Do you worry about your weight?
If you do you are not alone. Obesity is serious problems in the western world and the UK in particular. Recent government figures show over a quarter of adults in the UK are obese and around a third of children are overweight or obese.
Obesity is far more than a cosmetic problem as it can lead to serious health problems. Diabetes, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing problems, joint pains and osteoarthritis can all be caused or made worse by obesity.
Health professional assess your weight using something called body mass index or BMI. This is a ratio of your weight and height and gives a good indication of whether your weight is in a healthy range.
A BMI of 18.5-25 is considered healthy.25-30 is considered overweight. 30-40 obese and 40 plus morbidly obese.
For very muscular individuals a BMI reading may be misleading, but for most people these ranges are accurate.
Type 2 diabetes is on the increase worldwide and the most important cause is obesity. When the body has excessive fat tissue, the usual mechanisms that allow sugar to get into the tissues stop working properly and the level of sugar in the blood goes up, this leads to diabetes. Left untreated diabetes can cause blindness, kidney problems, skin ulceration, strokes and heart attacks. For patients who have diabetes, weight loss will certainly improve their diabetes and in some cases the diabetes may even resolve.
Many people who are obese will suffer joint pains and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is due to wear and tear of the joint surfaces and occurs in most people to a greater or lesser extent as they get older. Obesity often causes osteoarthritis to develop much earlier in life. An obese man, who for example, weighs 100kg and has an ideal weight of 75kg is carrying around 25kg of extra weight all the time. This is like carrying a very large rucksack packed full around with him all the time. Little wonder joints wear out early!
Obese people are far more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol than people of a healthy weight. High blood pressure and high cholesterol increase the risks of strokes and heart attacks.
Fat tissue on the abdomen has to be moved in and out with each breath taken. The more fat there, the more energy is needed to do this. This is why obese people often get out of breath quickly and if they have asthma, obesity will make the symptoms of asthma worse.
So what can be done?
Contrary to the multitude of advertisements for diets and weight loss pills there is really only one way to lose weight and that is to eat less. Put more specifically to lose weight you need to change how you eat for ever. Short term 'diets' and 'quick fix' weight loss remedies are of no value as they do not lead to the retraining of the body to expect less food and be satisfied with less food.
Certain types of food should be avoided or only eaten occasionally as a treat. Most processed foods are stuffed full of sugar and fat and have very little nutritional value. Sweets, crisps, chocolates, biscuits, sugary fizzy drinks, ready meals and take-away meals are all crammed with sugar and fat and are unnecessarily high in calories. Unfortunately in the western World, they are readily available and relatively cheap. To change how you eat you will need to consciously avoid these food types and look for healthier alternatives.
Some simple changes such as switching to semi or skimmed milk, using artificial sweetener instead of sugar and drinking sugar free soft drinks can help reduce your daily calorie intake.
Changing the way you eat to include more vegetables, fruit, whole meal bread and pasta, natural cereals (such as muesli) tinned and fresh fish salad and fruit will fill you up with bulky food that release their energy slowly so you won't get cravings for sugary food during the day.
Exercise is important for many reasons and has many health benefits, but unless combined with a change in the way you eat will not help you lose much weight. To be of any benefit you will need to do at least thirty minutes of exercise that leaves you breathless and sweaty per day. Going for a brisk walk is the cheapest and easiest way for most people.
Weight loss groups are also useful as they help you to understand the triggers for unhealthy eating and can help you modify your own unhealthy eating behaviours.
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