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Obesity (Overweight)

Published on February 12, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on February 24, 2024 at 8:01

Overweight and obesity are major public health issues. There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of overweight and obesity across the globe and the problem affects adults and children alike. Overweight has become such a prevalent problem that it is being referred to by some as an "epidemic", since being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for countless diseases. Statistics Canada reports that two out of every three adults in Canada are overweight or obese.

What are obesity and overweight?

Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat in the body. The Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a weight-to-height ratio that is commonly used to assess a person's risk of developing a health problem associated with being overweight. A "normal" BMI is considered to be somewhere between 18.5 and 25. You are considered overweight if your BMI is between 25 and 30 and obese if above 30. The BMI is not suitable for children. It is wiser to refer to growth curves which can be obtained from your paediatrician's office or in the child's health record.

BMI Formula : Weight (kg) / Height2 (m2)

Another important factor to consider when overweight or obese is the distribution of fat throughout the body. To do this, we use the waist circumference measurement. This enables us to divide body types into two categories:

  • Android or apple-shaped Those with android body types tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen, stomach and chest area. Men with a waist circumference measurement greater than 102 cm and women with a waist circumference measurement greater than 88 cm typically have an android body type. Android obesity is more frequent in men and dramatically increases their risk for disease.
  • Gynoid or pear-shaped The gynoid body type is characterized by an accumulation of fat around the hips, thighs and buttocks. It is more common in women and often leads to mechanical problems (ex. joints).

Why do we gain weight?

Weight gain is mainly caused by taking in more calories than are used up in physical activity and daily life. Other factors such as heredity, taking certain medications, hormonal factors, stopping smoking, stress, aging and pregnancy are all examples of factors that can also trigger weight gain. Although they can all stimulate or increase appetite, they, alone, are not solely responsible for weight gain. However, snacking between meals, eating too quickly and not exercising can have a direct impact on weight gain.

What are the consequences to being overweight and obese?

Being overweight and obese leads to physical, psychological and social problems. Firstly, being overweight causes or increases one's risk of suffering from various health problems such as:

  • osteoarthritis (knees, hips)
  • sleep apnoea
  • reduced life expectancy
  • diabetes
  • breathing problems
  • increased risk of certain cancers, namely: women: colon, ovarian, breast, uterine; men: colon, prostate, rectal.
  • hypertension
  • cardiovascular disease

Secondly, persons who are overweight or obese often have low self-esteem, are disgusted and ashamed of their body and image and have very little self-confidence. Some even sink into a depression as a result of the negative feelings they have towards themselves. And finally, from a social perspective, "fat people" are often discriminated against and must face constant prejudice, which often leads to isolation.

What can I do about being overweight?

The first step is to take control and try to reduce food intake while increasing physical activity. Moderate exercise - about thirty minutes a day - can make a difference. Reducing portion size and alcohol consumption (high in calories) can also be effective. If you have a weight problem, speak to your physician. Your physician will be able to provide you with solutions and will put you on the right path and support you along the way. Your pharmacist can also be an invaluable ally who can dispense sound advice and answer your questions.

If your weight has become a health issue and if physical activity and a balanced diet are not enough, appetite suppressors can be taken. These medications are prescribed by your physician and require monitoring but can be very effective in the fight against obesity. Other alternatives are also available for those suffering from extreme obesity.

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