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CSEC PE Lecture: Overweight vs obesity

Published:Monday | August 31, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Two terms commonly used to describe the condition of weighing more than recommended are overweight and obesity.

Overweight and obesity are not the same thing. Obesity has been defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Many overweight people are not obese. A few pounds of excess weight might not be harmful to most people, but this is not always the case.

People with excessive body fat who have diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors benefit from weight loss. People who have a few extra pounds of weight, but who are otherwise healthy and physically active, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet might not be at risk.

Obesity is a health hazard of epidemic proportions in most developed countries around the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 35 per cent of the adult population in industrialised nations is obese.

Most of the blame for the alarming increase in obesity lies in the amount of food that we eat and our lack of physical activity. Further, as the nation continues to evolve into a more mechanised and automated society (relying on escalators, elevators, remote controls, computers, electronic mail, cell phones, automatic-sensor doors, etc), the amount of required daily physical activity continues to decrease. We are being lulled into a high-risk, sedentary lifestyle.


spending money for weight loss


People spend a lot of money yearly attempting to lose weight. Some of this money goes to membership in weight-reduction centres and some on diet foods. Furthermore, there is also the cost attributed to treating obesity-related diseases. Overweight and obesity have been associated with several serious health problems and are the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 15-20 per cent of the annual mortality rate.

Evidence indicates that health risks associated with increased body weight starts at a BMI over 25 and are greatly enhanced at a BMI over 30. Obesity is a risk factor for hypertension, congestive heart failure, high blood lipids, atherosclerosis, stroke, varicose veins, type II diabetes, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, respiratory problems, intervertebral discs problems, etc. Furthermore, it is implicated in psychological maladjustment and a higher accident rate. Extremely obese people have the worst mental-health-related quality of life.


Tolerable weight


Recommended body composition is a primary objective in achieving overall physical fitness and enhanced quality of life. Individuals at recommended body weight are able to participate in a wide variety of moderate to vigorous activities without functional limitations.

These people have the freedom to enjoy most of life's recreational activities to their fullest potential. Excessive body weight does not afford an individual the fitness level to enjoy vigorous lifetime sport activities. Maintaining high fitness levels and recommended body weight gives a person a degree of independence throughout life that most people no longer enjoy.

Many people want to lose weight so they would look better. The problem, however, is that they have a distorted image of what they would really look like if they were reduced to what they think is their ideal weight. Heredity factors play a big role and only a small fraction of the population has the genes for a 'perfect body'.

When people set their own target weight, they should be realistic. Attaining the 'excellent' percentage of body fat is extremely difficult for some and even more difficult to maintain unless the person makes a commitment to a lifetime exercise programme and dietary changes. Few people are willing to do that.

A question you should ask yourself is: Am I happy with my weight? Part of enjoying a better quality of life is being happy with you. If you are not, you either need to do something about it or learn to live with it.

If your body fat is higher than moderate, you should try to come down and stay in this moderate weight category, for health reasons. This category does not seem to be detrimental to health. If you are in a moderate category and you want to reduce further, move to implement the lifetime changes that are required.

Please bear in mind that yo-yo dieting carries as great a health risk as being overweight. Epidemiological data show that frequent fluctuations in weight increase the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

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