Being overweight or obese does not just affect your physical appearance, but it also has a negative effect on your overall health. Obesity now falls under the category of chronic diseases, which requires immediate attention and treatment. Being overweight or obese is defined as a condition in which there is excess of body fat. It has now become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality all over the world.
Classification of Obesity & Methods of Measuring Obesity
|Body mass index cut-offs||Interpretation|
|Below 18.5||Classified as underweight|
|25-29.9||Overweight or grade 1 overweight|
|30-39.9||Obese or grade 2 overweight|
|40 and above||Morbid or extreme obesity|
Body Mass Index (BMI)
One of the most common methods to measure obesity is BMI. Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person’s present body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.
For example: If a person with height 165 centimeters or 1.65 meters weighs 90 kilograms, his BMI will be calculated as.
Result: 90/ (1.65)²= 33.08 (This means the person falls under the category of obese or grade 2 obesity)
This is another easy method to measure obesity. This method indicates level or grade of obesity by measuring the waist circumference with the help of a measuring tape. To measure your waist circumference, wrap a measuring tape around your waist, starting at the top of your hipbone and below your rib cage. It should be at the level of your belly button. While measuring do not hold your breath as it may lead to errors.
For males, a waist circumference of 40 inches or more and for females a waist circumference of 35 inches of more is unhealthy. Besides this, excess abdominal fat is considered as a predictor of other morbidities related to obesity.
Co-Morbidities Associated with Obesity
- Cardiovascular diseases
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- Insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Gall bladder disease such as cholelithiasis and cholescystitis
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fatty liver infiltration
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Obesity hypoventilation syndrome
- Increased incidence of bronchial asthma
- Increased predisposition to respiratory infections
- Infertility and polycystic ovarian in women
- Increased post-operative and surgical problems
Causes of Weight Gain
Eating behavior and eating pattern
With the increase in the number of restaurants and fast food junctions, the incidence of weight gain and obesity has increased tremendously. Such unhealthy diets and eating habits with fewer nutrients and more calories have led to an increase in body weight.
In addition, irregular meal timings and erratic lifestyle has made it worse. People these days prefer more of restaurant food as compared to home-cooked food. One of the reasons may be busy schedule, which leaves on, with little or no time to cook food. Offices also provide meals at a very low cost. These meals are usually made with more fat, prepared with re-used oil and the quality of ingredients is not known. The 6-meal pattern (small and frequent meals) is also replaced with 3-meal pattern, that is, heavy meals with long time gaps in between.
Less vegetable and fruit intake
Fruits and vegetables are very important sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and dietary fiber. Recommended intake for vegetables is 3-4 servings and for fruits 2-3 servings per day. These fruits and vegetables when replaced with other high fat foods and snacks, total body fat and body weight increases.
Sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise leads to weight gain and obesity and increases the risk of other co-morbidities associated with obesity. Due to an inactive lifestyle, calories are not burned and thus, excess calories are stored in the body in the form of fat. This leads to positive energy balance and in turn weight gain. 30 minutes of exercise (brisk walk or jogging) or 150 minutes of exercise per week is recommended.
Place for sidewalk and recreation are decreasing and the number of food outlets are increasing. Hectic work schedules and oversized portion sizes have further led to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. Besides this food, advertisements have a great impact on eating habits. These advertisements promote high calorie and high fat snacks which attracts customers especially adolescents and young age group. Due to this reason, the incidence of childhood obesity is increasing.
Family history and genes
Your chances of putting on weight easily increases if both or one of your parents is overweight or obese. Your genes may also affect the amount of fat you store in the body.
Certain health conditions have an impact on body weight, these include.
- Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Some people tend to eat more when they are under stress. Many of them eat not because they are hungry but because they are bored. This is the biggest reason behind weight gain or obesity in young age group.
Certain medications increase your appetite, make you feel hungrier, lead to water retention or slow down metabolism or the rate at which your body burns calories. Such medicines include.
- Seizure medicines
Lack of sleep
Last but not the least, lack of sleep does play an important role in weight gain. Many people may not realize this, but lack of sleep increases food cravings and you may end up eating foods with high fat and sugar content. A correct sleep pattern helps to maintain a proper balance between hormones leptin and ghrelin. Inadequate sleep or lack of sleep increases ghrelin (a hormone that increases hunger levels) and decreases leptin (a hormone that decreases food intake). This means you may feel less hungry when you sleep for at least 6-8 hours.
Nutritional Tips for Healthy Weight Loss
Eat Small Frequent Meals
Eating small-nutritious meals every 2 to 3 hours is much better as compared to three big meals with a time gap of 6 to 7 hours between each meal. Too much gap between the meals makes you feel hungrier and as a result, you may end up eating more calories. This will further promote weight gain and fat gain. In addition, when you are hungry, you eat any food that comes your way even if it is not healthy. Therefore, it is important to eat small snacks between your three big meals to avoid over-eating. Some easy and quick snack options include.
