Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
Obesity, defined as a body mass index of more than 30 kg/m2, is one of the top social concerns of our day. More than 30% of men and women worldwide suffer from this condition and it is anticipated to be up to 50% by 2030 if the current trends continue. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition, those who are obese have a higher rate of morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals. Why is obesity such a prevalent problem?
The causes of obesity are many and certain life events increase the risks of weight gain. The events include intrauterine factors, pregnancy, menopause, medical problems and certain medications. These factors predispose individuals to weight challenges and may even contribute further to an existing weight management issue. However, the simple answer to the question posed is LIFESTYLE. The lifestyle of western society and developed countries are the primary factor that contributes to this worldwide epidemic.
Body weight reflects muscle mass, fat storage and water. Weight gain is due to either an increase in the storage of fat or an increase in muscle mass. It is the storage of excessive fat that is a concern and is the primary reason for individuals being overweight or obese. Food is a source of energy and the body utilizes this energy to perform its functions. The greater the activity the more energy is required to fuel this activity. A competitive athlete burns more energy per day than a regular working person. Energy is measured in calories. The body burns what it needs from the daily intake of food. If there are additional calories left over, this is stored by the body, usually as fat. If the body receives fewer calories than it needs to burn energy, then it will utilize the stored energy sources. Simply put, excessive calorie intake equals increased storage and lower calorie intake leads to utilization of stored energy sources and subsequent weight loss.
Most individuals lead a sedentary lifestyle. They are not physically active. Their work doesnít require much activity and yet they continue to supply their bodies with more fuel than it needs. This leads to gradual weight gain. 19% of women and 30% of men become overweight within 4 years and 5-9% become obese during this time. Over a 30-year period, 50% of individuals become overweight and 25-30% become obese. This is because we donít adjust our eating habits to meet the energy needs of our body. Regular exercise is becoming more of a habit and is likely the reason that the prevalence of obesity has stabilized in the U.S. over the past decade. This habit needs to be adopted by many more.
In our society food is being used for more than just an energy source. It has become a source of entertainment, socialization and even therapy. We eat for taste and the enjoyment of food drives much of the excessive calorie intake. Much of our socialization revolves around food: going out to dinner with friends or on a date; holiday meals; and even eating while enjoying other entertainment such as at the movies or sports events. The availability of cheap, convenient and calorie rich foods such as that found at fast food restaurants has made this even worse. We have developed bad eating habits and unfortunately the more you indulge in these foods, the more your body seems to crave them. The other source of useless calories comes from the consumption of beverages. They are useless because they donít provide any valuable nutrients. Sodas, juices and alcohol are a few examples.
More than 60% of Americans say they are attempting to lose weight however only 20% are consuming few calories and/or exercising at least 150 minutes per week. The solution is simple but the actualization is difficult. The key to weight control is minimizing the storage of energy in your body. This can be managed by either consuming only what you need to fuel your body or burning more calories to match your daily consumption. The adjustments in calories consumed and physical activity depends on whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight. Weight management is the most important factor in maintaining good health and you are in complete control of this.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!