Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the developed world while in the poorer countries many still die of starvation. Obesity only occurs when the food eaten has a high calorie value compared to the amount of fiber it contains. Calories do count. They are the measure of energy that the food contains.
With food that is highly processed, the bulk of fiber is removed. This applies mostly to the carbohydrates or starches and these foods become concentrated. The villain is sugar. It is added to so many foods.
You are obese when your weight is 20 percent or more greater than the ideal weight. This ideal weight for sex, height and age has been worked out by studying life insurance statistics. Those who are at an ideal weight for their height and age live longer than those who are above the ideal. And the greater the weight, the shorter the life span.
Eating is not only a necessity, we also eat for other reasons - social, pleasure, habit and sometimes to satisfy a hunger for attention or to cope with our anxieties and depression.
We start off with a particular genetic makeup. This we can't alter. We are destined to be either fat or thin. But then comes the influence of our environment and the behavior we learn. We can learn to avoid being overweight even if genetically we have that tendency.
Unfortunately, the seeds of obesity are often sown in childhood. A fat "healthy" baby is likely to grow into a fat child and a fat unhealthy adult.
It is now believed that the number of fat or adipose cells in the body are determined in childhood and that later in life the cells may increase in size but not in number. Being overweight in childhood means more adipose cells are formed and later in life they tend to fill up with fat and so we become obese.
Mothers feed their children not only for them to live and grow but also as a sign of love. Sometimes they overfeed a child to satisfy some neurotic need of their own, and this may lead the person later on to seek satisfaction in eating for other needs besides hunger.
Being overweight is unhealthy at any age. Obesity can lead to an early death. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gall stones and osteoarthritis are all associated with being overweight. How does one go about losing weight? What I said at the beginning is true. Eat and drink less.
I believe that dieting is a state of mind. Unless a person develops the right attitudes about dieting and weight loss, her efforts are doomed to failure. Crash diets are of little use. Many people do lose weight at the start, but within weeks or months are right back where they started.
A good reducing diet should contain around 800 calories to 1200 calories a day. The diet should be balanced and have an adequate intake of vitamins and the essential food factors. It should be low in carbohydrate, high in bulk and moderate in fat and protein.
Carbohydrate is easily digested, rapidly absorbed and rapidly cleared from the blood into the tissues. You may feel full immediately after a meal of carbohydrate, but will feel hungry again soon after.
Carbohydrate is easily converted to fat in the body. Fat on the other hand, while it is high in calories, is more slowly absorbed and cleared from the blood. It is therefore more satisfying than carbohydrate and you may not feel hungry for hours after a high fat meal. Protein is difficult for the body to convert to fat and burns up energy in doing so.
Diets which stress no carbohydrates or high protein or fat can be dangerous unless followed under strict medical and dietetic control.
Drugs are often used to help people lose weight. They are of little use, except in special cases. Most of the appetite suppressant drugs are derived from amphetamine. They may reduce the appetite at the start but tend to lose this effect after a month or so. Unfortunately, because of their stimulant effect, some people become addicted to them.
There are some anorexiants or appetite suppressing drugs which appear to be free of these side effects, but in my experience are of little value.
Diuretics are often used, but these rid the body of water, not fat. After taking them you can see that your weight has dropped a kilo or two. But it will all come back again once your body reestablishes its water balance.
Thyroid tablets are sometimes used. All that happens is that normal production of this hormone by the thyroid gland is shut down. If bigger doses are given this can put a strain on the heart.
Injections of a hormone prepared from the urine of pregnant women, chorionic gonadotropin or HCG, has been popular in some weight reducing clinics. But controlled studies have shown that it is the diet, the daily visits to the clinic and the encouragement the patients receive that causes the weight loss - and not the injection.
Motivation is all-important in losing weight. Overweight people who have had a heart attack usually lose weight rapidly and maintain their ideal weight. The aim should be to provide that motivation before the heart attack.
I think it is important for the person trying to lose weight to have the help and encouragement of someone else. If this is to be the doctor, then he or she needs to see the patient regularly to check weight loss, encourage, praise, cajole or abuse the patient.
Some patients react better to one of these methods than to others. Some need all measures at different times. Group therapy can be useful and this is why self-help organizations such as Weight Watchers have success.
Many people will seek less orthodox means and have acupuncture or hypnosis to help them control their eating. Others have had their jaws wired together so that they cannot eat solid food. Some people even resort to surgery to lose weight. There is an operation called an apronectomy where the surgeon can remove the apron of fat from the abdomen. It certainly is a quick, if expensive, way to shed 10 kilos.
Another operation is a short circuit on the bowel. The upper small bowel is temporarily joined to the lower bowel thus preventing a lot of the food from being absorbed. This must be done with care and only for extreme reasons. It is prone to a lot of complications; deficiencies of vitamins and other essential food factors can happen.
To lose weight you need to eat less than required and so burn up some of your reserve. When you have reached your ideal weight, you can increase intake to match output and your weight will stay the same.
You can also lose weight by doing more exercise. Many people have been discouraged because they read that it takes a lot of effort to rid the body of fat in this way. This is true. You need to walk 48 kilometers to burn up a half kilo of fat.
But looked at another way, it means that if you walk one and a half kilometers a day you can lose up to half a kilo in a month. That is six kilos or nearly one stone in a year.
We are all impatient and want to see results quickly. Those who lose weight quickly seem to put it back just as quickly. Losing half a kilo a week shouldn't be too hard. That works out at nearly 26 kilos or four stone in a year and that is a lot of weight.
If you want to lose weight and you want to avoid putting it back on, change your attitudes. Don't look on the negative side and moan about the nice things you can't have. Think positively. Think how nice you will look when you have lost weight. Think of the nice new clothes you can buy when you are slim. And think of how good you will feel, and how healthy you will be.
Be adventurous in your eating. Experiment with new foods and new ways of cooking. Dieting can be fun. But if you do weaken and have a piece of cake, then you may as well enjoy it. Don't wolf it down and feel guilty. Go to the cake tin and place the piece of cake on a plate. Put the cake tin away, take the plate to the table and sit down and eat it slowly.
It is a good idea to eat all your food slowly and enjoy it. If you eat slowly you may actually eat less.
Having lost weight, be careful with your eating for the next six months. The appetite and weight controlling center in the brain acts like a thermostat. It will act to keep your weight constant. Once you have lost weight it will take some time for this regulatory center to adjust to the new body image.
Many people are prepared to do almost anything to lose weight except what is really necessary, and that is to eat properly. It sounds simple and it is. But I must admit it is difficult to do. Good luck and think slim!