Obesity is one big challenge that we Indians need to overcome, as we are genetically predisposed to weight gain. Find out what causes obesity in the first place.
What is obesity?
Obesity is defined as having an excess of body fat. At a time when there is tremendous pressure on looking good, obesity not only looks distasteful, it also puts us on the path of disaster as it predisposes us to several serious medical dangers.
About 30 million Indians are estimated to be obese and the spread is global. Obesity is the epidemic of the 21st century and 5% of the Indian population falls in the category of morbid obesity.
Punjab, Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu are the top 4 states where obesity is a major problem, according to the 2007 National Family Health Survey. A closer look reveals that the fast-food culture combined with other factors like a sedentary lifestyle are to blame. Indians are now exposed to greater food choices with more food chains entering the market and higher spending capacities. Eating out has become the norm rather than the exception. We are consuming foods rich in calories but lacking in nutrients. Obesity is one big challenge that we Indians need to overcome, as we are genetically predisposed to weight gain.
Causes of obesity
Genetic: Indians, as a community are predisposed to obesity but bad genes are just the tip of the iceberg. If one parent is obese, chances are you too will tend towards obesity.
Lifestyle factors: A sedentary lifestyle ensures that we do not burn enough calories, which means there is a gap between the number of calories consumed and burned. Automobiles, elevators and remote controls make it easy for us to be inactive. If our calorie input and output is imbalanced our body stores the excess for later. Alcohol is also a major culprit. Beer and mixed drinks contain the maximum calories. Alcohol adds calories without any nutrition, it provides the so called empty calories; also the snacks consumed along with drinks are high in salt and oil, which further propels weight gain.
Dietary factors: As people work longer hours, they take most meals at office or in restaurants. Eating out has become a frequent affair, as new cuisines find their way into our country. Ready-to-eat food has become a popular choice replacing fruits and vegetables. This, in turn leads to an overload of calories. Fast food and junk food are to be avoided as far as possible.
Lack of exercise: Most people complain that they have just no time to fit exercise into their 24-hour chock-o-block day. But studies have proved that even a modest amount of exercise like walking daily for 20 minutes will help you get fitter, boost your immune system and keep off the weight. The above, however, is recommended for people who want to maintain their weight. For those who want to shed weight a more intense workout is appropriate.
Emotional factors: If you have always been overweight, chances are you use food to comfort yourself. Also, being obese is a social stigma and if you feel that you are not accepted for the way you look you may once again turn to food for comfort. Stress too makes us prone to eating high-calorie food like chocolates, pastries and chips.
Psychiatric illness: Depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder are some mental illnesses, which cause overeating and predispose you to obesity. Other factors include loss of a loved one and physical and emotional abuse.
Medical conditions: Endocrine problems like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome cause and aggravate obesity. Certain drugs like anti-depressants and steroids cause weight gain as a side-effects.
Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician
Photograph via sxc.hu
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