What is obesity?
The definition of obesity varies depending on what one reads, but in general, it is a chronic condition defined by an excess amount body fat. A certain amount of body fat is necessary for storing energy, heat insulation, shock absorption, and other functions. The normal amount of body fat (expressed as percentage of body fat) is between 25%-30% in women and 18%-23% in men. Women with over 30% body fat and men with over 25% body fat are considered obese. The calculation of body mass index (BMI) has also been used in the definition of obesity. The body mass index (BMI) equals a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by their height in meters (m) squared. Since BMI describes body weight relative to height, it is strongly correlated with total body fat content in adults. “Obesity” is defined as a BMI of 30 and above. According to the American Obesity Association (AOA) BMI also indicates the potential health risks that accompany obesity.
BMI Category Health Risk
18 – 25 Minimal
25 – 27 Low
27 – 30 Moderate
30 – 35 High
35 – 40 Very high
40 & above Extremely high
What Causes Obesity?
- Genetics. A person is more likely to develop obesity if one or both parents are obese.
- Overeating. Overeating leads to weight gain, especially if the diet is high in fat. Foods high in fat or sugar (for example, fast food, fried food, and sweets) have high energy density (foods that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food). Epidemiologic studies have shown that diets high in fat contribute to weight gain.
- A diet high in simple carbohydrates. The role of carbohydrates in weight gain is not clear. Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain. Some scientists believe that simple carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, desserts, soft drinks, beer, wine, etc.) contribute to weight gain because they are more rapidly absorbed into the blood-stream than complex carbohydrates (pasta, brown rice, grains, vegetables, raw fruits, etc.) and thus cause a more pronounced insulin release after meals than complex carbohydrates. This higher insulin release, some scientists believe, contributes to weight gain
- Frequency of eating. The relationship between frequency of eating (how often you eat) and weight is somewhat controversial. There are many reports of overweight people eating less often than people with normal weight. Scientists have observed that people who eat small meals four or five times daily, have lower cholesterol levels and lower and/or more stable blood sugar levels than people who eat less frequently (two or three large meals daily). One possible explanation is that small frequent meals produce stable insulin levels, whereas large meals cause large spikes of insulin after meals.
- Slow metabolism. Women have less muscle than men. Muscle burns (metabolizes) more calories than other tissue (which includes fat). As a result, women have a slower metabolism than men, and hence, have a tendency to put on more weight than men, and weight loss is more difficult for women. As we age, we tend to lose muscle and our metabolism slows; therefore, we tend to gain weight as we get older particularly if we do not reduce our daily caloric intake.
- Physical inactivity. Sedentary people burn fewer calories than people who are active.
- Medications. Medications associated with weight gain include certain antidepressants (medications used in treating depression), anti-convulsants [medications used in controlling seizures such ascarbamazepine (Tegretol, Tegretol XR , Equetro, Carbatrol) and valproate], diabetes medications (medications used in lowering blood sugar such as insulin, sulfonylureas and thiazolidinediones), certain hormones such as oral contraceptives and most corticosteroids such asPrednisone. Weight gain may also be seen with some high blood pressure medications and antihistamines.
- Psychological factors. For some people, emotions influence eating habits. Many people eat excessively in response to emotions such as boredom, sadness, stress or anger. While most overweight people have no more psychological disturbances than normal weight people, about 30 percent of the people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating.
- Diseases such as hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome, are also contributors to obesity.
- Ethnicity. Ethnicity factors may influence the age of onset and the rapidity of weight gain. African American women and Hispanic women tend to experience weight gain earlier in life than Caucasians and Asians. Hispanic men tend to develop obesity earlier than African American and Caucasian men.
Childhood weight. A person’s weight during childhood, the teenage years, and early adulthood may also influence the development of adult obesity.
Treatment of Obesity:
Optimal treatment plans for obese people consist of the following: Changing diet and behavior. Introducing Exercise, Drugs and surgery (last option) Dietary + Life style changes Excess calories consumed end-up being stored as fat. A good diet plan must have foods high in nutritive value and low in empty calories. Give up the idea of starving yourself. Crash diets rarely remedy the situation. You are likely to quit the regimen very soon either out of frustration or from progressive weakness. Instead, try to eat more of the right kind of foods. The realistic approach is to achieve a ‘healthier weight’ and not what is touted as the ‘ideal weight’.
- Don’t avoid carbohydrates -> have less of simple carbohydrates (sugars) and consume more of complex carbohydrates. Most naturally occurring complex carbohydrates also provide sufficient vitamins and minerals for energy production. Wheatgerm, bran, oats, cornmeal, maize, buckwheat and barley are all excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These foods are best consumed as they are that is – in their natural states.
- Complex carbohydrates -> minimum 60% of your daily calories must come from carbohydrates. If you are uncomfortable using complex carbohydrates routinely, there are plenty of choices you may opt for
- pasta and its varieties
- whole grain cereals
- shredded wheat
- porridge oats
- oat cakes
- brown rice
- brown bread
- pitta bread
- Avoid food fads which promise dramatic weight lose in little time. Rapid weight loses generally mean you are losing a lot of proteins and body fluids. This eventually depletes your body’s muscle mass and leading to exhaustion. The ideal diet will enable the body to burn fat while conserving muscle proteins.
- Add more high fiber foods. Vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains are high in fibers which prevent excess absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines. Have plenty of red, yellow and orange fruits which are high in antioxidants.
- Avoid having animal fats. These are high in saturated fats which lead to conditions like high blood pressures and diabetes. Animal fats are very rich in cholesterols which can cause heart diseases along with obesity.
- Drink plenty of water. Recent studies have shown that simply having more water can increase your metabolic rates thus help in burning more calories in the form of fat.
- Maintain a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. It is true that obese people consume more calories than they require and burn lesser calories. So an ideal balance needs to be maintained.
- Start being more active.
- Walk more, use the car less often.
- Avoid using the car for short distances -> try cycling or walking instead.
- Climb stairs instead of always using the elevators.
- Pursue active recreational sports when home rather than watching television or surfing the net.
Increase your fitness levels by including activities that you enjoy. It takes about 3,500 excess calories to gain just 0.5kg (1lb). Few people gain more than 2lb to 5lb each year. Weight fluctuates from day to day, but you should aim to stay about the same weight from week to week.
- Have moderate sizing when at the restaurant. Try having starters instead of heavy desserts. Restaurants generally provide very large servings, try to split your dish with a friend and do not order for anything offered super sized.
- Eat a variety of foods. Try and get your vitamin and mineral nutrients from food and not through supplements.
- Have adequate amounts of calcium. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth.
Homeopathic Treatment for Obesity:
Homeopathic approach to the treatment of Obesity entails treating the treatable cause, if possible. For example, if obesity is due to hormonal disorders such as Hypothyroidism, it calls for the treatment for the same. Besides the treatment, disciplines diet habit and exercise schedule form important part of the treatment. It may be noted that there are no standard medicines in homeopathy which can reduce weight.