A Growing Problem: Obesity

It’s not just a matter of appearance! Obesity also increases a person’s risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Obesity, a worldwide problem, is also on the rise in Singapore. According to the National Health Survey conducted in 2010, 11 per cent of adults in Singapore aged between 18 and 69 were obese, an increase from 7 percent in 2004.

Am I obese?

Obesity is a condition where a person has accumulated so much body fat that it could potentially have a negative impact on their health. The body mass index (BMI) is commonly used to estimate healthy body weight.

Why do people become obese?

Obesity occurs when your energy intake exceeds what you use. Excess energy is stored as fat, leading to obesity. Obesity can be caused by various factors.

1. Consuming too many calories

Do you make an effort to choose healthy foods and eat a balanced diet? Or do you eat irregular meals and often eat mindlessly. One reason that often leads to overeating is when you eat in order to relieve stress. When you experience stress, your body assumes the body is in danger and releases cortisol, a stress hormone, to prepare the body for a ‘fight’ or to flee. It also makes the body crave for fats and carbohydrate-rich foods which would have been needed in times of real danger. When you are dealing with a difficult emotion, you may also turn to food for comfort and escape. In short, chronic stress can lead to a person reaching for food even when the body is already satiated.

2. Leading a sedentary lifestyle

The less you move around, the fewer calories you burn. Many people have jobs which involve sitting for long periods of time. On top of that, most of us often indulge in sedentary activities for relaxation outside of work, such as watching TV, surfing the Internet or playing computer games. If you are not active enough, all the extra energy that you consume will be stored by the body as fat. In the long run, this will lead to obesity.

3. Genetics

Genetics may also play a part in causing obesity. Research has shown that people with obesity have their ‘normal’ body fat levels set at a wrong level, causing them to be hungry when they are at a body weight where they should feel satiated. This will cause them to overeat.

4. Poor diet habits

Obesity is a condition that gradually develops over time and poor diet choices can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Processed foods and fast food may provide a convenient meal option but they are high in fat and sugar while being poor in nutrients. If you often reach out for sugary drinks such as sodas and bottled fruit juice to quench your thirst, you will also be loading up on excess sugar. People who are heavy alcohol drinkers also have a higher chance of becoming overweight as alcohol contains a lot of calories!

When you are obese, you are at a higher risk of suffering from:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • ‘Obesity-related’ cancers such as colorectal, oesophageal and pancreatic cancer
  • Fatty liver diseases
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Psychosocial problems such as depression, low self esteem and poor body image

 

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