Obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat, and while hunger still blights many parts of the world, the number of people who do not have enough to eat is actually in decline. Now humanity is facing another challenge as, globally, 1 in 10 people are obese.
Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It also increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Being obese means that you are far more likely to have health problems as a direct result of your weight.
The World Health Organisation defines overweight and obesity in adults as follows:
- A BMI of greater than or equal to 25 is considered overweight.
- A BMI of greater than or equal to 30 is considered obese.
Although there are genetic, behavioral and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these excess calories as fat. There are two most common reasons for excess weight and obesity.
Inactivity. If you’re not very active, you don’t burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you use through exercise and normal daily activities.
Unhealthy diet and eating habits. Weight gain is inevitable if you regularly eat more calories than you burn. Most Western diets are too calorific, being comprised of excessive amounts of fast food and high-calorie beverages.
Put simply, if your BMI is higher than 25 you are eating too much and not exercising enough.
Excess weight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than malnutrition. Globally there are more people who are obese than underweight – this occurs in every region except parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Raised BMI is a significant risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and strokes, which were the leading cause of death in 2012; diabetes; some cancers, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon.
The risk of disease increases alongside rises in people’s BMI.
Weight-related issues affect not only your physical body but also your quality of life and can lead to:
- Sexual problems
- Shame and guilt
- Social isolation
- Lower work achievement
These are most often psychological challenges for people suffering from the effects of being overweight.
Not surprisingly, the steps to prevent weight gain are the same as the steps to lose weight: daily exercise, a healthy diet, and a long-term commitment to watching what you eat and drink. To avoid becoming overweight or obese, you should:
- Exercise regularly. You need to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to prevent weight gain.
- Follow a healthy eating plan. Focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid saturated fat and limit sweets and alcohol. Eat three regular meals a day with limited snacking. You can still enjoy small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods as an infrequent treat. Be sure to choose foods that promote healthy weight and good health most of the time.
- Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat. Identify situations that trigger uncontrollable eating.
- Monitor your weight regularly. People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off excess pounds.
Be consistent. Sticking to your healthy-weight plan during the week, on the weekends, and during vacations and holidays dramatically improves your chances of long-term success.