Excess weight is the result of too much energy intake and too little energy use. This causes fat to be stored in the body, which in the long run can lead to excess weight and in some cases to obesity. A healthy weight is important because obesity is accompanied by serious health problems, which is why weight loss is recommended to people who are overweight.
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What is obesity?
The body needs energy to function. This energy (or calories) is obtained by eating and drinking. For a healthy weight, there must be a balance between the amount of energy that enters the body and the amount of energy that it uses. However, if the body takes in more food than it consumes, for example by moving, too much energy is stored as body fat and the body weight increases. The energy balance will then be disturbed.
The energy needs of individuals depend on several factors, such as gender, height, age, weight, the amount of exercise a person does and exertion during exercise. For example, men have more muscles with high energy consumption than women, which means that they consume more energy with the same effort. For men between 30 and 50 years of age with a sedentary job and little exercise, they need about 2500 calories per day. For women this is about 2000 calories. The older you get, the less energy you need and the more you do sport, the more energy you need. Adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women also need extra energy. If a body needs energy immediately, then the energy from food goes directly to the organs that ask for it. When this energy has been used up completely and extra energy is needed, the body gets it from the fat storage.
If you burn too little body fat for a longer period of time and consume too much energy in the form of food, the weight increases steadily until excess weight occurs. The combination of eating too much and not exercising enough is critical. Unfortunately, people who are overweight run more health risks and the greater the excess weight, the more often (serious) health problems occur.
The following diseases and conditions are related to being overweight:
- Diabetes type 2;
- High blood pressure;
- Cardiovascular diseases;
- Back and joint complaints;
- High cholesterol;
- Different forms of cancer;
- Respiratory problems;
- Psychological problems.
What are the causes of obesity?
Obesity often has several causes. As explained above, the imbalance between energy intake (eating) and energy consumption (exercise) plays an important role. But also biological, social and psychological factors underlie it, such as:
- Hereditary disposition;
- Learned behaviour;
- Feeling of hunger and satiety;
- Use of medicines;
- Influence of the immediate environment;
- Anxiety or depression;
For example, some people have a constant feeling of hunger, which does not become saturated after eating. Hormones, medicines, stress and emotions can also make people hungry more and more often. In addition, hereditary predisposition and learned behaviour can lead to people eating more than necessary, or not getting enough exercise. It is important to know that all these factors have an influence, but that dominance only manifests itself in the combination of eating too much, drinking too much and exercising too little.
What forms of obesity are there?
A distinction is made between a healthy weight, excess weight and obesity. A healthy weight is a weight that makes you feel fit and healthy. In order to know whether you are overweight, you need to measure the BMI (weight in relation to height) and the waist circumference (amount of belly fat). The BMI is calculated by dividing the weight by the square length. The value shown here shows whether you have a healthy weight. For an adult between the ages of 18 and 70, this number is between 18.5 and 25. In case of excess weight this number is between 25 and 30 and in case of obesity this number is higher than 30.
Measuring BMI alone does not say it all, so people who do bodybuilding and therefore have a lot of heavy muscles can have a higher BMI. If it then turns out that their waist circumference is average, they do not have to lose weight. The waist circumference is measured between the bottom of the lower rib and the top of the pelvis.
The following applies for men:
- Healthy weight: circumference between 79 and 94;
- Overweight: circumference between 94 and 102;
- Obese: circumference greater than 102.
The following applies for women:
- Healthy weight: circumference between 68 and 80;
- Overweight: circumference between 80 and 88;
- Obese: circumference greater than 88.
The waist circumference is important because fat around the abdomen is worse for health than fat on the hips or buttocks, meaning it is important to lose belly fat. In case of doubt, a fat percentage measurement can also be carried out.
Obesity is therefore a serious form of being overweight, a medical condition that can have negative effects on health, such as a shorter life expectancy. Obese people are strongly advised to seek guidance in losing weight. Some people with heavy obesity are eligible for a stomach reduction.
How do you recognise obesity?
If you have a healthy weight, it is okay to gain or lose a few kilograms every now and then. Normally the energy balance also fluctuates per day and week. The amount of energy taken each day varies greatly between people but also in one person.
However, if your energy balance is disturbed because you have been eating and drinking too much for a long time and have had too little exercise, then you can gain weight quickly. You will probably notice this in your clothes or you will see it in your appearance. By measuring your BMI and waist circumference, you can see whether or not you are overweight.
Is there anything I can do myself about obesity?
