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Rising Obesity Cases in Pandemic Situation and Solutions

Obesity has been a worrisome lifestyle condition for many decades now. World Health Organization simply defines obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that poses a health risk. In other words, putting on excess weight is unhealthy and unrequited for amounts to obesity.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure to quantify obesity in terms of weight-for-height which is commonly used to classify overweight and obese individuals. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

For adults, WHO defines overweight as a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30. For children below 5 years of age, the overweight child would be the one having weight-for-height greater than 2 standard deviations (SD) above the WHO Child Growth Standards median and above 3 SD would be obese per se.

The fundamental reason why the world is ridden with patients of obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been an increased intake of calorie-rich foods that are massively processed, high in both saturated and unsaturated fats and unhealthy sugars with a concomitant increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

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Thus, this balance energy that is accumulated in the body has to go somewhere. Since carbohydrates are the first utilized source of energy in the body from any kind of food, it is usually the fats that remain behind, and these, in turn, will start to gather up in the organs, including the blood vessels. Now, when this happens, over a period of time they form fatty plaques which in medical terms is called arteriosclerosis. This decreases the blood vessel lumen diameter, causing lesser and lesser space for blood to flow freely. Due to this narrowing, lifestyle diseases like hypertension, heart diseases erupt over some time.

Obesity per se has been around since times immemorial and even then it was either more so in the prosperous households who were foodies or due to some hereditary diseases. The problem is that it wasn’t a big number and people did not consider it a health condition back then. As the world and food technology advanced, people started getting health conscious considering the number of processed foods in the market and obesity blinked in the radar of medicine as a potential lifestyle disease with varied sequelae.

It goes without saying that this pandemic has contributed a lot to several lifestyle changes in the lives of people. On a blunt note, it has made the divide amongst the economic classes much wider than before. So the families who unfortunately bore the brunt of this are hardly able to suffice for their families. Therefore, they, of all the people, will be inevitably staying out of the obesity bracket. But those on the prosperous side who did not have monetary issues all the time during the pandemic and also were privileged enough to get a kind of a gigantic vacation at home are more likely to have consumed as per their regular intake or maybe slightly more. But because of the decrease in the need to travel to work, schools, colleges, etc and not having to expend their energies there, the balance energy that was not exactly required, definitely has the potential to contribute to obesity factor in them in the long run.

How to get rid of this condition you may ask. There is no set benchmark to look normal. All we can strive is to attain a thing called normalcy. Ups and downs are going to happen. There will always be differences based on race, country, staple foods, religious beliefs, etc. which contribute to each person’s size and lifestyle. The only thing every person on the planet can do is check their national stats based on studies conducted in their regions to understand the acceptable standards, understand their family genealogy for its influence on one’s body, and the nature of work that each person is entitled to carry out. This will arbitrarily give the near-normal weight, size, etc specific to them after which they can make a resolution to try and achieve that goal.

While trying to lose excess weight, people try a number of things. This may include strict diets, exercising, yoga, fasting, etc. Nevertheless, working hard and staying consistent are two different things. People who are fed up with the weight generally start on the weight loss journey with a goal, and when that goal is met, they think they do not need to do anything after that and leave the diet or exercise regimes aside. Result? They gain most of the lost weight back. The key is to remain disciplined even after meeting the goals, otherwise, there’s no point in going all the way at all! Also, another reason is the genetic makeup of a person. Some people do have a hereditary or hormonal condition/s which makes it even more difficult to lose weight. And thus, often they are unsuccessful because they do not realize what’s causing their condition in the first place. Hence, seeking professional medical advice before starting anything is essential.

Hereditary obesity is a thing because people tend to pass down certain conditions to their progeny and obesity is one of them. Be it due to their excessive feeding habit due to prosperity or some genetic conditions like hormonal diseases, we need to realize the warning signs of obesity from early childhood itself. If your child happens to have a weight above the 80th percentile as set by your country’s accepted statistics, you need to understand that in the long run, the child is more likely to be obese lifelong and suffer its sequelae like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc. Staying vigilant is the key!

The majority of the world is online now. Everyone has the necessary source like online platforms to learn a new skill or get in touch with online trainers. Everyone can start doing a fixed daily exercise regime at home to stay fit and active. It may be difficult at the start, but after a few days, it becomes a habit and one can start enjoying the whole process. No heavy equipment is required for just a few minutes of daily exercise regimes like Yoga, aerobics, Zumba, etc. The crux lies in choosing a regime that you would enjoy enough to want to voluntarily do every day.

To stay fit whilst you have noticed an out of range BMI, a person needs to focus the utmost on diet and lifestyle modifications. Exercising daily for 30 min, eating more portions of wholesome foods, raw fruits, and vegetables, undressed salads, quitting smoking and drinking, and consuming less oily, processed, and sugary foods will go a long way. A lot of people do also recommend health supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids to bring down the ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase the ‘good’ cholesterol. But I usually recommend people to go to that option after they have tried flax seeds which is an amazing and natural source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Also, because of the cost factor, health supplements may not be feasible for all.

While talking about cheat meals, once in a while indulgence is okay, but the key lies in balancing the carbs, proteins, and fats as per your daily requirements. Hydration with natural drinks and water is equally important. Following these as a person’s new normal just like wearing face masks and gloves for the pandemic, for an extended period will not only result in a lowering of BMI in the long run but also healthy weight loss and more self-confidence due to potential freedom from lifestyle diseases.

The final message that I intend to impart is that no matter what, stay home, keep abreast of the latest developments in the health sector whilst closely monitoring your health, and do not hesitate to contact your nearby physician if you suspect anything out of place. Because as they say, better be safe than sorry. Eat healthy foods but just as much as your body needs to go about with the daily activities safely, sleep at least 7-9 hours, conserve your energy by not thinking negative thoughts or unnecessarily stressing yourself out and try not to venture out of homes for leisure or unessential things. Exercising daily and consistently for at least 30 minutes will also do wonders. What form of exercise you choose is totally up to your individual inclination and preference but make sure that you stick to the regime to see visible results. And in this pandemic, it is absolutely essential to follow the rules set by your local authorities and keep yourselves healthy. Unless there are any officially quoted signs of receding cases or documented safety to venture out as was before, my request is simply that you stay home and stay safe!

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Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya

Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya, is an MD by profession and a thinker by passion. She is also an excellent motivator, a mother, and a philanthropic personality. Having delivered several motivational talks in different educational institutions and corporates, she continues her earnest efforts to raise awareness regarding burning issues around the globe. Her sole aim is to spread more and more goodness in the world in order to make it a much better and a safer place to live for all.
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