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Why people become overweight – PART II

Updated: May 10, 2022




Last week in Part I of this article, we started discussing factors that can lead to a person being overweight or can also contribute to the predilection to be so. We spoke about the Calorific Equation which is the simple equation of: Food In minus Energy Expended = Calories remaining for Fat storage


We also spoke about Genetic Factors that we know can contribute considerably to a person’s makeup and how he or she stores and burns up calories.


In this second article we are going to examine a number of other factors that can affect you and your body structure and makeup.


OBESITY CAUSED BY ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

The prevalence of obesity among adults and children has been on the rise for the last few decades and genes alone do not explain such a meteoric rise. The rise in body mass index seems to cut across all demographic groups and this lends itself to the argument that environmental factors may be contributing to the levels of overweight and obesity.


Environmental factors can start influencing you even before you are born with what is called “fetal programming”. For example if the mother smoked during pregnancy or had diabetes, the child is more likely to become overweight. Research shows that somehow such conditions can change the baby’s metabolism for its future life.


Once the child is born, babies who are given breast milk for longer than 3 months are less likely to grow into obese adolescents than babies who are breast-fed for less than 3 months.

Habits that start during childhood are likely to stick. For example if you develop a sweet tooth as a child, are used to drink sugary soft drinks, or eat a large amount of processed food, the chances are that you will continue to eat such foods and drinks as an adult and this is likely to lead to your being overweight or obese. Similarly a kid who watches a lot of TV and plays a lot of video games is likely to struggle in a future life to get out of the sedentary lifestyle.


OBESITY CAUSED BY THE FOOD FACTOR

Research shows that on average, people are consuming more calories per day. This trend is a result of a combination of factors. Food is more readily available and can be obtained on the go much more easily. Another contributor is that many of these readily available foods or snacks are very high in calories and there is also a move to larger portions. And people often tend to eat whatever is in front of them, even if they're already full. That means that if you have a larger portion, the tendency is to finish this off. The more high-calorie foods (such as salty snacks, soft drinks, pizza), are much more easily available AND affordable than healthier and lower-calorie foods such as salads and fruit.


Fat in our food isn't necessarily the problem. Many foods that declare they are “low in fat” are very high in calories as a large amount of sugar is used to improve their taste and make them more palatable.


THE EXERCISE FACTOR

The daily recommendation is for half an hour to an hour of exercise per day. But how many of us actually manage anything close to that goal? Our day-to-day schedules do not offer us many opportunities to be physically active. At school, kids tend to be more and more focussed on academics, reducing the emphasis on physical activity. And out of school, such images of kids playing freely in the streets have become a rarity because of a number of factors.

Many of us adults drive to work and then spend most of our day sitting at a desk. Out long working hours means that we find it difficult to find time to get some form of exercise. We also have mod-cons for most other activities: we drive to the shops instead of walking; we have a host of appliances to help us in the home that take most of the physical effort out of our daily chores and all these factors combine to contribute to the incidence of obesity.


THE TV FACTOR

The average person in the Western world watches a whopping four hours of television per day. This habit has been linked to overweight or obesity in a number of studies: people with issues with weight tend to spend more time watching TV and playing video games than people of normal weight.

Watching TV for more than 2 hours a day has also been directly linked to an increase in the level of overweight children, even for kids as young as three years old.


The problem with watching TV seems to be twofold. If you are watching TV you are not exercising – watching TV burns only slightly more calories than sleeping. However, there is another, possibly more harmful repercussion of extensive TV watching: the average TV programme will have about 11 food and beverage adverts in one hour and this stimulates people to eat, and generally eat food that are high in calories. In fact, during a study that limited the amount of television a group of kids were allowed to watch, the kids lost weight, and this was not because they were more active, but because they consumed less snacks than when watching TV.


STRESS AND RELATED FACTORS

Obesity experts are now confident that a number of different aspects of “modern” living may all contribute to weight gain. One of the main factors that links all these aspects is stress. We work long hours; take shorter or less holidays; many times both parents work and that means it is harder to plan and prepare healthy meals; many of us end up eating irregularly and on the run and may also get inadequate sleep – and all these factors contribute to weight gain.


These irregular patterns for eating and sleeping tend to disrupt our hormones that control our hunger and appetite and this could also be another contributor to obesity.


Stress and lack of sleep are closely interlinked to your psychological well-being and these can also affect what you eat. Many of us have experienced a binging session on biscuits, chocolate or ice cream when we are feeling down or stressed out. In turn, feeling overweight and fat can affect your emotional health as you feel bad about yourself. If you have tried to lose weight over and over again and failed, or regained it after a short while, this can lead to anxiety or even depression, creating a cycle of increased obesity and an emotional downward spiral.


Do you feel like you need help to reduce weight? Reach out today to your doctor and he or she will help you to get to the bottom of what is causing these weight issues and guide you on the best steps to a healthier you.


Quality of life is determined by your health. Regular medical and blood screening is key for such diagnosis and we recommend annual screening tests for effective diagnosis to ensure that you can maintain your quality of life.

If you would like information contact us today on +356 21221355, 9985 2404 or send an email on info@clinipath.com.mt for more information.

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