The body needs food for heat, building and restoring the tissue, and for gaining energy needed for maintaining vital chemical and physical functions. Energy needs of the body vary even in people of similar weight, body shape, age, and sex. However, the average needs of most people can be reduced to a general average – about 2300 kilocalories for women (9630 kJ) and 2800 kilocalories (11 723 kJ) for men, although a professional athlete or manual worker will probably need about 4000 kilocalories (16 747 kJ). If you eat more food with regard to the energy you need, the body will surplus to store it as a fat. If the fatty tissue becomes more pronounced you may consider yourself “obese”.
The most obvious symptom of obesity is weight gain. However, weight gain in some cases does not have to be a sign of obesity; thus, for example, the weight of the pregnant woman or weightlifter increases for other reasons. In any case, the most common cause of weight gain is the increased amount of fat in the body tissues. The only additional symptoms of obesity are the feeling of weight and the tendency to arousal. However, obesity is associated with a whole series of serious disorders.
It is difficult to accurately determine the frequency of obesity since this condition can not be precisely defined. According to some experts, any person who exceeds the “desirable” weight in terms of height, texture and age of more than 20% may be considered as thick – perhaps unhealthy. By this definition, every fifth man and almost every third woman in developed countries would be more or less obese.
Statistics of insurance companies and health organizations show that obesity is associated with dangerous diseases such as diabetes, stroke, coronary sclerosis, kidney and gallbladder disease, and some cancers (e.g. colon or rectal cancer). In addition, the meaning of this relationship increases with increasing the degree of obesity.
According to statistical data, whoever exceeds the desirable weight by 40% is exposed twice to the risk of death due to coronary sclerosis; if a person exceeds the desired weight by 20 to 30%, the probability that he/she will die from diabetes is three times higher than in a person with a desired weight. Obesity appears to be directly associated with high blood pressure, which in itself is a risk factor for coronary sclerosis and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, you can reduce it very easily – by reducing your body weight. It seems that diabetes may sometimes be an immediate consequence of obesity and disappear as when the patient loses some weight. Finally, very obese people who are to be operated are a potentially difficult problem for surgeons and anesthetists; a childbirth can also be very difficult in obese women.
What to do?
Most people can solve the problem of obesity, eliminate excess fat and achieve a healthy line; simply scroll down to sel-help section. If you belong to the small number of obese people who cannot lose weight with a reasonable diet and moderate, regular physical activity, consult your doctor.
Self-help: if you are fat, your body does not use all the energy you enter. Reasons are diverse, both psychological and physical. However, whatever it is, it only applies to you, so do not indulge in vain comparisons; your “pernicious” neighbor can be slim while you are having problems with obesity in spite of moderate amounts of food. To lose weight, you will have to use more energy than you enter into the body. In other words, you have to achieve a deficit (lack of energy). There are two ways you can achieve this – first, change your diet; second, do some physical activities. Each such weight loss prescription is almost too obvious to make it worth repeating. But, most importantly, you need to be realistic. First of all, intense diet for weight loss, or a few days spent on so called “recreational farms” will not help you, for a justified biological reason. If you drastically lose the weight by starvation, this will be mainly because you have spent the body’s glycogen-like substance and water. The body keeps the glycogen for that very reason, i.e. to overcome the period with a lack of food. With starvation, you consumed the reserves of glycogen and water, and have lost some weight – but that is why very little unwanted fat is lost. When you are done with this forced diet and start eating normally, the food you are taking is simply filling up the lost reserves of glycogen and water and, once again, you will start gaining weight.
Therefore, do not indulge in fast weight loss for a few days, but adopt a nutrition program with physical activity that will provide you with a daily energy deficit of about 500 kcal (2095 kJ). With this, you will lose 0.5 kg of fatty tissue per week, which may seem like a humble result to you – however, at that rate you will lose 25 kg in a year.
When planning your diet, remember that this weight loss is likely to be achieved if you maintain an average of 1500 to 2000 kcal per day (6280 to 8374 kJ). Make sure your diet is balanced and choose the food you like because you will need to adopt the habits you can hold for an indefinite time. Avoid very caloric foods – for example, most of the fatty or sweet food – and consume water-based, low-fat, carbohydrate foods. So, for example, eat boiled potatoes and try to eat bread as little as possible.
The time to take meals is almost as important as the type and amount of food. If you want to lose weight, it will greatly help if you track everything you eat – with the utmost care that you eat at certain times. Many people are obese partly because they eat almost unconsciously, barely noticing what they put in their mouth. Dietitians and therapists have found that it is possible to help them greatly with a very simple trick – they need to throw out all “random snacks” and strictly keep a certain amount of time to eat. If you need/want to lose weight, eat only at meal times, always eat with cutlery (i.e. knife, fork and/or spoon), slowly and thoroughly chew the food and do not rush.
As for the second element of weight loss program – physical activity – here, too, your motto should be “slowly, but permanently”. One hour of moderate bicycle riding will “burn” about 350 kcal (1465 kJ) (almost the same as the planned daily goal, i.e. the required energy deficit). It was considered before that physical activity is meaningless if we want to lose it because it only increases appetite, but contemporary research has shown that this is not true. In fact, hard physical activity temporarily elevates the body temperature, and you won’t even think about food.
Finally, many obese people will find it much easier to stick to a moderate program of special nutrition with physical activity if they are not alone. In some countries, there are weight loss associations, founded for this purpose, because the goal – reducing body weight – gets formal meaning. Additionally, it is easier to withstand the weight loss with people who have the same problems.
If you can not lose weight despite all the efforts, you may belong to the few “unfortunates” who can not constitutionally reduce weight. Some people adjust themselves to reducing energy consumption, so their body really reduces energy needs; therefore, the more they starve, the less food they need. If you belong to that group, read the section below.
Professional help: today, there are medications that can help obese people, although many doctors do not prescribe it because taking some of these drugs has been accompanied by marked side effects. In addition, such drugs suppress the appetite, although most obese people do not have excessive appetite – in some people energy needs are small, while many simply eat, be they hungry or not. New drugs are being tested today, which do not suppress appetite but increase the energy needs of the body, but these resources are still largely in the experimental phase.
Much more complicated – and more dangerous – is a special surgical procedure on the digestive tract, i.e. bypassing the part of the small intestine. This reduces the intestinal surface through which food is absorbed, and reduces appetite. Such operations are performed only in special centers – albeit rarely given the possibility of a fatal outcome.
An additional procedure is the so-called aesthetic surgery – whereby fat deposits are literally cut. This process is sometimes combined with some of the other described procedures. Approximately 60% of people treated in this drastic way manage to lose weight, although the efficiency of such procedures, not to mention dangers, is very questionable.