Obesity is the gateway to serious health problems, here’s how you can keep it at bay
Obesity has been a long-standing concern and contributes significantly to the burden of disease worldwide. Obesity is directly or indirectly linked to more than 200 health-related complications like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver disease, abnormal cholesterol, and heart disease. Obesity is not just about eating more and moving less. Obesity has multifactorial causation. Let me briefly explain some of the critical risk factors for obesity.
Did you know that the genes or epigenetics that you inherit from your family or through your ethnicity can, in some people, actually explain why they are obese?
Genes linked to obesity have been shown to impact how much and how much you eat (their appetite), how you may react to certain foods (also called hedonic eating), how energy expenditure or storage (their metabolic rate) as well as the amount of fat and where the fat is stored.
Appetite regulation helps maintain a healthy body weight, with hunger ensuring that people consume enough nutrients to meet the body’s needs. Dysregulation of appetite can lead to either obesity or malnutrition, which can have serious health consequences. Our body is naturally programmed to maintain our weight at a set point or level. When we eat food, hunger hormones decrease and satiety hormones increase. When we control our food intake through diet, hunger hormones increase, prompting us to eat more and regain lost weight. Additionally, during weight loss, satiety hormone levels may change in an attempt to regain the lost weight. Therefore, unless guided by a team of obesity management experts, very few people can successfully maintain their lost weight.
- Mental Health
An extremely important but generally ignored correctable risk factor for obesity is an individual’s psychological health. Think about what happened to your eating habits or your appetite when you felt emotions such as stress, bad mood, fatigue, anger, happiness, etc. Yes ! The smile on your face tells me that you have experienced a change in your eating habits. Therefore, a positively motivated mental state is mandatory not only to achieve weight loss, but also to maintain it.
Certain medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers and steroids can cause very significant weight gain. That’s why it’s important to share the details of these medications and any medications or health supplements you take with your weight management doctor.
- Sleep habits
“To go to bed early and to rise early makes a man healthy, rich and wise.”
It is scientifically proven that inadequate or inappropriate sleep habits have a direct impact on hunger, appetite and satiety. It also has a negative effect on obesity-related complications like diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea. Therefore, good sleep hygiene goes a long way in keeping our body in balance and multiplies the benefits of other weight loss strategies like diet, exercise, and weight loss medications.
A very common point of dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction or demotivation that many people face is the uneven relationship between exercise and weight loss. I often hear my patients say that they exercise honestly and are upset that they don’t lose “X” weight. Let me explain and motivate you to bounce back strong!
Each individual reacts differently to weight loss strategies, including exercise. Some lose more…some lose less with the same routine. Energy expenditure through exercise depends on duration and intensity. Once you are on the path to gradual weight loss, your muscles become more energy efficient, meaning they require and burn fewer calories for a certain amount of work or exercise. .
So should you increase the intensity of your workout to burn more calories? Excessive or extreme exercise can severely fatigue or damage your muscles. It is advisable to remain cautious in the face of this thought or action. Instead, let’s change the understanding of exercise and start believing and practicing exercise for its health benefits first! And happily adopt an integrated intervention to continue losing weight.
Why is it so hard to lose weight?
Currently, environmental factors such as less space for exercise and physical well-being, high costs associated with healthy fresh foods, easy accessibility (food applications) to less expensive foods with high energy density and what we see, feel and smell all work together to promote weight gain and obesity.
Let me share a very common example. Imagine coming home after a hectic day at work, stuck in traffic jams, loaded with stress, anxiety, anger, fatigue, and other appetite-boosting emotions. You arrive home and your mind wants a “sugar rush” and an “instantly gratifying treat.” You take your smartphone and open the food ordering app. You get carried away by the brilliant infographics of energy-dense foods. You choose your “soul food”, a dish that you know will satisfy your craving. It is delivered as soon as possible! And it’s eaten faster than it was delivered!
Delicious in your belly! Before long, your eyelids begin to droop. You feel drowsy now, and all thoughts of working out or walking after meals are instantly dropped. Before long, you start GAINING WEIGHT. It is now a self-perpetuating cycle! Be aware and cautious of the “socio-demographic-nutritional-environmental-emotional” transitions occurring globally, to protect yourself from the obesity trap!
What should you focus on when starting your weight loss journey?
Weight loss is not just a cosmetic goal, but aims to provide you with a healthy and happy quantity and quality of life. A program focused on “weight management for health” will guide and support you to successfully reach, prevent and help address the “4 Ms” destinations of your weight loss journey.
These “4 Ms” include:
- Metabolic health: sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, fatty liver, PCOS.
- Mechanical aspects: such as snoring, sleep apnea, hyperacidity or acid reflux, knee problems such as osteoarthritis
- Mental health: better self-esteem, personal, social and professional excellence, good body image
- Monetary benefits: from a healthy and productive lifestyle.
A successful obesity program is envisioned to provide you with these benefits and the best possible level of comfort and convenience.
So go ahead, lose weight and get healthy!
The author is consultant, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Medanta – The Medicity, Gurugram. Views are personal.