Prevention

prevention
Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. The development of obesity depends on an individual’s genetic predisposition to become overweight and the environment that predisposition is exposed to. We cannot change our genes, but we can change the environment those genes are exposed to Even if we come from a family or genetic background where obesity is common, we can still prevent ourselves from becoming overweight if we take sensible steps to live a normal lifestyle.

 

A good example that the lifestyle we live is more powerful than our genes are the Pacific Islanders. Although remote, the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands have had contact with Western Society for over 200 years, Prior to World War Two, obesity was very rare amongst the Islanders and diabetes virtually unknown. The war brought military bases and greater Westernisation. The adoption of an increasingly sedentary modern lifestyle coupled with a Western diet of fast food and bigger portions has resulted in the Islanders now having one of the largest rates of obesity and diabetes in the World.. They are genetically at higher risk of becoming obese than, say, a white European. Nevertheless, their genes haven’t changed over many generations. Despite this, very few became overweight until their diet changed and they became less active. This teaches us an important lesson. No matter what our predisposition, we can prevent ourselves becoming overweight if we eat sensibly and keep physically active.

 

What is my Ideal Weight?

We all have our own idea about the weight at which we look and feel our best. From a health point of view, there are internationally agreed measurements we can make to determine if we are at a health weight. The two best known are body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference

BMI

Body Mass Index is a measure of our weight while at the same time taking account of our height (hence the old joke: ‘I’m not overweight , doctor. I’m just short for my weight ‘). Use our BMI calculator to work out your BMI. You are aiming for the health range of 18.5 – 24.9.

Waist Circumference

Most doctors now agree that waist circumference is a better guide to a healthy weight than BMI. This is because very athletic people have misleadingly high BMIs because their muscles are bulky and heavy. (For example, Linford Christie’s BMI when he won the Olympic 100m was greater than 30, which would have technically put him as obese!) In addition, we now know that visceral fat (that is fat which is lining our internal organs such as our kidneys, intestines and heart) is much more dangerous for us than the fat which is just under our skin (subcutaneous fat). Waist circumference is a very good indicator of visceral fat and so better predicts the health of our body weight. Having a large waist circumference increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

It is recommended that waist circumference be measured at belly button level. For women a waist circumference of less than 35 inches (88 cm) and for a man less than 40 inches (102 cm) is recommended.

IMPORTANT POINT

Waist circumference must be MEASURED. Do NOT take clothes size or trouser waist measurement as an approximation. You’ll be surprised at how misleading this can be and sadly how much this often under-estimates our true waist measurement

Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

The key to preventing obesity is eating healthily and being active.

Eating Healthily

Eating healthily is not the same thing as constant dieting. Eating is enjoyable and part of a normal, happy life. Healthy eating is about doing things in moderation and choosing foods which are healthier for us when possible.

 

Keeping thins simple is important. A few general principles are:
Eat regularly. Regular moderate-sized meals during the day are better than one large meal at night.

 

  • Breakfast may not be essential, but it is certainly a good idea.
  • Avoid refined sugar as much as possible
  • Don’t add salt to food

 

Treats, celebrations and holidays are part of life’s pleasures. Don’t feel the need to deny yourself these, but if you do over-indulge, compensate for this before or afterwards.

 

As far as food is concerned, ‘All things in moderation’

Physical activity

It is advised that we each do at least 30 minutes moderate physical activity per day. Moderate physical activity is anything which makes our heart beat more quickly, makes us breath more rapidly and makes us begin to sweat. It does not mean that we have to jog for 30 minutes. Neither does it mean that we have to do this activity in one session. Three 10 minute spells during the day is as good as one 30 min session, but remember, this is general advice and must be tailored to the individual, using common sense. For example, the physical activity entailed in a round of golf may be adequate exercise for an average 60 year old, but not for a 30 year old, whose level of activity should be greater.

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