Tue | Aug 22, 2017

CSEC PE Lecture | Controlling body weight

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 2:00 AMJennifer Ellison Brown

Controlling body weight is really a matter of controlling body fat. The most important consideration for health is not total weight but body composition (proportion of fat to lean mass). Many persons who are 'overweight' are also 'over fat' and the health risks faced are due to the latter condition.

The secret to managing body weight is eating moderately and getting regular physical activity. This adoption of healthy and sustainable habits will maximise energy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. It will also boost body image as persons are becoming obsessed with weight and shape. However, this is sometimes associated with dangerous eating patterns and disorders.

Body weight and body composition are determined by multiple factors that may vary with each individual. Such factors include genetic, physiological and lifestyle factors.

 

Genetic Factors

 

Genes influence body size and shape, body fat distribution, and metabolic rates. Genetic factors also affect the ease with which weight is gained and where on the body it is added. If both parents are overweight, it is very likely that their children will be overweight.

 

Physiological Factors

 

- Metabolism - this is a key physiological factor. It is the sum of all the vital processes by which food energy and nutrients are made available to the body. The largest component is the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). High RMR burns more calories and hence less weight is gained. Vice versa for low RMR.

- Energy balance - if the energy equation is balanced, an individual burns the same amount of calories as he/she consumes and no weight is gained. If more calories are taken in than expended, weight will increase.

- Hormones - hormonal changes, especially in females, play a role in the accumulation of body fat. For example, hormones during puberty initiates the development of breasts, wider hips and a fat layer beneath the skin. The hormone leptin is said to be linked to obesity.

- Weight cycling - repeatedly gaining and losing weight (yo-yo dieting) makes the body more efficient at storing calories and more difficult to lose weight.

 

Lifestyle Factors

 

- Eating - increased energy intake and decreased physical activity may increase risk for excess body fat, and obesity down the line, for example, eating calorie dense foods of high fat, high sugar, and fast foods low in nutrients, sodas and beers. Consider also the proportion sizes of high calorie meals.

- Physical activity - modern conveniences such as motor vehicles, remote controls, power machines, etc, have reduced daily physical activity. The lifestyle of men has become sedentary.

- Psychosocial - persons use food as a means of coping with stress and negative emotions. For many, eating provides a powerful distraction from loneliness, anger, boredom, sadness, inadequacy. It can be used to combat low moods, low energy levels and low self-esteem. When food and eating becomes the primary means of regulating emotions, binge eating and other unhealthy eating patterns develop. Such practices may lead to obesity or anorexia.

It is clear that most weight problems are lifestyle problems. Controlling weight is a matter of adopting healthy behaviours that can be maintained throughout life and will lower the health risks associated with overweight and obesity.

 

Health Risks

 

- Being overweight or obese isn't something to take lightly. These conditions greatly raise risks for other health problems. Excess body fat increases a person's risk of developing numerous diseases and unhealthy conditions. Obesity is one of six controllable risk factors for heart disease. It also increases risk for other forms of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancers, diabetes, gall bladder disease, respiratory problems, joint diseases, skin problems, impaired immune function and sleep disorders.

- Obese people have an overall mortality rate almost twice that of non-obese people. Studies have shown that women who gain more than 22 pounds since they were 18 years old have a sevenfold increase in the risk of heart disease. Studies also confirmed that overweight and obesity shorten lives.

- Scientific evidence shows that the way people store fat affects their risk for disease. Statistics show that obese individuals with a lot of abdominal fat are clearly at higher risk than others with a similar amount of body fat stored in other areas (hip, thigh, gluteal). Evidence also indicates that those whose fat deposits around internal organs have an even greater risk for diseases than those with fat deposits beneath the skin.

 

Risk Assessment Techniques

 

It is clear that most weight problems are lifestyle problems. A few management techniques include:

- Changes in diet and eating habits

- Increase physical activity and exercise

- Get psychological help

- Manage emotion

- Develop healthy stress coping skills

- Positive thinking