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Published: Tuesday 29th of October 2013
Today a large portion of humans struggles with being overweight and obese. Obesity can be regarded as a global epidemic deriving from a combination of genetic factors, increased availability of high-calorie and high-fat foods, and sedentary lifestyle with low levels of physical activity. Obesity is not just an aesthetic problem. Excessive accumulation of body fat can lead to an increased risk of health problems. Determining whether a person is overweight depends on their Body Mass Index (BMI): a value between 25 and 29 is overweight, over 30 – obese, and over 40 – extremely obese. A person’s diet and level of physical activity are decisive in determining his/her weight.
Obviously, we should all strive to develop and maintain a healthy diet. Experts estimate that unhealthy eating contributes to a huge number of deaths per year. A poor diet is especially problematic when combined with other risk factors. It increases your chances of getting a serious medical condition significantly. The good news, though, is that changing one’s diet can improve health. For example, eating a diet rich in fiber can protect against obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Family factors are crucial in determining the likelihood of children becoming obese. Overweight parents, as research shows, are more likely to have overweight children. This can be attributed to both genetic and dietary factors. Each family is unique in types of foods they normally consume, the size of portions they eat, and the types of activities they typically participate in, including sports and exercise. There is a smaller likelihood that children will be obese if they are involved in organized sports and/or when the family supports physical activity. The amount of time children spend outside doing sports or playing has decreased with the ever-increasing habit of watching television and playing computer games. Furthermore, 80% of overweight children stay overweight in adulthood.
Societal and cultural factors also play a role in obesity. It is hard to maintain a healthy diet when everyone around you is eating fast food all the time. Preparing healthy meals can be time-consuming, and it’s certainly easier to just get some French fries and burgers at a local fast food restaurant. The media also have a role in setting a standard of physical appearance. Thinness is valued, sometimes to excess, and the inability of most people to achieve this standard leads to dissatisfaction with their bodies and poor self-image, which, in turn, can lead to eating problems.
Stress is a further problem sometimes contributing to obesity. About half of people eat more when they are under stress and the other half eat less. Eating for reasons other than physical hunger, especially for emotional reasons, can cause obesity.
Obesity is a complex condition with no single cure. As the problem is multifaceted, the approach intended to resolve it must also tackle the issue from multiple angles. Modifying one’s diet in a way that caloric and carbohydrate intake is restricted is usually the first step. Downsizing portions of food is another. Education about caloric values and dietary characteristics of food are very important. Behavioral control techniques are instrumental in achieving better self-control over one’s eating habits. Developing a regular program of physical activity is the next step. Everyone should choose an activity that they enjoy doing. Exercising can be fun. Enlisting support from others is yet another factor in successful weight loss programs, especially for keeping a healthy weight in the long run. Restructuring one’s environment can be crucial in preventing relapse. Removing all temptation and developing coping strategies to deal with emotional upsets is also helpful.