Health effects of overweight and obesity
Written by: Editors
Do you suffer from high blood pressure, gallstones, back and joint problems, high cholesterol or respiratory problems? It may well be that being overweight is the cause of your troubles. Have you tried every diet known to man and still can't reach or maintain a healthy weight? Unfortunately, there is still little care and attention for people struggling with obesity. Read what options are available to you if you are overweight or obese.
What is overweight?
For adults, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese (severely overweight). BMI is a measurement of relative body weight: it tells you if you're a healthy weight for your height. BMI doesn't reveal much about the actual composition of your body, such as how much fat versus muscle you have. It also doesn’t tell you where the fat on your body is located. That is why it’s also important to measure your waist circumference. This gives you an idea of your abdominal fat content, which is a good predictor of health risk.
Consequences of overweight
There can be many reasons why you are overweight and pinpointing them can be difficult. Being overweight does not only cause health risks, many people who are overweight also experience significant impairments in quality of life. Daily activities, such as taking a walk with your partner or friends, or playing with your children, can be difficult. Being overweight can also affect your self-confidence and lead to psychological problems.
Prevention is better than cure
It’s an old saying but it still applies, especially in this day and age. It's better to prevent weight gain throughout life than to attempt to lose weight after the pounds add up. Losing weight is only half the battle. For many people, the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off long term. Old patterns are hard to break and may cause you to 'yoyo' back to the weight you were before or get even heavier. To lose weight successfully, you need to do three things: change your behaviour, change your diet, and be more active.
How to lose weight by changing eating habits
You would like to eat less, or change your eating habits, but you’re unable to or don’t know where to start. Many people struggle with this problem. If you are more than 20 overweight and have eating problems, you may be an emotional eater. This is not something you can change overnight. Adopting a new eating pattern requires knowledge and discipline. Being overweight and low self-esteem or low confidence often go hand in hand. Also, you may think your diet is healthy, while in reality it is not. Drinking a glass of fruit juice is healthier than having a sugary soft drink, right? Wrong! Fruit juice is almost just as high in calories and sugar as, for example, Coca Cola. That’s why it’s so important to gain knowledge about what is healthy and unhealthy. For instance, it’s good to eat three ounces of vegetables and two pieces of fruit each day. Talk to your doctor about what psychological factors may be affecting your weight gain, and while you’re there, ask if you can get dietary support from a professional.
Exercising when you're overweight
Exercise is important to keep your weight in a healthy range and to stay fit. Try to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day at least five days a week, at moderate intensity. Children should aim for an average of at least one vigorous intensity physical activity a day. Exercise is not only healthy for physical well-being, it’s also good for your mental health. Doing physical activity can distract you from negative thought patterns and ruminating. In the long term, physical exercise can improve confidence by making you feel good about yourself. It can even help improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression. If that isn't enough to get moving, we don't know what is!
Changing your behaviour
In addition to nutrition and exercise, your behaviour is also an important factor to consider. Here are some things you can do.
- Read the labels of the foods and drinks you buy, so that you can make smart food choices. Food labels contain detailed nutritional information about, for instance, the amount of fat, sugar, salt, protein and calories a product contains.
- Make a shopping list in advance and stick to it. Or only go grocery shopping once a week. If you pop into the supermarket every day after work or school, you’re more likely to grab a high-calorie snack or food items you don't need because you’re hungry. It’s better to decide in advance what you want to eat and get the ingredients for those specific meals.
- Establish a routine for yourself (or your family). Eat and exercise at set times. If necessary, note the times in your calendar. You can also ask your doctor for advice and find out together what works best for you.
- Make sure you get enough rest and sleep. How much sleep you need depends on your age. Most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best.
Losing weight safely and responsibly
If you are overweight and want to lose weight, you want your weight loss to be permanent. Here are some tips to make your efforts a little easier.
- Going into the weight loss process on your own is hard enough as it is. Tell your family and friends that you want to lose weight. You can use all the support you can get!
- Try to eat less and exercise more. This way, you burn more calories than you take in. Fats, proteins, carbohydrates and alcohol contain the most calories. Fat makes you feel full, and carbohydrates give you energy.
- Fibre also makes your belly feel full and contains less calories. Opt for wholemeal products such as wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread and brown rice.
- Motivation and discipline are a big part of losing weight. Set realistic goals for yourself and don't set the bar too high. Break your weight loss goals into manageable steps and celebrate your successes to keep yourself motivated.
- Are you struggling to reach a healthy weight? It can be helpful to work with a dietician or nutrition specialist. They can help you design a healthy diet plan and support you in your weight loss journey.
Losing weight with medication
Weight loss medications can be a helpful tool if you are struggling with weight loss. This can make it easier to stick to a new and healthier lifestyle. Weight loss medications work best when you combine them with lifestyle changes like choosing healthier foods and exercising regularly. Mysimba, Orlistat and Saxenda are examples of weight loss medicines. Mysimba is a medicine used along with a reduced calorie diet and exercise to help manage weight in adults who are overweight. This medicine works on areas on the brain involved in the control of food intake and energy expenditure. Orlistat is a prescription treatment for people who are obese. It works in your digestive system and to blocks about one-third of the fat in the food you eat from being digested. Saxenda works by acting on receptors in the brain that control appetite, causing you to feel fuller and less hungry.
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