Wellness & Fitness

Diet quality key to fighting obesity


Earlier this month, we commemorated the World Health Day and there was a lot of grim statistics on the status of wellbeing.

According to the statistics, the leading cause of health-related deaths is diet, beating all the ranges of cancer and cardiovascular disorders.

This rings true because diet affects every aspect of life. Right after an infant is born, it is breastfed and from that moment onward, it is hooked on food. Food or rather filling your belly becomes king. This is the way of life and has been since time immemorial.

The need for food to sustain life is unending and undeniable but the means to achieving this feat is ever changing.

And just like with the observable contrasts in the agrarian revolution and the industrial age and now the technological era, our diets have changed with the times.

African cuisine now has broccoli and raw salads in it. We have access to and have adopted Asian, Swahili, Ethiopian, and Western style foods and dietary practices. The flood gates are open and after a point, there will be no going back.

In recent years, diabetes and hypertension – commonly known as high blood pressure – have lost their scare and shock factor and have become accepted into our lives as conditions we live with and manage. The age factor for these once upon a time “old people” diseases has gone down dramatically and the one thing synonymous with these health implications is our diet. It is the common factor.

As anyone with diabetes or hypertension would attest to, diet and exercise is a package prescription regardless of who you talk to.

A lack of a proper diet (one with a variety of good sources of protein, carbs and the veggie/fruit combo) and exercise has led to this one being an obese generation.

Obesity which is a chronic disorder of excessive accumulation of fat is defined as a state of adiposity where the body fat is above the ideal.

So how does one know if they are obese?

For the diagnosis to be made, a physical examination checking height, weight, waist circumference and vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and listening to heart and lungs is done. An abdominal exam is also common. The BMI (body mass index) is calculated from the height and weight where a BMI of 30kg/ meter squared and above is an indicator of obesity. So is a waist circumference measurement of more than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women.

Obesity puts you at risk of developing a metabolic disorder which is composite of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In case of injuries, healing time for obese patient is increased.

The reproductive system is not left out either for both men and women. Obesity also increases your vulnerability to the development of different cancers. It also results in mood swings and hormonal imbalances. The gut and the digestive system is a big mess and seldom works as it ought too as a result of obesity.

Most people who are obese lack healthy gut bacteria, they also give birth and give rise to children without this precious gift that is key for their immunity; hence a new generation of people at risk of developing a myriad of health complications including obesity.

While loving your body as it is, being overweight or obese is nothing to be proud of. It robs you of a great quality of life and the little joys of life are lost to you. Constant fatigue plagues and playing with the kids becomes a chore, special time with your spouse is not as it should be for both parties.

We owe it to our children and to our children's children to curb obesity before it ravages us any further. The beauty of the solution is that it is doable, however long and pain striking the process, it is doable.

If you meet the criteria based on your BMI and or waist circumference, or if your doctor has mentioned it, or if you suspect that you fall into this category – because we always know, the acceptance is however another story – you could start by visiting a nutritionist or dietitian.

Prevention and management of obesity is achievable through diet and exercise.

A healthy, wholesome, and balanced diet tailored to your specific needs, and the kind of physical activity that tickles your fancy ranging from brisk walking, or forgoing the lift and taking the stairs, to swimming and dancing, or cycling.

In extreme cases, pharmacologic and or surgical interventions may be taken into consideration.