Obesity is known to be a major contributor to poor health. It is a global problem that is continuing to rise, largely fueled by the modern diet and lifestyle. Traditionally obesity is expressed by a body mass index (BMI) exceeding 30, although a BMI over 25 which is indicative of being overweight can also be associated with detrimental health effects. BMI is the ratio between weight and height. It continues to be the standard for determining obesity but it is not always an accurate reflection of the body fat content. For example, a muscular person may have a higher BMI which indicates obesity yet their body fat content is low.
Abdominal obesity is sometimes a better indicator of health risk associated with being overweight or obese. BMI reflects total body fat and not the fat content in a specific area of the body. Abdominal circumference and its ratio to hip size, known as the waist-to-hip ratio, or just the waist size alone are two ways to determine the abdominal obesity. However, there are two types of fat that need to be considered in abdominal obesity – subcutaneous and visceral.
Subcutaneous abdominal fat is the fat under the skin around the abdomen. It is more easily visible as a flabby belly. Visceral fat is the fat accumulation around abdominal organs that is not visible without diagnostic investigations like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Between the two, visceral fat is believed to be the more dangerous type. When looking at ways to counteract the effects of abdominal obesity, the focus should be on preventing and undoing visceral fat accumulation.
Control Daily Calories
Obesity is largely due to higher than normal intake of calories in the daily diet. The average adult male is said to require about 2,500 calories per day while females need around 2,000 calories daily. This varies depending on a person’s height, age and daily level of physical activity. Exceeding the daily calorie intake while not expending enough calories through physical activity will lead to weight fain. It is a result of fat accumulation as excess calories are converted an stored as fat.
In the modern diet, exceeding daily calorie intake is relatively easy. A single meal of some popular fast foods can be more than 2,500 calories. However, efforts by health authorities in most countries is now making it mandatory that food manufacturers and sellers clearly stipulate the calories contained in different food items. Calorie counting can be tedious but a basic estimate of your calorie consumption should be an ongoing process with every meal. Alternatively, stick to known low-calorie foods and eat it in moderation.
Limit Carbs and Fat
Carbohydrates and fats are the two types of nutrients that are the major contributors to obesity. The problem is that many of the more affordable, and often considered as the better testing foods, are high in carbohydrates and/or fats. While both nutrients are necessary for a healthy body, an excess of either can be a problem in the battle of the bulge. Fat in particular needs to be consumed in small quantities as ounce for ounce it contains about 3 times more calories than carbohydrates.
Not all carbohydrates are handled in the same way in the body. Some carb0hydrates are broken down more faster than others. A rapid rise in the glucose levels will lead to greater insulin secretion by the pancreas. These carbohydrates are said to have a higher glycemic index (GI) since it raises the blood glucose levels quite quickly. It is these types of carbohydrates that should be excluded from the diet. While certain types of fats like saturated fats are not good for you, all fats should eaten in moderation due to its role in obesity.
150 Minutes Of Exercise
Physical activity is important on a daily basis as people who live sedentary lifestyles will naturally gain weight more easily. Exercise has a host of health benefits but its role in preventing excess weight gain and counteracting obesity is probably one of the most significant. It is important to exercise consistently, at least 5 days in a week. But just as important is the type of exercise and duration of sessions that will determine the health benefits and the extent to which obesity can be prevented.
Ideally a person should exercise for at least 120 to 150 minutes per week. This means daily sessions of about 30 minutes for 5 days a week. Or slightly longer sessions for people who exercise less frequently in a week. Both weight training and aerobic exercise is helpful but it is important to get an all clear from your doctor before starting with any exercise program. The importance of consistency cannot be overstated – exercising infrequently can be harmful, even more so than not exercising at all in some situations.
Reduce Stress Levels
Stress is now known to play a major role in weight gain. With abdominal obesity, stress is believed to be one of the most significant contributors to visceral fat. It appears that the stress hormones like cortisol promotes fat accumulation in some organs within the body. It also affects the action of insulin leading to a higher insulin production and consequently contributes to fat deposition. Stress affects eating habits in a number of ways – from eating fewer high calorie meals to comfort eating – which ultimately leads to weight gain.
Stress management should therefore be a important part of any program to combat abdominal obesity. It is not always possible to avoid stress in the modern world. But just how you handle stress is a factor in determining how it will affect you. There are various ways to reduce stress levels, from exercise to techniques like yoga and meditation. It is also important to consult with a psychotherapist to learn proper coping skills to manage everyday stress and not allow it to have a physical impact on your body.
Get Enough Sleep
Work stress. Financial worries. Relationship problems. Academic commitments. These are some of the common reasons for the prevalence of sleep problems in the modern world. Sometimes it is just an excess of stimulus like spending long hours surfing the Net or playing video games when you should be sleeping. Whatever the reason, medical science now knows that sleep plays a significant role in weight control. Not getting enough sleep can cause you to gain weight.
Not every person may need 8 hours of sleep a day. But trying to manage on less than 6 hours daily can in fact affect your health and lead to weight gain. Similarly sleeping for too long in a day means that you are less active and therefore more likely to gain weight due to a sedentary lifestyle. It is about finding the balance between too little and too much sleep. 7 to 8 hours is ideal, but you should not exceed 10 hours. And the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity of sleep.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on August 25, 2013