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Beat the bulge to stay healthy

Written by GEMS
Obesity has become a serious health problem in South Africa, leading to many preventable diseases and putting pressure on the health system.

About 66 per cent of South African women and 33 per cent of men are overweight, with about 10 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women classified as morbidly obese.

Obesity is a global problem as well. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 2.8 million adults around the globe die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Obesity is on the rise, having nearly doubled since 1980.

A number of health conditions or complications are associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, stroke, gall bladder disease, several types of cancers, depression and lower back pain.

What causes weight gain?

You may become overweight and then obese when you:

  • Eat more food than your body can use.
  • Don’t get much exercise.
  • Don’t have an active lifestyle.
  • Suffer from an under-active thyroid.

Certain medications, such as some antidepressants and antipsychotic medications, may also cause weight gain.

According to WHO, global increases in weight gain and obesity can be as a result of factors, including a shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, along with a decrease in physical activity.

Getting healthy

You don’t need to visit the gym every day or exercise excessively to get healthy. You also don’t have to ‘diet’ in the traditional sense of the word. Making sensible choices when it comes to food and small lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you slim down.

  • Have at least three meals a day. Choose healthy snacks such as fruits between meals if you are constantly hungry.
  • Eat breakfast. People who skip breakfast are more prone to obesity.
  • Reduce your fat intake, especially saturated fats. Saturated fats are animal fats and can be found in cookies, pastries, processed and fast foods.
  • Try to eat fish at least three times a week but not fried fish. Fish is rich in protein and naturally low in fat.
  • Try to prepare food by using healthy cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, grilling or baking. This will automatically reduce the fat while keeping the essential nutrients in the food.
  • Use extras such as cream, butter, mayonnaise, margarine, oil and dressings in moderation.
  • Increase your fibre intake by eating whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice and oats. Fibre makes you feel fuller for longer.
  • Remember your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Limit your alcohol intake and try to drink ‘light’ wine and beers, as these are lower in energy.

A combination of exercise and diet is the most effective long-term approach to losing weight. There is, however, no need to go to extremes when it comes to exercising. Simply try walking if you do not like jogging. Choose the stairs instead of the lift. You can even start by parking your car further away from the entrance of the shopping mall. Exercise is not just about losing weight – it is about looking after your health. It will also motivate you to keep a watchful eye on what you eat.

Visit your health care provider or a dietician so that you can come up with a way to lose weight that will be the best and healthiest for you.