Obesity and weight loss are like the faces of the same coin. Obesity is a serious epidemic; at the same time losing weight in a healthy way is a serious confusion that people are going through in the USA. It is a huge problem and struggle I myself am going through; one of the reasons I picked this research topic. Other reason for picking this topic is the Physiology and Anatomy class I took. This class gave me a lot of information on the problems of obesity and weight loss; it acted as a catalyst to do more research on this topic.
This research paper attempts to analyze the particular problems that arise from obesity and weight loss; particularly how they affect a person both physically and mentally. Obesity is a fast growing health issue and is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. Though there are hundreds of diet books, diet drugs, reduced-calorie and reduced-fat foods available in the market, the obesity epidemic is growing faster then ever and even with professional help from weight-loss experts the growth of obesity problem doesn’t seem to cease. Today more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese in the United States.
Many of the diseases or health issues a person suffers can be hidden from the world and treatment can be sought without anybody knowing. Obesity is a disease, which cannot be hidden from the world, as obese people are bigger than average human being. “Obesity results from an imbalance between food intake and energy expenditure, culminating in excessive accumulation of fat in adipose tissue, liver, muscle, pancreatic islets, and other organs involved in metabolism” (Ahima 1). The picture below depicts how changes in weight occur. The weight changes in the body work with a process of energy input and energy out put.
The energy input being the food we eat and energy out put being the calories we burn. The changes in the balance of these two properties results either in weight gain or weight loss. When there is an increase in energy input and decrease in energy output; the result is weight gain and when the energy input decrease and energy output increase weight loss occurs. The other factors that affect this process are drugs and surgery, which disturbs the regular metabolism of the body. Though it is simple concept; it is challenging for people to figure out a way to obtain the required result for their body. Picture taken from Dr.
Brown lecture PPT The major cause of obesity is the lifestyle that people lead in today’s fast world. The environment and the genetic factors also play an important role in increasing the number of obese people. During an earlier days people had to hunt or manually work to grow crops for food; they used to spend a lot of energy hunting and doing agriculture. The ever-fast growing technology and the fast pace of life are making people more and more sedentary. The environmental factor adds to the already existing sedentary lifestyle, for example now a days stress levels have increased, which leads to overeating.
There is a drastic decrease in the physical activity of people, working on desk for long hours, watching TV, playing video games or driving have become a typical daily routine. As much as there is increase in the sedentary life style; the availability of food is increased. Technology has increased the production of food and globalization has increased the number of food choices. A very high increase in number of restaurants and fast-food joints has made even more easy and convenient for over eating. The decrease in physical activity and increase in sedentary life style is leading to a constant weight gain.
The picture below represents the changes in the lifestyle that has occurred in the name of convenience leading to a decrease in physical activity. The ‘calories burned’ represents the calories burned or energy expended during a physical activity. Picture taken from Dr. Brown lecture PPT There are other medical reasons that cause obesity. People who are genetically predisposed to obesity gene or a person who has heredity of obesity have greater chances of being obese. Though some people have heredity for weight gain; they can still control weight gain by daily exercise and proper eating habits.
Though genetic predisposition is also a factor, so far no study can completely attribute obesity to genes. Because no one becomes obese if they are starved, the environment — primarily, free access to calories — is probably a permissive factor that sets the stage for the genetically predisposed to become obese (Friedman 341). Diseases related to hypothyroid, stress and binge eating. Hypothyroid is a problem where the metabolism of the body is affected. The metabolism is slowed down, which makes the body function on low calories and all the extra calories is converted into fat.
Stress or hypertension can cause obesity by making a person overeat without even knowing the amount of food they ate. The effects of obesity are not just weight gain or accumulation of fat in the body; it leads to lot of health risks. “Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, fatty liver, gallstones, sleep apnea, arthritis, and cancer and may shorten the lifespan of a person” (Ahima 531). Treatment for these health problems costs a lot of money, which hurts a person financially too. The consequences of obesity are not just limited to health risks but it also affects other parts of personal life.
