Living with obesity is as much a psychological problem as it is a health risk
Body-shaming is cruel and could lead to depression. Nevertheless putting on too much weight is not good for a person’s overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is the first step towards a long healthy life. Obesity and overweight need to be tackled for health reasons rather than for ‘aesthetic appeal’.
WHAT IS OBESITY?
Obesity is excessive fat content in the body. It is not a cosmetic concern but a medical problem. Obesity can lead to further complications such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain cancers. Hence it is absolutely necessary to figure out a proper method for weight loss. Even the smallest amount of weight loss makes a big difference in the overall health of the individual. Dietary changes, exercise and staying emotionally strong, will help shed the kilos.
HOW IS OBESITY DIAGNOSED?
Doctors and healthcare providers use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to check if a person is the right weight. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by your height (in metres squared). Obesity is diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Further modes of diagnosing Obesity include:
- Skinfold thickness test. A skinfold caliper is used to assess the skinfold thickness in order to measure body fat.
- Waist-to-hip comparisons. It measures the ratio of your waist circumference to your hip circumference in order to determine how much fat is stored on your waist, hips, and buttocks.
- Ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRI scans
WHAT CAUSES OBESITY?
Genetic predisposition is one cause for Obesity. This means the genes that an individual inherits determines how his body is going to store or burn fat. Obesity tends to run in families and genes alone are not the reason. Similar lifestyle choices can also be a factor. Poor lifestyle choices include:
- An unhealthy diet that leans towards junk food that is high in calories and served in huge potions. It also refers to a diet that lacks in nutrients or low in nutritive value. If you are hooked to high calorie liquids like sugary soft drinks and alcohol, once again you are consuming more calories than you can burn.
- Lack of physical activity means lesser calorie burn. Sitting in one place for a long time does not encourage your body’s metabolic activities and this leads to weight gain.
There are medical reasons for Obesity too. Some conditions that lead to obesity are:
- Hypothyroidism: This occurs when the thyroid gland produces very little of the thyroid hormone which lowers the rate of metabolism, which in turn often leads to weight gain.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: When the adrenal glands produce an excess amount of a steroid hormone called cortisol there is a build-up of fat around the face, upper back and abdomen.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Women with PCOS produce too much insulin leading to insulin resistance which means the insulin is not functioning the way it should. This leads to weight gain that can progress to obesity if left unchecked.
- Depression: People undergoing depression have a tendency to seek comfort in food. When they eat more calories than they can burn, excessive weight gain is what happens.
WHAT RISKS DOES OBESITY POSE?
Obesity increases the risk of an individual acquiring other more dangerous medical conditions such as:
- Heart disease and stroke: The heavier you are the more prone you are to high blood pressure and higher levels of cholesterol – both of which cause heart disease.
- Type 2 Diabetes: If you already have Type 2 Diabetes, losing weight will help control the condition.
- Certain types of cancers are linked with obesity. Such as cancer of the colon, breast, endometrium, kidney, esophagus, gallbladder, ovaries, and pancreas.
- Osteoarthritis: This condition affects the joints in the knee, hips and back. Extra weight means extra pressure on the joints which leads to the wearing away of the cartilage that protects the joints.
- Gout: This is also a condition that affects the joints. Being overweight puts more pressure on the joints making you more susceptible to gout.
- Sleep Apnea: This is a breathing disorder that causes a person to snore heavily and to even briefly stop breathing during sleep. This condition is linked to obesity.
- Urinary incontinence, Gallbladder disease and Metabolism Syndrome are other complications that can arise due to obesity.
The single most important goal of any treatment for Obesity is weight loss. This can be achieved by adhering to a strict diet and work-out regimen as prescribed by your doctor. Lifestyle changes to be carried out include:
- Eating Heart Healthy diet
- Optimal Work-out sessions on a daily basis. Enrolling in a weight loss program is a good way to lose weight healthily under the guidance of a trained professional.
- Acquiring a healthy sleeping pattern
- Along with a diet chart and a customized fitness regimen your doctor might prescribe FDA approved weight loss pills. However, notify your doctor of any other underlying medical conditions that you may have or if you are pregnant. This will help him select the drug best suited for you. These drugs are not to be taken for prolonged periods with the doctor’s advice.
SURGICAL OPTIONS TO LOSE WEIGHT:
- Gastric bypass surgery. To reduce food intake, a small part of the stomach is connected to the middle part of the intestine, bypassing the first part of intestine.
- Gastrectomy. In this procedure a big portion of the stomach is removed to decrease the amount of food that you can eat.
- Gastric banding. In this case a hollow band is placed around the upper part of the stomach creating a smaller stomach, which means you eat less food.
- Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch. This procedure removes most of your stomach.
Living with obesity is as much a psychological problem as it is a health risk. Social expectations and peer pressure might cause an obese person to have low self-image, ultimately lead to depression, which in turn leads to weight gain. In order to come out of this vicious circle, it is important to get counselling besides making necessary lifestyle changes to lose weight. It might be a long drawn process to shed all the excess kilos, but it will be worth it in the end.