This is the second part of the article A Big Fat Crisis – Let’s talk about Obesity. To shed light on the matter of Obesity, we spoke to renowned dietician Dr. Swathi Sreekanta, who joined us on World Obesity Day. Here’s the rest of the insightful Q&A with the expert to show us a way out of this prevalent crisis.
Obesity is increasingly seen in children. What effects will obesity have on a child’s life and how can we prevent it?
Childhood obesity needs to be urgently addressed because of a simple but important fact – the number of fat cells develop when you are a baby or a child, and after a point, it is not the number of cells that changes significantly but their size. That means that the number of fat cells is predetermined in your body during childhood.
At a later age, you can only reduce the size but you can’t reduce the number. So when parents or grandparents think children should be chubby to be healthy, they need to reconsider that point of view.
If you’re heavy as a child, it’s quite likely that you will be heavy even in your adulthood. It is far more difficult to lose that weight, as I said, because of the number of cells that are already in place. An overweight child can be sluggish and not as productive. It affects their mental health and they are often not very motivated either. There is also a certain stigma to being overweight as children. You don’t want your child to be faced with those kinds of issues which will harm their morale or self-confidence. Children today are our torchbearers tomorrow – we want them to be healthy. We must help reduce the burden of healthcare in the future and help them reach their potential.
When should one get professional help from a medical expert regarding obesity?
The moment you see you’re gaining weight, that is when you should see a specialist. Today there is so much free information available at the click of a button, that we see it being misused and also misunderstood. I would also want to make a mention of fad diets, or diets of the season, or quick weight loss schemes – those are not somethings our young population should be looking at.
We should be considering lifestyle modifications instead so that you can retain these habits for life and you don’t go back and forth with your weight. Fad diets are often misread. There are many cases where they are followed for some time and then abruptly stopped. As many of these diets are severely restrictive, you find yourself fighting your cravings and might even lose your will to go forward. At that point, you’re already beginning to abuse your own body – starvation diets or other unverified diets can meddle with your metabolism.
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Losing weight, making lifestyle changes with exercise, and diet is recommended for those who are obese. What are the treatments, apart from these, available for one who is diagnosed with obesity?
Because of the expansion of the Indian middle class, dietary and lifestyle habits considered a luxury earlier have now become commonplace. In the past, having an elevator or a lift in the building was uncommon, so you were bound to take the stairs. In the pre-Uber age, you’d take public transport more often and walk to the nearest station. Now you see that in growing economies, affordability is causing subtle, but vital changes in our lifestyles.
When it comes to the choice of snacks, in the past you’d reach for a regular biscuit, but today you have a whole array of junk stuff you can have delivered at your doorstep at the click of a button – without even walking to a supermarket! It’s All about availability and abundance – it’s easier and we tend to use it, and it’s taken over all our lives. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have all these choices – use it, but use it with awareness.
Consider some useful lifestyle modifications – use the steps when you can, look at the food, and ask yourself “do I really need it? Can I avoid it? Am I having it out of boredom? Can there be a better alternative?” Have a fruit handy, sleep at the right time of the day. And like you rightly brought up, the problem of intoxication – alcohol has caused a lot of obesity in adults. Alcohol by itself is rich in calories and the sides that go along with the drink are rich in calories and are often unhealthy too. While you might think that you’re just having a drink with a few fried snacks on the side, it might be equal to having a whole meal if you sit down and calculate the individual calorie content. Awareness is necessary on every single platform – whether you’re doing something, eating, or drinking something, it’s all about using your resources judiciously.
Every season, there seems to be a new trend regarding fitness and diet. What are some common myths about new diets and health like sugar-free, and low-fat food?
As a rule of thumb, anything that you would eat directly out of a packet is unhealthy, despite the claim of being sugar-free or low in fat or fat-free. Packaged foods last a minimum of 6 or 3 months or even a year, and they have to be processed to last that long. The fats used in processed food are hydrogenated fats, something that every practicing dietician will advise against. Those are trans fats; they are chemically processed and cause harm to your heart. They lead to clogging of the arteries, and you don’t need them at all. The fats that should be included in your diet are the essential fats, those you find in nuts and dairy.
When you look at low-calorie foods or sugar-free foods, you will find that for them to become palatable, an alternate item is often added – for example, for items to be fat-free, for the texture and for them to last the way it should, there is an amount of sugar added into it. So when you look at the content of calories, you’re probably getting the same amount. Always read labels – when they say trans fats, or hydrogenated fats, or HFCS – all these things which are not in their natural state but appear in a chemical state tend to have an addictive effect on your system. The mind thinks these are healthy foods, and you end up eating even more than usual. It’s alright to eat packaged foods – as long as you exert portion control.
Maintaining a strict sleep timing, a strict meal timing, including exercise every day, and keeping up a positive attitude – a combination of these factors is half the battle won. Good health starts with an intention – if you intend it, it is very much within your reach.
Are you dealing with weight concerns and are struggling to identify a diet that would work for you? Consult one of India’s top dieticians on our platform today.