It affects the personality of a person causing lack of confidence and insecurities about self-image that can ruin a person’s life in many ways. As the health consciousness is rising in the society, a lean and fit person is identified as a healthy person both physically and mentally. “Obese people are discriminated against and tend to hold jobs that are not as high paying as their non-obese counterparts” (Rashad 23). Women are more affected by the discriminations at home or at job, as they are expected to maintain good looks. It also affects a person in finding partners in life, and it also plays a major role in increasing number of divorces.
Obesity is kind of disease that can destroy a person both physically and mentally. Obesity can be diagnosed in a lot of different ways. A person is considered obese if there is at-least 20-30% more fat accumulation than what is considered normal for the person’s height. It is diagnosed on the amount of body fat or adiposity than an overall weight of a person on a regular scale. Body fat composition analysis is done on two compartment model; its like fat mass of the body like Gender specific fat, essential fat and storage fat is measured in one section and fat free mass like muscles, tendons and ligaments are measured in second section.
Gender specific fat is fat that depends on the gender male or female. Essential fat is fat that is needed by the body to function normally, physiologically and to have a balanced functioning. Storage fat is fat that is stored in the body for energy source; this is fat that if not monitored can make us gain weight. The fat mass requirement for females is 25% and 15% for males, in which 12% is essential fat for females and 3% for males. When fat mass percentage goes down less than 25% for females and 15% for males, it is considered to be under weight and when it oes above that percentage it is considered to be overweight or obese. The fat mass requirement for females is higher because of the ability of conceiving and supporting a new life in the body. Body composition also depends on the fat free mass of the body. A greater percentage of the body is made of the fat free mass 75% for females and 85% for males. The weight on the scale doesn’t show all these variations leading to a lot of confusion. Obesity is measured solely on the percentage of stored fat mass in the body.
The other way people tend to measure body fat is BMI, it also has the same problem it doesn’t tell the percent of fat mass in the body. For example, two people with the same body weight and height, one can be obese and other may not be. Picture taken from Dr. Brown lecture PPT The bathroom scale and the BMI calculations don’t give the exact information for measuring obesity. There are many other scientific ways that are indirect for knowing the fat mass in the body. Some of them are underwater weighing, Body pod, Skin fold analysis and bioelectric impedance analysis.
All these methods of testing give the closest percentage of fat mass. Depending solely on the scale to decide the adiposity of a person is not a good idea, it just gives general health information for a person. The obvious solution for obesity is losing weight, but it is a journey that is as confusing and painful as living with obesity. Weight loss products and strategies have become a huge money making market. “The $50 billion North American weight-loss industry comprises a morass of fantastical claims of products and programs promising quick, easy, long lasting results” (Freedoff et al 367).
People get so confused with all the claims of fast and long lasting results that it’s almost like running like a chicken with out head. Every day there are new diet and exercise plans such as low fat diets, low carbohydrate diets or Atkins diet introduced into the market. Adding to the confusion there are lot of weight loss products and medications that keep coming into the market. A lot of these products claim fast weight loss with building leans muscle mass without giving much information on side effects of these products. People, generally assume that the best way to lose weight is to diet, eat ess and reduce weight. This concept does make sense but sometimes people go too far, literally starving themselves. This leads to lack of proper nutrition causing many health issues. A lot of crash diets and starving not only lead to lack of proper nutrition but also life threatening health problems. The strategy for losing weight has to be done by concentrating on the fat mass in the body rather than on the weight bathroom scale shows. People are so misguided by the bathroom scale and BMI calculations that they take extreme wrong measures to loose weight.
A lot of the diets helps to loose weight, though there is a percentage of fat loss; a lot of the weight lost will be lean body mass or muscle. Lean body mass or muscle is considered to be more metabolically active tissue in the body. When a person looses muscle tissue it affects the metabolism of the body by reducing it. Reduced metabolism leads to other health issues, many times making the person gain back all the weight lost during dieting. One other method of losing weight is going on low carbohydrate diets, not knowing that carbohydrate is essential for brain function.
