Obesity isn't a disease, right?

  • Fitness
  • Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014

There are many serious conditions associated with obesity.

I just joined a gym, and in my gym there are plenty of overweight people trying to lose weight. My gym trainer told me that obesity is a very serious condition. It isn’t as if it’s a disease or anything, right?

Obesity is indeed a serious condition. If you don’t take steps to do something about it, it can lead to many serious diseases. The more obese you are, the more likely you are to have health problems associated with it. The good news is that even when you lose weight moderately, you can improve your health. You don’t need to have a goal to get “model” thin in order to make changes to your life!

Just how do you define obesity anyway?

Obesity is defined as having an excess of fat in your body. There are several ways to measure obesity.

1. Body Mass Index (BMI): This is the most common way. You calculate your BMI by measuring body weight (kg)/height (m2). This is how to interpret your BMI:

> Less than 18.5: Underweight

> 18.5-24.9: Healthy weight (congratulations!)

> 25-29.9: Overweight

> 30-34.9: Obesity 1

> 35-39.9: Obesity II

> More than 40: Obesity IIIS

2. Skin fold thickness: This entails using a caliper to grasp your skin and measure the amount of subcutaneous fat you have. This is primarily to determine your amount of body fat. This has been superseded by some machines, which can be found in gyms.

3. Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio: If you have a waist circumference of more than 94cm for men and 80cm for women, you have an increased risk of health problems.

I have a friend who can eat and eat and not gain a single ounce. I just have to look at a cupcake, and I instantly gain weight. Why is it so unfair?

Yes, I also have friends who are the same way. Life does seem unfair.

But it’s all a matter of mathematics, actually. If you take in more calories than you burn off – either by day-to-day metabolism or by exercise – you will gain weight.

Your metabolism might be a lot lower than you think it is, especially when you get older. For example, if you have a basal metabolic rate of 1200 calories a day, you can only eat 1200 calories a day to maintain your body weight if you don’t exercise at all. So check your metabolic rate at the gym if you haven’t already.

Obesity is usually caused by:

> Lack of activity – being sedentary, not exercising.

> Overeating and eating an unhealthy diet – it is not only about how much you eat, but what you eat and drink. If you keep drinking sodas and a frappucino every day and eating fast foods, you are going to gain a lot of weight if you don’t burn it off. Beware of that buffet dinner!

Carbohydrates are also not your friend if overeaten, as with anything that has a high glycaemic index.

> Lack of sleep – having little sleep can change your hormonal patterns and result in an increased appetite, as well as a craving for carbohydrates.

> Pregnancy – some women have difficulty losing weight after having a baby.

> Certain medicines – these include antidepressants, anti-diabetic medicines, antipsychotics, steroids.

What are the diseases associated with obesity?

There are many such diseases. These include:

> High blood pressure

> High cholesterol

> Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome

> Heart disease

> Stroke

> Cancers – breast, cervix, colon, ovaries, rectum, prostate

> Sleep apnoea

> Depression

> Gallbladder disease

> Infertility and irregular periods

> Fatty liver

> Osteoarthritis

Is the only cure for obesity diet and exercise?

You will need to eat a healthy diet and exercise, no matter what. Just make sure you go to a doctor for a medical check-up before you start, just in case you might have any underlying diseases.

Aim for a slow and steady weight loss of 1kg a week.

For weight loss, you may need to get as much as 250 to 300 minutes of exercise a week initially.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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