and a decrease of good cholesterol)

2. Increased risk of ischaemic heart diseases and stroke

3. Increased risk of getting certain cancers (Endometrial (womb), ovary and breast cancers in women;colon, kidney, gall bladder, oesophagus and liver cancers)

4. Increased risk for osteoarthritis (a condition that leads to cartilage and bone destruction within a joint due to increased wear and tear)as there is a greater weight on the joints and limbs

5. Reduced fertility leading to problems with conceiving and even after conceiving, the pregnancy will have a higher risk of being complicated

6. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

7. Increased risk of stones in the gall bladde


8. Sleep apnoea (a condition withepisodes of interrupted or paused breathing while sleeping, commonly seen in obese individuals)

According to the World Health Organisation, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and 7%–41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Social health:

1. May pose difficulties in finding someone to marry and lead to higher divorce rates

2. May lead to difficulties in finding employment in certain fields

3. May result in fewer friends

Psychological health:

1. Higher incidence of depression, which could lead to increased risk of suicides

2. Higher incidence of body dissatisfaction

3. Lower self-esteem

The consequences are more or less the same in childhood obesity as well.

1. Higher risk of getting NCDs in the future. The severity of these diseases would be much greater when obese children acquire them as adults than in those adults who become obese during adulthood.

2. Increased insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance

3. Increased risk of heart diseases

4. Increased risk of fractures

5. Sleep apnoea

6. Increased risk of gall stones and fatty liver disease

7. Being bullied and corneredat school

8. Depression and low self-esteem

9. Studies have also shown an association with poor concentration and poor academic performance

Obesity will eventually lead to a decreased life span. Life expectancy can be reduced by up to 9 years. There will be an increased risk of getting other chronic diseases and a lower quality of life.

Maintaining your weight

Obesity results from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. The food intake and the level of physical activity matter the most when weight gain is considered. In the present era, people consume food with higher calories and fat content and spend very little time on physical activity. The energy intake of the body thus, is more than the energy expenditure, leading to storage of that excess energy as fat within our body tissues.

The society contributes to this failed process as well. TV advertisements that promote the consumption of fast food, highly stressful work environment that limits the time people have to eat a proper home cooked meal or to exercise, inadequate health education on the adverse effects of obesityand cost and affordability of healthy food are some such examples.

Sometimes weight gain may be caused by certain disease conditions or drugs.

• Cushingsyndrome, where there are abnormalities in certain hormone levels within the body leading to central obesity and other symptoms

• Polycystic ovary disease, which also leads to abnormalities in certain hormone levels causing weight gain

• Drugs such as steroids and those given for depression

Exercise isn't a must to reduce weight. Exercise refers to a structured form of physical activity. If a person is physical active during most part of the day, instead of leading a sedentary lifestyle, this will keep the energy levels in balance preventing excess amounts getting stored. Physical activity refers to any movement of skeletal muscles of the body that requires energy and includes daily household activities like sweeping and gardening.

The current recommendation is for all adults to do moderateintensity activities like cycling, dancing and brisk walking for 30 minutes daily for 5 days of the week or 150 minutes within a week and for children,to do 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activitiesdaily.

Everyone should be more considerate of the food they consume and limit intake of food high in sugar, salt and saturated fats. We should consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Drinks containing a high sugar content should be avoided. We should pay more attention to how we spend the time daily and plan it carefully so that we save some time to save our health as well. We should try our best to control our weight lest it controls us with its impact on our health.

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