Every day we hear about the latest weight loss and diet fad and plans in the media and on the web like the Atkins diet to the raw food diet to the Shangri-La diet as well as weight loss management solutions like Weight Watchers.
Weight loss is big business as obesity is a worldwide problem. EASO (the European Association for the Study of Obesity) reported (as far back as 2008 that being overweight and obesity were the fifth leading risk for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published an obesity update for 2017 which reinforced the obesity problem throughout the world. Their “Did you know?” section states:
- More than one in two adults and nearly one in six children are overweight or obese in OECD countries.
- Adult obesity rates are highest in the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Hungary, while they are lowest in Japan and Korea.
They go onto say “Today, more than one in two adults and nearly one in six children are overweight or obese in the OECD area. The obesity epidemic has spread further in the past five years, although at a slower pace than before.”
It’s easy to understand why weight loss is a major growth industry (no pun intended). So what’s the answer? To first understand possible solutions we must understand the problem. Many experts have stated that exercise alone is not enough if your goal is to lose weight (although it plays a role in getting into good shape). In order to lose weight it’s important to look at the bigger picture.
What Causes Obesity and Being Overweight?
In simple terms being overweight or obese stems from the consumption of more calories than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat. Many of the foods we eat today are processed convenience foods like ready meals and savoury snacks that are relatively high in fat and salt. This has been made worse by the fact that there has also been a decrease in the amount of physical activity we undertake each day due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many jobs and the use of transport (rather than walking) to get us to and from work and out and about town. We now spend more time sitting down, at desks, on sofas or in cars.
In some circumstances there are underlying health conditions that can contribute to weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), although this doesn’t usually cause weight problems if controlled with medication. There is also research to show that genetics plays a role in obesity. However it’s believed that genes and behaviour may both be needed for a person to be overweight.
Obesity and being overweight can lead to a number of health issues. Including:
- cardiovascular disease mainly heart disease and stroke
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- type 2 diabetes
- some types of cancer, such as bowel cancer, breast cancer and womb cancer
- musculoskeletal disorders, especially osteoarthritis and back pain
- sleep apnoea
- liver disease and kidney disease
- pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia due to high blood pressure during pregnancy
Low self-esteem and depression can also be a consequence of obesity.
When obesity occurs in children it can lead to a higher chance of obesity, disability and premature death in adulthood. In addition children who are obese can also suffer from increased risk of fractures, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance hypertension, breathing difficulties and psychological effects.
The NHS UK states that obesity can reduce life expectancy by an average of 3 to 10 years and it’s estimated that obesity and being overweight contributes to at least 1 in every 13 deaths in Europe.
There is no quick fix for losing weight. Once weight is gained it’s a matter of:
- reducing and limiting the consumption of fatty and sugary foods and drinks
- increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables, along with legumes, whole grains and nuts
- taking regular exercise.
Increasing your fruit intake, while reducing your fat intake, can play a major role in reducing your weight.
Fruit and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – three of the most important factors for successful weight loss.
Fruits and vegetables contain everything from vitamin A (spinach, tomatoes, kiwi), vitamin C (oranges, lemons, potatoes), vitamin E (apples, bananas, blackberries) to iron (grapes, carrots, avocado, peas), folic acid (oranges, strawberry, broccoli, asparagus) and zinc (corn, chick peas).
Fruits and vegetables e.g. green leafy vegetables provide your body fibre which helps promote a healthy digestive system. As an added benefit, fibre slows digestion and makes you feel fuller, which means you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied. This directly impacts your caloric intake and ability to lose weight.
Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries all have around 3 to 4g of fibre. Raspberries have even more pound for pound. Fruits like blueberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help lower your blood pressure, fight off oxidative stress, and in some cases work at the DNA level to aid in weight loss.
Alternative to Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
It’s not always easy to take more fruit and vegetables. Most adults and children find it hard to keep up with the recommended daily intake of between 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and depending on age, gender, physical activity, and overall health.
If you find that’s the case then there is alternative which I can highly recommend. Sign up for my ebook to find out more.
Losing what may seem like a small amount of weight e.g. 3% or more of your original body weight, can significantly reduce your risk of developing obesity-related complications. It’s therefore important to look at your weight loss journey as the road to better health one step at a time.