Battle Of The Bulge

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Obesity has a negative impact on one’s confidence, or self-esteem, and productivity, aside from its deleterious effects on one’s health and well-being.

A London-based institute reports that more than a third of all adults around the world today were, in fact, obese, or overweight. A long-term study illustrates that between 1980 and 2008, the number of people with obesity, in the developing world, rose from 250 million to 904 million. In the developed world, the figure increased from 321 million to 557 million. This brings home the fact that developing nations are at a much higher risk, or percentage, of being affected by obesity.

Obesity: Cascading Effect

Heart. Your chances of having high blood pressure are greater, if you’re overweight, or obese. Being overweight increases your risk for coronary heart disease [CHD]. This is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Plaque can narrow, or block, the coronary arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. This causes chest pain and heart attack. Obesity can also lead to heart failure. Blood clotting, which is a result of plaque formation within the arteries, can just as well block the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. This may cause strokes.

Type-2 Diabetes. The body’s cells do not use insulin appropriately in type-2 diabetes. Agreed, that, to start with the body reacts by making more insulin. However, over time, the body cannot make enough insulin to control its blood sugar level. This leads to diabetes and other health issues. It has also been observed that most individuals who have type-2 diabetes are usually overweight, or obese.

Cancer. Being overweight, or obese, raises your risk of colon, breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancer.

Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis [OA] is a common joint problem of the knees, hips, and lower back. The condition occurs if the tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight can put excess pressure as also ‘wear and tear’ on joints, causing OA.

Sleep Apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a common disorder in which you have one, or more, pauses in breathing, or shallow breaths, while you sleep. A person who has sleep apnoea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can narrow the airway, making it difficult to breathe.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome. Obesity hypoventilation syndrome [OHS] is a breathing disorder that affects certain obese individuals. In OHS, poor breathing results in too much carbon dioxide [hypoventilation] and too little oxygen in the blood [hypoxemia].

Gallstones. Gallstones are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. They are usually made of cholesterol. Gallstones can cause stomach, or back, pain. People who are overweight, or obese, are at increased risk of  gallstones. Also, being overweight may result in an enlarged gallbladder that may not work well.

Women: Caution Is Useful

There has been a 32 per cent increase in women with diabetes during the last decade. A study found obesity to be the leading cause of cancer, especially in women. A growing number of urban Indian women over age 35 are falling victim to sedentary lifestyle, rich food, lack of exercise and a gradual slowing down of the metabolic rate. Women have less muscle and more fat even at a young age; they often become overweight after pregnancy. Not only can obesity put a woman and her baby at risk for health complications, but it can also interfere with menstruation and fertility. This is because fat stores change the levels of sex hormones that the body produces, making it increasingly difficult for certain women to conceive.

Teenage Obesity

Obesity carries with it a multitude of health risks. A study shows that obese adults who were obese as teens have a much greater risk of developing adverse health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal kidney function, asthma and difficulty in walking.

The causes of obesity among teenagers are complex — they include genetic, biological, behavioural and cultural factors. If one parent is obese, there is a 50 per cent chance that their children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, their children have an 80 per cent chance of being obese. Although certain medical disorders can trigger obesity, less than 1 per cent of all obesity is caused by physical problems.

Obesity in childhood and adolescence may be related to:

  • Poor eating habits
  • Overeating, or binging
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history of obesity
  • Medical illnesses [endocrine, neurological disorders]
  • Medications [steroids, some psychiatric medications]
  • Stressful life events, or changes [separations, divorce, deaths, abuse]
  • Family and peer problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression, or other emotional problems.

Tips For Parents

Teenage obesity is difficult to tackle, as you need to be extremely careful about the way you communicate with children regarding their weight problems. Parents are often afraid that if they mention anything about healthy eating and/or being active, their child might translate them into, “They think I am fat.” This might lead to retaliation, instead of improvement in their health. However, when you notice that your teen might be having unhealthy weight, understand that you need to have a serious talk.

Look for opportunities to talk about your teen’s health, but do it in small doses, not one big serious discussion. It is important to have a good open dialogue with your child about the importance of activity and healthy eating. Talk to them when you are making dinner, packing school lunch, or ordering at restaurants. You can speak about healthy choices of food for the entire family, not just ‘them.’ This will make them feel that everyone in the family needs to have healthy food for better, also active, life.

Encourage children to play outdoor games. Tell them that sports are important to develop not only healthy physique. Also,  instil team spirit and leadership. You can, at times, play with them — badminton, cricket etc. This can be a fun activity and bonding time for the entire family.

Prevention

Obesity can be prevented by implementing a handful of simple tips into your daily regimen —

  • Drink adequate water during the day and drink a glass of water 20 minutes before and after meals.
  • Encourage outdoor play instead of computer games
  • Set aside at least 30 minutes every day for exercise. You don’t need fancy exercise equipment, or expensive gym memberships, for this purpose. Walking, jogging, running, cycling and swimming are great for weight loss. You can also join a dance class, or learn martial arts
  • Eat healthy. Include fresh fruits, green vegetables, cereals and whole grain foods — also, millets — in your daily diet. Avoid sweets, fried, junk, packaged and refined foods. Eat small meals and chew your food slowly. Avoid eating desserts at parties, or use low calorie substitutes
  • Eat a heavy breakfast, light meal and early dinner
  • Avoid using comfort devices like remote control, escalators and elevators
  • Say no to tobacco. It’s a myth that smoking induces weight loss. Nicotine suppresses the appetite, all right, but its side-effects are enormous
  • Avoid drinking. Say no to sweetened aerated drinks and greasy, fried foods with which alcohol is usually paired with.

The bottom line is simple, also profound. Obesity needs to be treated as a disease, not lifestyle disorder. This may be achieved through diet regulations, ‘bespoke’ modifications, along with regular physical activity, aside from relaxation and other mind/body techniques.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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