Worried about being obese? Understand the myths and facts

Dr Sharad Sharma, Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, shares his insights in obesity and busts the myths related to it

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

Obesity, according to NHPI, is a condition where a person has accumulated abnormal or excessive body fat that causes adverse effects on health. Obesity is usually considered a result of an incorrect ratio of calories consumed and spent.

Once believed to be a problem of high-income countries, now overweight and obese population riddles low and mid-income countries too.

According to the National Family Health Survey – 4 (NFHS-4), every third woman (34%), living in Mumbai, was found to be overweight or obese; as against the same survey in 2005-06, where the number was pegged at 27% in the age group of 15-49 years.

Men, in this survey, fared far worse, with 18% of men were pegged to be overweight or obese in 2005-06, the figure in 2016 doubled, and stood at 35% in the same age group.

These are alarming, and the numbers are increasing year on year. Obesity is a challenge for the evolved humans, and there are many myths associated with obesity which must be busted.

It will help people seek medical intervention at an appropriate time, to beat unwarranted weight gain and better their health status.

Myth: Regularly eating (versus skipping) breakfast is protective against Obesity

Fact: Clinical trials that studied the outcomes of eating versus skipping breakfast, showed no effect on weight in both the groups. So, it does not matter if you have breakfast or not; what matters is the change of habits. While going from skipping breakfast to eating breakfast, are you putting on weight? If yes, it would indicate that your total calorie intake increased without much change in your physical activity, therefore leading to weight gain.

Myth: Eating more fruits and vegetables will result in weight loss or less weight gain

Fact: It is true that the consumption of fruits and vegetables has health benefits. However, when not accompanied by an increase in physical activity, weight gain may occur, or there may be no change in weight at all. Physical activity also plays a crucial role, when aiming for weightless, only diet restriction is not the best step forward.

Myth: Since obesity is influenced by genetics, it cannot be prevented

Fact: This is not true. Any weight gain needs environmental support; unless there is excessive calorie intake, weight gain cannot happen. Even genetically predisposed obesity can be controlled and prevented with proper dietary modifications, appropriate physical activity, and regular consultations with the doctor.

Myth: It is good to lose slowly than rapidly

Fact: While in a weight loss program like diet and exercise regimen, it is not clear why some obese people lose weight faster than others; a recommendation to lose weight slowly might give poor results in the ultimate success of weight loss efforts.

It is okay to lose weight rapidly if you are following the appropriate diet and exercise regimen, with the help of a licensed supervisor. There are no fixed parameters that help you choose over a fast or gradual weight loss.

Myth: If by exercising I do not lose weight, I have no health benefits

Fact: This is not true. Exercising reduces the chances of weight gain, even in the absence of weight loss. So consider exercise as a crucial part of your weight loss journey.

Myth: Bariatric Surgery is done for extremely obese people and has high risk associated with it

Fact: Untrue, Bariatric surgery is proven to be the most effective weight loss method for morbidly obese patients. It is also meant for the ‘not-so-obese’ people with type 2 diabetes, those with high cholesterol, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD), Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, and others; it may also help cure all of the above. Bariatric surgery is very safe and is the most effective long-term weight loss method when diet and exercise fails.

Here’s a real-life case study that will help differentiate the myths from the facts;

Carlos D’Souza, a Marketing Manager in Oman, migrated from Mumbai five years ago and led a good life. The problems began three years ago, when settled job, relaxed social life, and miniscule familial responsibilities became too good to be true.

He started putting on weight, from his original weight of 80Kgs, he went to 165Kgs in three years. He developed Diabetes and Asthma, and could hardly walk a few 100 meters before he got breathless.

His job required him to be on the field for about 8 hours a day, and that started becoming increasingly difficult. The story is not one of its kind; many of us may have seen ourselves, our friends and acquaintances experience similar weight gain issues.

The solution, of course, lies in prevention, but if that would have been easy, around 10-15% of Indians would not be overweight! The hallmark of living a healthy life is to eat a balanced meal and to maintain physical activities.

As for D’Souza, well the best option for him was to undergo a bariatric surgery followed by a doctor prescribed diet, and activity plan. It changed everything for him, in a year, he lost 85 kgs, his blood sugar normalised, and he did not need asthma medications anymore. The best part, he could marry his childhood sweetheart.