Look beyond shapes in obesity

Fitness is always equated with being in shape. Most people are conscious of “being in shape” to look good or attractive. But the importance of being in shape is much beyond simple aesthetics and beauty. A healthy toned body is surely an asset and it makes you a confident personality, but there are many more reasons for which one must stay fit. Obesity is a silent killer and it affects the entire metabolic pathway of your body.

As per the WHO projections, at least 1 in 3 of the world’s adult population is overweight and almost 1 in 10 is obese. Additionally, there are over 40 million children under the age of five who are overweight. Obesity is known to have a serious impact on health and could result in other illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Strokes, Joint or Bone Disorders including Osteoarthritis and even Cancer (Endometrial, Breast, Colon, etc.)

It is not solely the weight which determines obesity. There are many predictors which can indicate whether someone is obese or not.

The most commonly used indicator is the Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI applies to both adult men and women and is the calculation of body weight in relation to height as per this formula:

BMI = Weight (in kilograms)/Height (in m) squared

OR

BMI = kg/m2
(where ‘kg’ is a person’s weight in kilograms and ‘m’ is the height in meters squared)

As per WHO, BMI of a healthy adult is considered to be between 18.5 and 25; while people with BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight and those with BMI above 30 are considered obese.

The BMI also has flaws due to its dependence on gender, build, age or ethnicity of a person so it cannot be generalized. Athletes may have a high BMI due to muscle mass rather than fat. And it is the excess body fat that has serious consequences for health.

In India, there is a predisposition towards central obesity. Which means that we may have leaner limbs but with a bulky abdomen. In the bulky abdomen resides the fat – which may be subcutaneous (beneath the skin) or visceral (around our internal organs). The visceral fat has been held culprit in impairing the body’s responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. High body fat is associated with raised levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

The central obesity impacts the hormonal milieu of the body and has also been known to be predisposing cause for endometrial cancers. We can know about central obesity by calculating the waist-to-hip ratio. To calculate this, measure your waist at the navel (with abdomen relaxed) and then measure your hips at their widest point and calculate with the following formula:

Waist-to-Hip Ratio = Waist (in inches)/Hips (in inches)

The chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke increases in men if their waist-to-hip ratio rises above 0.95; and for women, the risk begins when the ratio rises above 0.85.

Another means of determining abdominal obesity is noting waist circumference at the level of the navel. The measurement of 37 inches or less in men and 31.5 or less on women is considered low risk. Whereas waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women are considered high risk.

Being overweight and obesity are largely preventable. The mantra to a fit lean body is to achieve an energy balance between calories consumed and calories utilized. To reach this goal, you can limit energy intake only from fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats; increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains, and nuts; and limit the intake of sugar. Limiting sugar consumption is also important to identify the food items which are rich in carbohydrates. For instance, the traditional Indian thali is a perfect balance of all ingredients.

One should avoid processed foods rich in fat and carbs, resort to some exercise or activity to increase calorie utilization and boost their levels of physical activity (at least 30 minutes of regular, moderately intense activity on most days). An average of 180 minutes of exercise or walk in a week is necessary. If you have a sedentary lifestyle with more of a desk job at work, make a routine to stroll for 5 to 10 minutes after every 2 hours.

Don’t just fight to be fit, fight the fat to be fit.

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