Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person's weight is greater than what's considered healthy for his or her height.
Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might affect your weight include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods, and not being physically active.
Health risks of obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which a high amount of body fat increases the chance of developing medical problems. People with obesity have a higher chance of developing these health problems:
- High blood glucose (sugar) or diabetes.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- High blood cholesterol and triglycerides (dyslipidemia or high blood fats).
- Heart attacks due to coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
- Bone and joint problems, more weight puts pressure on the bones and joints. This can lead to osteoarthritis, a disease that causes joint pain and stiffness.
- Stopping breathing during sleep (sleep apnea). This can cause daytime fatigue or sleepiness, poor attention, and problems at work.
- Gallstones and liver problems.
- Some cancers.
Three things can be used to determine if a person's body fat gives them a higher chance of developing obesity-related diseases:
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Waist size
- Other risk factors the person has (a risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease.)
Unfortunately obesity is a chronic condition and there is no ‘quick fix’ solution or treatment that is effective for all overweight or obese individuals.
The aim of diet therapies is to reduce caloric intake. Diets can be broadly categorised into reduced energy, low energy or very low energy diets based on how much they restrict your daily caloric intake. However, after following weight loss programs, relapses of weight gain are extremely common. This emphasises the importance of a lifetime commitment to healthy eating and exercise practices. Increased physical activity is often used in conjunction with diets to increase energy expenditure. Using exercise alone for weight loss is however often unsuccessful.
What is Energy Balance?
Energy is another word for "calories." Your energy balance is the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking compared to calories burned through physical activity. What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT.
The same amount of ENERGY IN (calories consumed) and ENERGY OUT (calories burned) over time = weight stays the same
More IN than OUT over time = weight gain
More OUT than IN over time = weight loss
Your ENERGY IN and OUT don't have to balance every day. It's having a balance over time that will help you stay at a healthy weight for the long term. Eating just 150 calories more a day than you burn can lead to an extra 5 pounds over 6 months. That’s a gain of 10 pounds a year. If you don't want this weight gain to happen, or you want to lose the extra weight, you can either reduce your ENERGY IN or increase your ENERGY OUT. Doing both is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
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Managing your weight with healthy eating
You can control many risk factors by changing your lifestyle. A starting goal of losing 5 to 10% of your current weight will reduce your risk of developing obesity-related diseases.
- For a balanced diet, you need the right types and amounts of foods and drinks. This keeps your body healthy.
- Know how many calories your body needs every day.
- Know how many servings of dairy, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and grains and other starches your body needs each day.
- A balanced diet also includes avoiding too much of some foods and making sure you get enough of others.
- Choose different healthy foods from each food group. Eat foods from each group with every meal. Whenever you sit down to a meal, green vegetables should take up half of your plate.
Protein (meats and beans)
Avoid the fried options; baked, steamed, grilled, stewed, or broiled is better.
Good sources of lean protein include white meat turkey and chicken with the skin removed. Buffalo meat is also good. Eat lean cuts of beef or pork. Trim away any visible fat.
Eat plenty of fish and shellfish, at least twice a week.
Beans are good sources of protein and fiber, including pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans.
Nuts and seeds are part of a balanced diet. You can also eat tofu, tempeh, and other soy products.
Eggs are also a good source of protein. They are low in saturated fat, but they are very high in cholesterol.
Dairy (milk and milk products)
Always choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products, and try to consume 3 cups total per day. Cheese is also a healthy choice, but only in moderation. Limit your intake to 1.5 ounces of hard cheese per day.
Other good dairy choices are milk and buttermilk. Yogurt is best when it is fat-free or low-fat. Plain yogurt that you stir your own fresh or dried fruit into is better than fruit-flavored yogurts, which can contain added sugars.
Cream cheese, cream, and butter are not healthy dairy products.
Grains, cereals, and fiber
Grain products are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other grains such as millet, bulgur, quinoa, and amaranth. Foods made with grains include pasta, oatmeal, breads, breakfast cereals, tortillas, grits.
There are two kinds of grains: whole grains and refined grains. Choose mostly whole-grain foods. They are much healthier for you because they have the entire grain kernel. These include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice.
Check the ingredients list, and buy breads and pastas that list "whole wheat" or "whole grain" as the first ingredient.
Refined grains are changed to make them last longer. They also have a finer texture. This process removes fiber, protein, iron, and many B vitamins. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, or de-germed cornmeal. Eat fewer foods that often have refined grains, such as white flour and pasta.
Products with added bran, such as oat bran or bran cereal, are a good source of fiber. Just remember, they may not be whole-grain products.
Oils and fats
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Most of these oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. This is the best oil to use for cooking.
Many healthy oils come from plants, nuts, olives, or fish. Healthy choices include canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, safflower, soybean, sunflower oils.
Any fats that are solid at room temperature contain saturated fats. Saturated fats are much less healthy for you and are often high in cholesterol. Animal fats, like butter and lard, are higher in saturated fats. Some vegetable oils also have saturated fats. These are coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
You can reduce saturated fats in your diet by eating only a small amount of hard cheeses, whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter, fatty meats.
Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are often found in fried foods. Many processed foods and margarines have them. The recommendation is to limit trans fats as much as possible.
Avoid fried foods. Fried food absorbs the fats from cooking oils. This increases your fat intake. If you do fry, cook with polyunsaturated oils. Try to saute foods in a small amount of oil instead of deep-fat frying.
Boil, grill, poach, and bake fish, chicken, and lean meats.
Read food labels. Try to avoid foods that have partially-hydrogenated fats or trans fats. Limit foods that are high in saturated fats.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than other foods. They are also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as water. Eating many fruits and vegetables can help you control your weight. It may also reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases.
The fiber and water in fruits and vegetables helps fill you up. Replace high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables. This can lower the calories and fat in your diet without leaving you feeling hungry.
Limit fruit juices to one 8-ounce cup or less per day. Whole fruits and vegetables are a better choice than juices because juices do not have the fiber to help fill you up.
Be careful not to eat too many fruits, since they do have calories. But try to eat 2 cups (4 servings) of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables (5 servings) per day for an average 2,000-calorie per day diet. You can always add more low-calorie vegetables to your diet.
Divide your dinner plate. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill the other half with whole grains and meat.
Replace half of the cheese in your omelets with spinach, onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms. Replace 2 ounces of cheese and 2 ounces of meat in your sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, or onions.
Add chopped broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or green peppers to your dishes instead of pasta or rice. Use frozen or canned vegetables if you do not have fresh ones.
Limit snacks that do not have any nutritional benefits, such as cookies, cakes, chips, or candy. These should not be "everyday" treats.
Make sure you are drinking enough water, at least 8 cups per day. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas and sweet teas.
Dietary approaches for weight loss
Dietary control has probably been the main treatment used for weight loss in the past. Diets are based on the principles of metabolism and work by reducing the intake of calories (energy) to create a negative energy balance (i.e. more energy is used than is consumed). Below are some of the different mechanisms used in diets for weight loss:
- Reducing fat, carbohydrate (especially those with a high glycaemic index), protein or alcohol intake.
- Smaller portion sizes. You can try using a smaller plate size at each meal.
- Food restrictions at various times of the day. It can be helpful to have a big breakfast and reduce the intake of energy rich foods later in the day. This can help your metabolism and ensure that most of the energy that you consume is burnt throughout the day.
- Combining different foods to reduce total energy intake. Some diets have set food regimes for weight loss.
- Diets centered on a single low-energy food.
Diets that teach you how to select and prepare healthy foods may be more successful in the long term than restrictive diets with strict daily eating regimes or pre-prepared meals.
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