Yes, the best way to lose weight is to restore your energy balance simply by eating less and exercising more. If you want to eat less and healthier, you should know that fats, carbohydrates, proteins and alcohol in a foodstuff contain the most energy (and therefore calories). It does not matter what nutrient provides the calories. However, each nutrient has a different influence on the feeling of hunger and the feeling of being full and the body treats them differently. Fat, for example, does not quickly lead to a feeling of being full, but it does saturate the body for a longer period of time. Carbohydrates are first used as a source of energy and alcohol is burned as quickly as possible. In addition, dietary fibre contains very few calories, but it does give you a feeling of being full. That is why it is recommended to eat high-fibre foods, such as whole-grain products, if you want to lose weight.
Losing weight is not always easy, and often one has to change a number of habits. Perseverance and motivation play a crucial role in this. Start by setting a realistic goal. It is not easy to lose weight fast; weight loss takes time, so do not set the goal too high and set achievable intermediate goals. What can also help is to weigh yourself at one fixed time a week. This will give you a good insight into your process of losing weight. In addition, do not be too strict with yourself. Have you achieved your goal faster than expected? Reward yourself, this will give you more motivation to continue.
Can you not manage to lose weight on your own? Then seek professional guidance, such as a dietician. He or she can help you learn how to eat and live a healthy lifestyle.
What can the pharmacist do for me?
A doctor may prescribe a prescription for weight loss pills, such as:
These medicines can help speed up the process of losing weight. Please note, however, that these medicines are not freely available. You should always consult a doctor before you get hold of them. If you want to keep your weight after a diet, you can choose fat burners, appetite suppressants, fat blockers or meal replacements. These products can contribute to weight loss and are available in pharmacies without a prescription.
What are the forms of treatment?
A distinction is made between medicines that are only available on prescription, such as Xenical, Mysimba, Orlistat, Saxenda and Liraglutide, and medicines that are freely available at the pharmacy.
Alternative treatments include:
- Fat burners;
- Appetite suppressants;
- Fat blockers;
- Meal replacements.
These products can contribute to weight loss and are available in pharmacies without a prescription. Changing your lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is closely related to nutrition and exercise. Healthy eating and eating less is very important. Preferably choose products that are low in saturated fat or added sugars but high in fibre, such as whole grain products. Eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables.
A lifestyle is often a result of learned behaviour and changing habits can be very difficult. For example, it takes a lot of perseverance to replace that cookie with a piece of fruit during your daily coffee break. But it is precisely these small changes that produce significant results. For example, the intake of an extra 20 calories per day (this is equivalent to a sugar cube) leads women to gain one kilo after one year.
A few more tips:
- Replace your white sandwich with a wholewheat sandwich so that you feel full for longer and are less likely to get hungry;
- Replace a portion of red meat with lean meat, chicken or fish. And change meat a few times a week for a vegetarian meal based on legumes, nuts or eggs;
- Choose semi-skimmed dairy instead of full-fat ones and 30+ cheese instead of 48+;
- Reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat;
- Eat less bread, potatoes or pasta and always choose wholemeal products;
- In addition, it is wise to eat and drink regularly so that your blood sugar level remains the same throughout the day.
If you find this difficult, you can create an eating schedule that includes all your meals and healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or a small salad. As has been said, movement is also crucial. It contributes to energy consumption, improves your condition and ensures that your heart and blood vessels remain in a healthy condition. If you are overweight, it is advisable to exercise for at least one hour a day. Think of small changes that have a lot of influence, such as choosing the stairs instead of the lift, taking a walk during your lunch break or taking the bike instead of the car.
In addition to these daily small changes around the home and work, it is also wise to regularly do sports where you increase your heart rate. Choose activities that you really like: you will see that this makes it a lot easier to perform these sports on a regular basis. It is important that you make a moderate or heavy effort during these sports sessions, where, for example, your heart starts to beat faster and you start to sweat. However, you do not need to run out of breath.
Risks and side effects of weight loss pills
Always handle weight loss pills with care and follow your doctor’s instructions. Please also note the following:
- Some weight loss pills can cause side effects such as headache, abdominal pain or diarrhoea. If the symptoms persist for a long time or are severe, contact your doctor;
- Simply taking weight loss pills is no guarantee for weight loss. This should always be associated with less and healthier eating and more exercise;
- The use of weight loss pills is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, unless your doctor allows it.
More information about side effects and precautions can be found on the package leaflet of the weight loss pills. How can you prevent obesity?
Obesity is a condition that is becoming increasingly common today and is not only an individual problem, but also a public health problem because of its prevalence, costs and health effects. In general, obesity can be prevented by limiting excessive food intake and increasing physical activity. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make sensible choices to reduce the risk of obesity.
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Nutrition centre (2018). Energy (online). Voedingscentrum.nl. Available at: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/energie.aspx (Viewed on 23-11-2018).
Nutrition centre (2018). Do I have a healthy weight? (online). Voedingscentrum.nl Available at: https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/nl/mijn-gewicht/heb-ik-een-gezond-gewicht.aspx (Viewed on 26-11-2018).
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