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Obesity: Are You At Risk?

Have you ever taken out an old dress, eager to try it on, only to find out it’s a little too tight? Never assume that it is only a sign of increasing age.

We all have to realise that it could be a sign of overeating, thus leading to being overweight or even worse, obese. Quoting Dr. Amir Farid Ishak from the ‘Good Health Now’ column in The Sunday Star, 15th 2009, “In 2006… 45% of Malaysians were obese…, an increase of 250% over 10 years…”

It is predicted that before 2020, over 50% of the people will be overweight or obese. Chronic weight gain could lead to a variety of illnesses such as but not limited to stroke, diabetes, coronary heart disease.

What causes obesity?

There are a variety of reasons.

The first is lack of energy balance. This happens when more energy comes into the body instead of leaving it. Energy is produced by the food we eat, such as carbohydrates and sugar. Our bodies require energy to carry out daily activities. We should never get overwhelmed or ridden by despair when we gain a pound. Instead, if we apportion our activities correctly, we can even lose triple the amount the next day. So, always try not to overly worry but maintain a healthy eating style and practice appropriate physical exercises to maintain energy balance.

An inactive lifestyle also causes obesity. In an age when technology has made our lives so much easier, we spend most of our time with our feet up doing mostly inactive things like using the computer, watching television and other leisure activities. To balance these out, simple activities like walking up the stairs, gardening or washing your car can burn calories. Unfortunately, they are not being practiced much anymore.

The environment we live in also causes weight issues. Considering that we are now heading towards Vision 2020, more towns, buildings and houses have sprung up all across the nation. There is less space for playgrounds, parks and so forth for people to really enjoy and engage in healthy physical activities. Also, many people have to spend a lot of time working or being trapped while commuting, thus there is little or no time for exercise.

Due to the lack of time, many are also unable to prepare good, healthy food at home, instead resort to taking their meals outside. In an effort to draw in the crowds, restaurants and stalls are serving food in bigger proportions, thus causing people to consume more calories than they can burn. This is very apparent in obese people who have been taught from young to never waste their food, and in turn end up wiping their plates clean.

The genes of an obese parent can also be passed down to their children, resulting in many overweight young Malaysians. The eating inclinations of respective families are also passed down, so habits like not sharing food, eating large amounts and snacking unnecessarily can be hazardous to one’s health. Parents who do not have the time to spend with their children often treat them to sugar-laden and fast foods often worsening the situation. These kinds of food are being advertised daily by the media to tempt children.

Also, many parents feel they are feeding their children with healthy food, unaware that they are often bombarded with food chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) and excessive white flour products. Therefore, it is better to stick with organic and free-range products, although they could cost slightly higher. It is important to remember that your health is at stake and should not be compromised for a few extra bucks.

Health conditions and medicines also play an important role in being overweight. One little known condition is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is one of the most common female endocrine disorders and is also thought to be one of the leading causes of female subfertility. It starts off at the age of puberty and ends with the arrival of menopause. Although it only affects 5% to 10% of women in their child-bearing age, it can cause obesity, excessive amounts or effects of androgenic (masculine) hormones, insulin resistance, diabetes, excessive hair growth and reproductive problems.

Another known problem is an underactive thyroid gland that produces less thyroid hormones which can lead to being overweight or obese. If you have allergies, you will find that the body will retain water so that it can dilute the toxicity of the food. If you feel that you are obese due to any medical reason, please consult with your doctor immediately.

Certain medicines like anti-depressants or seizure tablets can also cause weight gain or obesity over time.

Emotional factors such as depression, anger, sadness and boredom will cause a person to resort to comfort food, all of which are more often than not, high in sugar and cholesterol. Consult with your doctor immediately if you are facing these emotional issues.

Age is another key issue that we should investigate. As our age increases, we lose muscle mass especially if we do not exercise. Thus, our body burns fewer calories. One has to responsibly alter their diet according to their age to avoid gaining excess weight as they grow older.

For women, ageing and lifestyle can cause an increase in weight. Another factor is menopause, which can cause women to gain more pounds and grow a larger waistline.

Pregnancy is one of the stages in which women are at risk of gaining the most weight. In fact, women with large families also look obese. This is because would-be mothers have a constant craving for food, and also need to eat to gain nourishment for both herself and the baby. However, many also tend to binge, thus putting on excess weight. So, do not eat junk food, fast food or fatty food as it could be the worst decision you make for yourself and your baby.

Another possible cause of obesity is lack of sleep. It really piles on the pounds and this is due to a variety of reasons. A person who has roughly about 5 hours of sleep compared to one who has 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep can be prone to carbohydrates and higher calorie foods. This will lead to weight gain and eventually to obesity. This is because different hormones are released during sleep that controls the body’s appetite and its use of energy. For example, during sleep, the insulin controls the blood sugar level in the body and those with less sleep may be prone to diabetes. Also, people who have less sleep have higher amounts of a hormone known as ghrelin. This causes hunger. These people also have lower levels of leptin, which helps to curb hunger.

Weight gain may seem like a small issue to some but when we recoup the statistics we can definitely see that we as a people are heading in the wrong direction in terms of our health. It is not an easy problem to solve but since obesity doesn’t happen overnight, we can take preventive measures to make sure we don’t head towards being dangerously overweight. We can start by exercising regularly and practicing a healthy diet and lifestyle.

With perseverance and determination we will definitely be able to make it.





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