Obesity means having too much body fat. It is not the same as being overweight, which means weighing too much. A person may be overweight from extra muscle, bone, or water, as well as from having too much fat. Both terms mean that a person’s weight is higher than what is thought to be healthy for his or her height. Taking in more calories than you burn can lead to obesity because the body stores unused calories as fat. Obesity can be caused by:
- Eating more food than your body can use
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting enough exercise
Biological differences mean that some people cannot keep weight off how ever much they try. Some people who eat the same foods become obese while others do not. The body has systems to regulate weight, but they don’t always work correcly. Habit plays an important role too, and contemporary lifestyles make it hard to stay active while convenience foods make it all too easy to overeat.
Sometimes, medical problems such as an underactive thyroid gland cause weight gain as can certain medical treatments such as contraceptive pills and ani-depressants. Lifestyle changes and transitions can often cause weight gain. For example, stopping smoking typically causes a weight gain of 2 to 4 kilos while menopause is associated with 5 to 8 kilos of extra weight.
CHANGING YOUR LIFESTYLE
An active lifestyle and regular exercise, along with healthy eating, is the best way to lose weight. Even modest weight loss can improve health. When dieting, the main goal should be to learn new, healthy ways of eating and make them a part of a daily routine.
Many people find it hard to change their eating habits because they have had them so long that they do not even know they are unhealthy, or else they do them without thinking. Motivation is absolutely essential. Behavior change has to be part of life over the long term.
HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
Extreme diets (fewer than 1,100 calories per day) are gererally not safe and do not work very well. These types of diets often do not contain enough vitamins and minerals to maintain health. Most people who lose weight this way return to overeating and become obese again.
An intelligent approach to dieting balances healthy food choices and moderate portion size with good habits such as avoiding snacks and leading a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise. If you are depressed or stressed a lot, talk to your health care provider.
MEDICATIONS AND HERBAL REMEDIES
You may see ads for supplements and herbal remedies that claim they will help you lose weight. Many of these claims are not true, and some of these supplements can have serious side effects. There are however several prescription weight loss drugs available with proven results.