- 2 boiled eggs
- 1 big glass of thin buttermilk
- 4-6 almonds (unsalted)
- 2 whole walnuts
- 2 whole wheat fiber-rich low fat crackers
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 cup low fat milk
- 1 fruit
- 1 cucumber/ 1 carrot
- 1 glass unstrained vegetable juice
- 1 bowl vegetable soup (without artificial thickeners)
Jot Down Your Calorie Intake
Maintaining a food dairy is a very simple way to know your daily caloric intake. You can simply write the timing of each meal, amount and type of food you consume daily and this will give you a clear picture about your eating habits. It will also become easier for you to find out your own mistakes and you will be careful next time before repeating the same. Also, do not forget to mention about alcohol (if at all you drink) and your physical activity.
Example of a food dairy
|Time/meal||Amount and type of food/beverage||Calories||Special Notes|
|Breakfast||2 fried eggs + 1 glass juice||410|
|Lunch||1 portion pasta with cheese + 1 slice of cake||830||Eating out with friends|
Watch your portion size
A healthy weight loss plan does not just focus on what you eat but it also pays special attention towards how much you eat. Each food group has a different portion size.
For example, you can have a large bowl of salad or soup but it is always advised to eat a small portion of carbohydrates.
Drinking plenty of water all throughout the day will make you feel full and will reduce the amount of calories you eat. Drinking water before the meals is a good way to cut down your calories. Water is the best beverage, do not substitute it with sugar-sweetened beverages, aerated beverages and packaged fruit juices. Drink at least 2 to 3 liters of water per day.
Reduce salt in your diet
Salt plays a major role in promoting weight gain. It increases your food cravings and makes you feel hungrier. Select fresh foods over packaged foods as packaged foods are loaded with sodium. Before buying a food product, always read the food label and check the sodium content of that particular product. Salted butter should not be used. You can easily replace salt in your diet with other flavoring without affecting the palatability. These include.
- Dried mango powder
- Herbs and seasoning such as basil, thyme, dill, rosemary and chives.
- Lemon juice
Do not skip your breakfast
The word ‘breakfast’ means breaking your overnight fast. Breakfast is the first meal of your day and it should consist of all the important nutrients. Studies have shown that skipping breakfast increases food cravings and you may end up eating more calories.
Start your meal with salad or soup
A low calorie meal contains loads of vegetables, moderate carbohydrate, and good source of protein and low fat sources. Starting your meal with a vegetable salad or a big bowl of vegetable soup will help you feel full. The correct sequence of eating a low calorie meal without feeling hungry even after eating is to start with your salad or soup followed by low-fat yogurt or a glass of thin buttermilk, followed by 1 portion of carbohydrate and protein.
- Vegetable salad or vegetable soup
- Low fat yogurt or thin buttermilk
- 1 Portion of carbohydrate and protein
A healthy diet coupled with daily exercise is the best way to lose weight. You can try various forms of exercise such as.
- Brisk walking
- Jumping rope exercise
- Different dance forms and
- Cycling on hill
Exercise for at least 30 minutes. Your body starts burning fat only after 20 minutes of exercise. Any form of exercise when performed for less than 20 minutes will have no effect on fat burning.
Also always eat a healthy post-exercise meal, your meal should consist a good source of carbohydrate and protein.
Do not consume foods high in fat and sugar. This will lead to abdominal discomfort and will not promote weight loss.
Read the food labels
Before buying any food product, always read the nutritive value of that particular product mentioned on the food label. These food labels will help you to know the caloric content, amount of protein, carbohydrate, simple sugars, dietary fiber, fat, cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium present in the food product. This will help you to make healthy food choices.
Sample diet plan
|On rising||2 teaspoons roasted flaxseeds with 1 glass of water.||Helps in weight loss.|
|Breakfast||1 cup green tea +1 bowl fiber rich cereal grain with vegetables + 1 glass low-fat milk OR 1 bowl porridge with skimmed milk (porridge can be made out of oats, barley, quinoa, broken wheat) OR 2 egg whites with 2 slices of wholegrain or multigrain bread.||Whole egg can be eaten twice a week.|
|Mid-morning||1 fruit/ 1 cucumber/1 carrot or 4 soaked almonds.||Mid-morning fillers|
|Lunch||1 bowl salad/ 1 bowl soup + 1 serving whole grain cereal + 1 serving whole pulses/sprouts/2 pieces grilled chicken/2 pieces fish/ 2 egg whites + 1/2 bowl low-fat yogurt/ 1 glass buttermilk.||Salad dressing are high in fat. Make your own salad dressing such as lemon juice + pepper powder, buttermilk-herb dressing, and balsamic-herb vinaigrette.|
|Mid-morning||1 cup green tea +1 serving of fiber rich cereal grain|
|Evening-||1 glass unstrained vegetable juice/ 1 bowl unstrained soup with 2 spoons sprouts.||Mid-evening fillers.|
|Early dinner||1 bowl salad/ 1 bowl soup + 1 serving whole grain cereal + 1 serving whole pulses/sprouts/2 pieces grilled chicken/2 pieces fish/ 2 egg whites + 1/2 bowl low-fat yogurt/ 1 glass buttermilk.||Salad dressing are high in fat. Make your own salad dressing such as lemon juice + pepper powder, buttermilk-herb dressing, and balsamic-herb vinaigrette.|
1 glass low-fat milk