Being overweight affects more than 60 percent of all adults in North America. Of these, more than 20 percent are considered obese and are consequently at increased risk for an early death. Check out this healthy guide to help you understand and control obesity through diet.
Identifying the health risks of being obese
- Obesity can also cause shortness of breath, skin chafing and reduced mobility.
- Obese people have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
- Other consequences include osteoarthritis and disability, which perpetuate the vicious circle by restricting movement.
What are the leading causes of obesity?
- If we eat more than we need, the surplus is converted into fat. Some people gain weight more readily than others, and in fact, researchers have discovered a gene that appears to promote obesity. Hormones may also play a role.
- Eating too much and exercising too little are the key factors.
- Also, while obesity often seems to run in families, it may be that parents who overeat encourage overeating in their children.
- Fat cells are laid down in childhood and remain for a lifetime, so a person who was obese as a child may always store fat more readily than a person who started life thin.
- Because metabolism slows with age, some put on weight as they approach middle age.
- Older people also may be less active; in either case, food intake should be scaled back accordingly.
Healthy ways to control obesity
The only successful route to permanent weight loss is a combination of exercise and diet. However, anyone who is 20 percent or more above their ideal weight should see a doctor before embarking on any exercise program or restrictive diet. Fad diets tend to lead to yo-yoing, where people lose weight, then quickly regain all they’ve lost and more.
- Limit calories. About 1,500 calories a day for a woman and 2,000 for a man, combined with moderate exercise, should allow a loss of 0.45 to 0.90 kilograms (one to two pounds) a week. To keep weight off permanently, it’s better to shed weight gradually by eating moderate amounts of lean meat and other high-protein foods, pasta and other starchy foods, and ample vegetables and fruits. Low-fat dairy supplies calcium and other nutrients.
- Watch empty calories. Empty calories in alcohol, sugary desserts and snack foods should be avoided. As weight is shed, the urge to lose more will grow and the desire for fatty, sugary foods will fade.
Assessing your body weight
The most widely accepted methods to assess weight and body fat are body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. Body mass index is used by many health experts to assess whether your weight is putting you at risk. The measurement is based on a mathematical formula that includes both height and weight. To calculate your BMI:
- Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms (kg).
- Multiply your height in inches by 2.54 to get your height in centimetres (cm).
- Divide your height in centimetres by 100 to get your height in metres (m).
- Square your height in metres.
- Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared (BMI = kg/m2).
- Underweight = less than 18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight = 25 to 29.9
- Obese = 30 or greater
Also, waist circumference is used to measure where fat is accumulated on the body. An accumulation of fat around the abdomen is closely related to increased health risk.
- An increased health risk comes with a waist circumference greater than 88 centimetres (35 inches) for women and 102 centimetres (40 inches) for men.
Keep this guide in mind and remember to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.