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Obesity Our lifestyles have changed drastically during the last few decades. We are consuming more and more junk food, chocolates, sweets and soft drinks. Fast food restaurants have taken over our lives. In addition, we are relying on technology such as cars, elevators and other methods that prevent us from moving. This increase in energy intake and reduction in activity levels has lead to major rises in the number of overweight and obese people.

Obesity is fast becoming a worldwide epidemic, not only among adults but among children as well. Overweight and obesity have been found to increase risk of chronic diseases including diabetes type 2, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. Moreover, they have been linked to higher risks of osteoporosis, pregnancy complications and depression. But what does it mean to be overweight or obese?

Overweight is caused by an imbalance in energy intake and energy expenditure, leading to an increase in body weight which includes fat, bone and muscle. Obesity on the other hand is defined as an excess of body fat. Not only is obesity a result of an energy imbalance, but other lifestyle, psychological and social factors have a major role to play as well.

Body Mass Index
Most of us have heard of BMI, or Body Mass Index. This is a mathematical indicator measuring body weight in relation to height. It applies for both, adult men and women. We should all aim to have a BMI of 18.5-24.9 because as BMI increases, so does risk of related health problems.

For example, if you weigh 60kg and your height is 165cm, then your BMI is

Weight (kg) = 60 = 22.0 (Normal)
Height (m2) (1.65)2

BMI Classification
18.5 or less Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0-34.9 Obese (I)
35.0-39.9 Obese (II)
40.0 or more Morbidly Obese

Body Fat and Waist Circumference
Measuring Body Fat is also necessary to determine whether a person is overweight or not. Body fat is usually measured as a percentage using special scales or a skinfold caliper. Fat that is deposited around the waist (apple-like shape) is more harmful than fat deposited around the hip, thighs and buttocks area (pear-like shape). As waist size increases, health risks accordingly go up. Use a measuring tape to find out how much your waist size measures. For women it should be no more than 35 inches and for men no more than 40 inches.

What are calories and how much do we need?
Calories are units of energy. They are found in all three food groups: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Once these 3 nutrients are digested in the body, they provide energy necessary for all functions in the body.

1 gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories
1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol provides 7 calories

The number of calories required per person differs depending on age, gender, body size and activity levels. Males tend to require more calories compared to females and as exercise levels increase, so do your caloric needs.

The Food Pyramid
The food pyramid is a guide to what and how much we should be eating daily. There is no one food which contains all the nutrients, instead a balance of various foods ensures we are receiving the appropriate amount of nutrients needed by our bodies.

The pyramid recommends a range of food servings:
* 6-11 Servings of the bread, rice, cereal, potato and pasta group.
A serving is equal to 1 slice of bread or ½ cup cereal or ½ cooked rice/pasta or 1 medium potato

* 4-5 Servings of vegetables.
A serving is equal to 1 cup raw vegetables or ½ cup cooked vegetables or ¾ cup vegetable juice.

* 2-4 Servings of fruit.
A serving is equal to one medium sized fruit, ½ cup fruit juice, ½ cup canned/frozen fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit.

* 2-3 Servings of milk and milk products (preferably low-fat or fat-free).
A serving is equal to one glass (8 ounce) of milk/yogurt or 2oz cheese.

* 2-3 Servings of meat and beans group.
A serving is equal to ½ cup cooked legumes or ¼ cup nuts/seeds, ½ cup tofu, 3oz. meat (ie. 1 small hamburger or 1 unbreaded fish fillet or ½ of whole chicken breast)

* Fats, oils and sweets group, use sparingly.
A serving is equal to 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon margarine.

Tips for Weight Loss and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

- Start by setting realistic and attainable goals. Wanting to lose 25 pounds at one go seems absurd and failing to do so will only make you feel worse. Aim for a loss of ½ to 1 pound a week.

- Think long term. Focus on a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. Make health and not appearance your priority.

- Exercise! Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is nearly impossible without exercising. Current recommendations are at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Exercise not only helps keep a healthy weight, but increases metabolism, builds muscle, relieves stress and strengthens the bones.

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Farah Hillou

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Amin Visram | Sep 25th, 2007
its useful information to keep it in my mind. thank you!

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