It is food for the brain and also gives an instant energy to the body. Carbohydrate is essential to burn fat. At-least 60% of the daily diet must be carbohydrate, making 25-30% for protein and 10-15% for fat. The body generally uses up most of the carbohydrate that is eaten quickly; a very small percentage of carbohydrate is stored in the body in form of glycogen and the rest of extra carbohydrate is stored in form of fat leading to weight gain. Glycogen is the emergency food source for the brain.
There is misconception that all carbohydrates are bad and makes a person gain weight. There are two different kinds of carbohydrates with low glycemic index and high glycemic index or it can also be referred to as simple carbohydrate and complex carbohydrate. The information of low carbohydrate diet generally means to eat carbohydrate foods with low glycemic index or foods that have complex carbohydrates, which is always misunderstood leading to major health issues. Glycemic index is measure of how simple or complex the sugar is in the carbohydrate food.
Higher glycemic index foods have simple sugars that can be easily absorbed by the body, which increases insulin level leading to nutrient storage in the body in the form of fat. Instead of avoiding simple carbohydrates or simple sugar or high glycemic index foods, people avoid eating carbohydrate completely. The picture below depicts the information of the glycemic index. Picture taken from Dr. Brown lecture PPT The next most common method of losing weight is using of drugs to either lose weight or to gain muscles.
With a high number of non-prescription diet pills freely available in the market, people are using them in increasing numbers. Most of the times people don’t even know what is in the pills. Most of the pills are energy stimulants or hunger suppressants or dietary supplements. A lot of these drugs are not even tested and regulated by FDA and people are used as guinea pigs for experimenting. According to DSHEA (dietary supplement and health education act) Act of 1994, congress amended the FD&C Act to include several provisions that apply only to dietary supplements.
As a result of these provisions, dietary ingredients used in dietary supplements are no longer subject to the pre-market safety evaluations required for other new food ingredients or for new uses of old ingredients. They must, however, meet the requirements of other safety provisions. The bottom line on DSHEA act is Health freedom is for sellers but not buyers, contents of products and safety is dubious, Claims and marketing often misleading or fraudulent. It’s like pay-to-be-a-Guinea Pig, the reality (Dr. Thomas 19).
A lot of the times these dietary supplements can cause more harm than help, for example the energy enhancer dietary supplements can damage the heart. To gain muscles people go on a very high protein diet, thought protein is needed to gain muscle; the body uses a very small percentage and the rest is taken out of the body as waste. It takes a lot of work for the organs to process protein and dispose it off, which can damage liver. There are other methods that are used to help dangerously obese patients to loose weight. These methods are medically supervised. Some are done by medically approved diet pills and also by surgery.
Though it is not hundred percent safe; it is medically supervised. The healthiest way to loose weight and to maintain it for a long time is to follow the process of balanced diet and exercise. Eating a balanced diet according to the calorie requirement, eating smaller meals instead of big meals and cutting down on portion sizes can cut down a lot of unwanted calorie intake. Avoiding foods with high fat content is the major requirement to loose stored fat in the body. Exercising is another key to weight lose. Exercise not only helps to loose weight but also improves overall health of a person.
Just 30 minute brisk walk daily can improve health to a great extent. The chart below basically gives the advantages of exercise and explains how even a small change in physical activity makes huge change in health and weight of a person. Though it is a long-term process; it is a slow and safe way of losing weight and also helps to maintain healthy weight for a longer time. Taking professional help with diet and exercise from a dietitian and physical trainer will also help lose weight in a healthy way. It does cost money to get professional help but at least dangerous and unhealthy ways of loosing weight can be avoided.
Obesity is a huge health problem but losing weight is also a problem by itself. Obesity leads to lot of health problems by nature but trying to lose weight using wrong methods, people put themselves into more dangerous health risks. Though a lot of research is being done to find a solution for obesity still there is no easy way or short cut out of it. I think instead of people trying to lose weight blindly depending on the bathroom scale or diets or dietary supplements, just to attain an attractive figure; they should focus more on attaining health.