Obesity Is Becoming More Prevalent Every Decade
Obesity is becoming more and more prevalent, not just in the United States, but worldwide. Every decade the percentage of our population who is obese increases. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1989 to 1997, the prevalence of overweight individuals in China almost tripled in men and doubled in women. Just by looking around on a daily basis, you can see that just as many, if not more, people are overweight than at a healthy weight. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30kg / m2. In the United States, 65% of Americans are overweight (BMI equivalent to 25 – 29.9 kg / m2) and of these, 31% are obese according to a study by Dr. Len Kravitz. Over half the population of the United States is overweight! Which means that over half of the population is at an increased risk for numerous diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome, just to name a FEW. With all the fast food and alcohol advertising and marketing gurus putting “healthy” spins on their products, I would not expect this trend to change any time soon unless something drastic is done. Instead of being fed Happy Meals and fried chicken, we need to be educating our young people about the dangerous effects of being overweight, and also, how to eat healthy (not diet when you feel like losing a few pounds). It should not stop at our young people either. As a Personal Trainer, I meet at least one person every day who is unsure about nutrition and exercise. With so many “Nutrition Experts” out there, all saying different things about what is healthy and what is not? It can definitely be a challenge. Between Dr. Oz, just about every celebrity, and a plethora of different nutritionists and dietitians, it can be tough to really figure out the best plan of action. It is important to try to educate yourself by reading as much has you can about effective exercise and healthy eating (not dieting). In the coming parts of this article, I'd like to talk a little more about what causes obesity and makes it such a tough thing to overcome, some effective exercises for combating obesity, and some general guidelines for eating your way out of obesity.
An In-Depth Take on Obesity
On the most basic level, obesity occurs when your energy input is greater than energy output on a regular basis. If you're constantly taking in more than you're putting out, ever, you're going to become overweight. That sounds like something simple, but there is more to the obesity problem than that. For some, it can seem like they eat so little, yet never shed any pounds. This is often the result of your body going into starvation mode. It was recently discovered that fat cells do play a part in hormones and sending signals to our brains about hunger and cravings. Two of the primary hormones involved with fat tissue are Leptin and Adiponectin.
1. Leptin – Leptin communicates to the brain how much energy is currently being stored in fat cells. When energy stores are low, leptin supply is slow, which signals to the brain that we need to eat more! Studies show that eating foods high in sugar and fat cause leptin levels to decrease, resulting in our brain thinking we need to eat more food. This can lead to over-eating and obesity.
2. Adiponectin – Adiponectin helps insulin in sending blood glucose into the body's cells for storage or use as fuel.
The presence or absence of these hormones can contribute to weight gain and obesity. With a knowledge of what foods contribute to each of these hormones, you can use your body and your diet to help combat overeating. Another major hormone related to eating is Grehlin. Grehlin is secreted by the stomach and Promotes food intake with high levels. High levels of Grehlin are typically found during fasted states. After an overweight individual loses weight, Grehlin levels increase, which can lead to overeating and is often why it is difficult to keep the weight off. Being aware of this fact can help someone who has lost weight realize that their body is adapting to the changes in body composition, and in order to maintain the weight loss, you must maintain a lower level of caloric intake. Fat tissue also produces Cytokines, which are inflammatory proteins. Inflammatory proteins can lead to stroke and heart problems as stated by the National Institute of Health. This explains why those who are overweight are at an increased risk for these health concerns. It has been found that a loss of just 5-10% in weight can lead to unhealthy levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose metabolism. It is so cruel to start your weight loss journey knowing that you will see positive effects during the beginning stages of your weight loss. With that said, that does not mean you should stop putting in the effort after you do lose that first 5-10%. Considering how easy it can be to regain lost weight, this is why you should not think of this as “dieting,” rather making a healthy lifestyle change.
Road Map to Weight Loss
1. Change your diet – For those who are obese and very overweight, changing your diet is probably the most important step at the beginning. While exercise is very important throughout your journey, you'll see results much faster if you move to a healthier diet. For more tips on nutrition, check the USDA Nutrition Guidelines or check out some articles by Dr. Jade Teta about his favorite fat loss foods.
2. Create an exercise habit – Exercise will be crucial in losing weight and, especially, maintaining that weight loss. Exercise will help you create the calorie deficiency you need to help you shed pounds. Also, by increasing your muscle mass, you increase the amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis, which will further help you burn calories and help keep the weight off. When you're first starting out, you do not need to kill yourself with “badass” workouts and the hottest fitness trends. Find some form of exercise you enjoy (at least a little bit) and use that to help you create a habit. Leisure walking is a great way to burn fat. It reduces stress, burns a good percentage of fat calories and is low impact. Shoot for 200-300 minutes per week of exercise, whether that is walking, biking, swimming, etc. Once you've gotten yourself into an exercise habit, you can start looking at more in depth workout programs and higher intensity exercises. If you're at that stage now, and you need some exercise suggestions, subscribe to my fitness pipeline below, and I'll give you some suggestions.
3. Seek outside help – Losing weight can be a challenging task, but it can definitely be done! Consider seeking help from a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, or Dietician. These people are professionals who can guide you through your weight loss journey in a safe, effective manner. If you do not have the resources available to recruit one of these professionals, reach out to friends, family or collections. Work with someone else you know who is overweight, or find people who have gone through a similar weight loss challenge. Let people motivate you and you can help motivate others!
This is a small piece of the puzzle in exceeding obesity, but, the direction the world is going, we need to start making changes for the better. The population needs to be educated on the dangerous effects of being overweight and how to overcome obesity and its harmful side effects.