In many developed countries and democracies, weight control through a proper dietary regimen is becoming the focus of preventive healthcare. The need for people to look good and healthy is becoming more pronounced as several weight control programs and establishments prop up.
The issue of body size and form transcends science alone. Indeed, there are several cultures where weight gain symbolizes fertility, prosperity and the like. In Africa as an example, a research conducted by Puoane T et al, found out that Beliefs regarding body image indicate that two thirds of the girls perceived fatness as a sign of happiness and wealth.
Socially, fatness was accepted but one third of the girls had contradictory views about its advantages. This study was conducted among black African girls in Cape Town, South Africa. This study though localized appears to be the norm through several other African cultures. Size of the body matters a lot in choosing a marriage partner as well as for arousal and sexual satisfaction in some cases.
The internet is awash these days with a lot of products ranging from creams to surgical procedures to bizarre interventions like prayers and hypnosis. All these act to conscript body size typically for those whose sizes have become predatory on their beauty or could suffer from a medical condition. The African definition for beauty none the less still encompasses a healthy size of buttocks, a firm set of breasts and hips together with some calf muscles in some instances.
Most men are attracted to these on a woman and it’s been reported to be a great arousal tool. While most women would rather want a man who’s well built but not excessively fat or obese, there appears to be a worrying trend where men these days allude riches and wealth to the size of their bellies and belts. This allusion holds not to be entirely true as many poor fellows have developed pot bellies stemming from malnutrition and probable renal failure or heart problems rather than eating of good food as it’s purported.
The meaning therefore for obesity or fatness in men and women is reliant on a host of factors. What remains to be true however is that, an increase in body size or mass leads to a greater predisposition to diseases. Most obese people have a greater potential to contract cardiovascular diseases like Hypertension, Stroke , Arthrosclerosis , Diabetes and Heart attacks than do those of regular body proportions. What this means in plain terms is that an (Oboshie-fat woman) sitting somewhere at Dansoman and eating (Domedo-pork) has a high chance of developing cardiovascular diseases compared to a Kayayoo drinking her (Koko-porridge) in the evening before going to bed.
Are we to blame?
- Obesity or extreme weight gain is found to have genetic underpinnings in certain families. This is demonstrated in having children born to a particular family been all overweight. This could be attributed to a hormonal disorder involving the production of leptin. Leptin helps the body know whether it’s ok or not nutritionally. It helps us to determine whether we’ll want to eat the cucumber or the cherry pie. When there’s a disorder , leptin production becomes stalled which leads to an inordinate desire for food causing the wanton gluttony experienced in some people.
- Society equates pot bellies in men to wealth. Beers and wines amongst a host of other delicacies are responsible for such a stomach. Young men of these days make a deliberate attempt to acquire such a stature. They want this false sense of self attainment without butting an eyelid at the likely future risks.
- Society has become so busy and involving that , the home, where rules and virtues are imbibed has virtually lost its essence. Gone were the days when fathers lectured their children on good morals, when young men refrained from alcoholism because of the homes they come from, when it was unheard of for women to gulp down caches of alcoholic beverages. Our homes are gradually turning into houses where the children only come home to roost without breeding good morals.
- Societal evolution has cut down on time available to eat well, drink well and sleep well. Parents wake up at dawn and depart for work depriving their kids of parenting man-hours. They drop of the kids at school and it takes them forever to get back home as they zigzag their way through the heavy traffic that characterizes the capital city. They get home tired and worn out so resort to buy some noodles or a fast-food. For those who have the luxury of affording a Papaye or some Pizza they finish it off as their bodies begin to demand for sleep. Eating late at night and sleeping after is a normal phenomenon in many homes today. This is one of the factors that accounts for obesity in most working class people today. As you sleep, your metabolic rate is reduced to the barest minimum which causes your body to store a lot of what you’ve eaten in adipocytes or fat cells. With time, these fat cells become saturated and may become deposited in your blood vessels which raises your blood pressure with its attendant problems.
What can we do ?
The problem of weight gain though found to have genetic dimensions is usually a lifestyle challenge. The following pieces of advice may prove beneficial to someone who has a problem with weight control.
- At the root of most human problems is one of knowledge and obesity isn’t exceptional. What we scientifically use to classify someone as being underweight , overweight or obese is an index called the Body Mass Index(BMI) , this could be calculated by dividing your weight(kg) by your height in ( m2 ). Knowing your BMI would enable you to know which category of obesity you fall , you may just be overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
- The second leg of knowledge is rooted in knowing the kinds of food that tends to add a lot of calories to your diet increasing your obese features. Most foods particularly ones which contain a lot of saturated fats and cholesterols such as eggs ,palm oil, bacon, toffees, cakes and a host of others increases your cholesterol level, you could probably opt for the cereals and grains, vegetable oils for cooking , fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits and beans. You can also consult a dietician to help you with structuring your diet .
- Setting realistic targets and committing to them. You need to commence the battle against obesity by beginning gradually. If you visit your favorite ice cream parlor twice a week, do well to reduce it to once, if you eat only late at night , do well to eat earlier. Simple activities like walking to school or church all contributes towards losing weight. You need to be committed to make your goals a reality.
- Engage in a physical activity that would help burn of some of the calories. An exercise of about 30 minutes to 2 hours a day could be beneficial to reducing your obesity. You needn’t engage in aerobic exercises necessarily because you feel like exercising .A brisk 30 minutes walk each day would do you a lot of good.
- Behavioral or lifestyle changes do a lot of good in tackling obesity. If you’re locked on to the screens of your computer or laptop , get outside and for some fresh air. An active lifestyle is found to reduce chances of becoming obese compared to a sedentary one. If your work is a white collar job, take sometime of to walk around . If you sell at a market, stretch your limbs by walking around too. You’re not bigger than a whale so get your weight in check..
In summing up, remember that a delicate balance ought to be maintained between weight gain and loss as these two could predispose you to a lot of emotional, social and financial constraints. Your health is your first asset, all others could be liabilities based on how wise you invest in it. TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE AND CHECK YOUR WEIGHT….
By: Emmanuel Adjei/Ghana
The writer is a champion of preventive healthcare, and has a passion for stemming the ills in society through constructive pieces and articles. He’s a Scientist and takes key interest in prevalent public health issues. This he does as his contribution to knowledge advancement and a cure to the ails of society.
He can be reached on [email protected]