Obesity is an endemic problem depending on several factors which range from body type, genetics, dietary habits, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), lifestyles, etc. The rest of the factors being more or less same for most individuals, and they are diet and lifestyle.
Look at it this way, our ancestral forefathers who maintained a nomadic hunting and gathering existence, had to deal with natural challenges which pushed their bodies into demanding tasks. This combined with lean days when there wasn’t enough available to eat always kept them fit and lean. Compare this with the amount of physical activity an average individual gets in today’s sedentary lifestyle and the availability of ready to eat foodstuff within reach. What you get is a combination of a under worked body combined with a high calorie intake diet.
Our body always tries to maintain an equilibrim. This equilibrium is broken if we eat too much too often and don’t do any physical work. As the bodies demands go down, the excess food we eat goes to become fat which is stored in our cells. Its the bodies natural mechanism to save for leaner days. Compounding the problem is the fact that fat burns very slowly giving off high energy since fat has very high energy density. If the body is stressed by way of physical demands like aerobic exercises or weight training, it uses more energy. As the energy demand goes up, it tries to get the most easily available source of energy. This energy comes in the form of simple sugars which we get eating our regular diet of pastries, doughnuts and fries. The stored fat remains untouched which leads to obesity or an imbalance in energy needs and body weight.
To overcome this imbalance two things are required: diet control and physical activity. Diet control does not mean going on binge dieting and sustaining yourself on liquid. A good diet control program involves monitoring the food we eat especially the type of food and its calorie content. All the food that we eat can broadly be categorised in these four food groups:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Milk products, meat, poultry, fish and nuts
- Fats, oils and sweets
Cereals which include whole grains like wheat, oats etc should be eaten the most. Cereals have a very low Glycemic Index (GI) which means that they release good quality energy very slowly. This helps us feel full and energetic for a longer duration. So the urge to snack between meals is cut down.
Fruits and vegetables pack a punch of dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins. They help the body in water retention and keeping a healthy colon. Three to five servings should be eaten from this food group daily.
Milk products, meat, poultry, fish and nuts contain a lot of protein, minerals and vitamins. Milk products contain a lot of calcium which keeps our teeth and bones strong. The protein is required to rebuild our muscles and skin. Minerals and vitamins our required to keep our body functioning properly. Stuff from this group should be eaten moderately.
Fats, oils, and sweets contain the highest energy content (High GI) and should be eaten sparingly.
To summarize, a good diet control program will choose food from these four groups so that the body gets good calories which are released slowly thereby making us feel full for longer. Also, including food from each group would ensure maintaining a balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and fiber. This concept is against the picture of dieting we usually have in our minds where one survives only on fruit juice.
Physical activity is just as important as diet is. Good choice of physical activities would be aerobic exercises combined with light strength training and toning exercises. Aerobic exercises help in keeping the cardio-vascular system healthy while strength training tones our muscles and improves posture. Good choice of exercises to burn extra calories would be long brisk walks for atleast 20 mins, a jog at moderate speed for 10 mins, cycling and swimming.
Maintain this balance of good diet and exercise and see yourself shape-up.