Obesity is a medical term that is used to describe somebody who is very overweight, with a lot of body fat. Sadly, it is now a common problem in the UK, where it is estimated that approximately one in every four adults and one in every five children is obese. So what exactly is obesity and is there anything that you can do when this is a health issue you are currently experiencing?
Doctors define obesity by referring to a body measurement called body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight by taking your height into account. For most adults:
- a BMI of 25 to 29.9 means you are described as overweight
- a BMI of 30 to 39.9 means you are described as obese
- a BMI of 40 or above means you are described as severely obese.
However, some people who are very muscular may have a high BMI without excess fat.
Day to day problems with obesity
Being obese is not pleasant because you are unlikely to be very happy about the way you look. It may be hard to get nice clothes that fit you and your appearance may get you down. However, obesity can cause a number of other day-to-day problems, such as:
- increased sweating
- difficulty doing physical activity
- feeling very tired a lot of the time
- joint and back pain.
Being obese is very bad news for your overall health. It will certainly increase your risk of many potentially serious health conditions, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in arteries) leading to coronary heart disease or stroke
- metabolic syndrome – diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity
- cancer (bowel cancer, breast cancer and womb cancer)
- gallstones – small cholesterol stones that form in the gallbladder
- reduced fertility
- osteoarthritis – pain and stiffness in the joints
- sleep apnoea – a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep as well as a greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
- liver disease and kidney disease
- pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes and pre – eclampsia).
Obesity is known to reduce life expectancy and contributes to at least 1 in every 13 deaths in Europe.
If at all possible it is always best to not get obese in the first place because once the weight piles on it can be very hard to lose. Here are a few simple lifestyle changes that you can make if you suspect that obesity is becoming a health issue for you.
People with very active lifestyles are rarely obese. Simple activities like walking to work or walking the kids to school instead of taking the car can make the world of difference. Many people enjoy going to the gym and exercise classes too, but it’s not necessary. There are lots of different ways to exercise at home, including yoga.
Make sure that you eat a healthy and balanced diet that is rich in grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes. Ditch the carbonated drinks and convenience foods. Limit the number of takeaways that you get – instead get into the kitchen and prepare your own fresh meal.
Measure your weight
It is important to get on the scales once a week in order to make sure you are at a healthy weight. If you notice that your weight is increasing you know that it is time to put measures in place to get it under control. Don’t let obesity be a nasty surprise.
It is easy to confuse hunger with dehydration so it is important that you drink eight to ten glasses of water a day. Water is needed for all the body’s vital processes. When you are thirsty your body needs water – not a sugar packed carbonated drink!
Get a general medical check up once a year
Doctors recommend that adults have a medical check up once a year in order to prevent health problems. If you have any concerns about your weight go and talk to your doctor about it. They may be able to get you some professional help and support to control your weight.
Keep junk food out of the house
Junk food is the enemy of obese people and if you are serious about avoiding obesity you will not touch it. Throw away all of your takeaway menus and fill the fridge with fruit and vegetables.
Only eat when you’re hungry
Obese people eat when they are not hungry. If you only eat when your body tells you it needs nourishment it will be easier to control your weight.