What is OBESITY?
Obesity is defined as having an excess amount of fat in your system. Being obese is not just a cosmetic problem; it’s a major health concern that exacerbates your risk of other serious diseases and health issues, ranging from high blood pressure, diabetes to cardiovascular diseases.
There are a plethora of reasons why some individuals have trouble losing weight more than others. Obesity is a complex disease that occurs due to inherited, physiological and environmental factors, diet as well as physical activity choices.
How does weight gain/weight loss work?
Weight gain or loss can be explained using the caloric balance concept; input versus output (calories in calories out). If you utilize more energy than you consume from food, it’s inevitable that you’ll lose weight.
For instance, if you burn 500 more calories than your daily caloric intake, you will approximately lose 2 kgs per month.
You don’t NEED to exercise or eat healthy to lose weight or be in a calorie deficit – but doing those can significantly aid your efforts.
How common is obesity?
Research shows that obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Last year, WHO (World Health Organization) reported that nearly 40% of adults were overweight and 13% were obese. In Singapore, 8.9% of Singaporeans aged 18-60 and 7% of Singaporeans aged 60-74 are obese.
What is the difference between being obese and overweight?
Although both conditions are characterised by excessive or abnormal fat accumulation, there is a slight difference in how they are calculated using body mass index (BMI).
According to WHO:
- Overweight: If your BMI is either greater or equal to 25
- Obesity: If your BMI is greater or equal to 30
If you’re overweight or obese, the most encouraging thing you can do for yourself is to lose weight – with these conditions, even the slightest weight loss can improve or prevent health concerns associated with obesity.
In this respect, increased physical activity, eating a healthy diet and certain behavioral changes can help you lose weight. Weight-loss treatments and prescription medications are other options for combating obesity.
Why is weight loss important?
Whether you are looking to lose 5 or 50 pounds, shedding that extra weight can be a daunting task.
But as already explained, you don’t have to lose a ton of weight to experience the associated health benefits. Studies show that losing as little as 5% of your total body weight is more than enough to enhance your overall health in numerous ways.
Benefits of weight loss:
- Regulate blood sugar and diabetes
Obesity is the major cause of diabetes in Singapore. Excess body fat results in an increase in adipose tissue, which enables your body to manage blood sugar inefficiently. Losing weight boosts insulin sensitivity in people with type two diabetes. Once again, you don’t have to lose a significant amount of weight to experience this particular benefit. Research has proven that just a 5% reduction in total body weight can enhance blood sugar levels in adults.
- It can improve heart health
Losing weight minimises pressure on your arteries, allowing your heart to easily pump blood through your body. The result is lower blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels; the bad type of cholesterol that can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Reduce your risk of stroke
Excess weight can increase your blood pressure, and therefore your risk of stroke. High blood pressure puts a huge strain on your blood vessels, making them fairly stiff and more likely to trigger blood clots.
- Improved sleep
People with weight-related issues are more likely to experience sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by disrupted breathing during sleep; excess weight can lead to an increase in fat deposits in your neck, which can potentially obstruct your airways.Note: If you suffer from sleep apnea, losing weight likely won’t help solve the issue entirely. However, losing just 10% of your body weight can help improve the quality of your sleep and minimize the severity of your sleep apnea symptoms.
- Improved self-esteem
Although there is no direct link between obesity and self-esteem, some studies have proven that weight loss may help boost your mood as well as self-confidence. A particular study conducted to establish the psychological benefits of weight loss revealed that there can be significant improvements in self-worth, body image, and overall well-being.
- Decreased joint pain
Excess weight can cause your joints to be damaged, stressed, and inflamed. A particular study conducted in 2018 revealed that losing between 10 and 20% of body weight can lead to less pain as well as improved joint function.
- Reduced risk of some types of cancers
According to the American Cancer Society, excess body weight is linked to nearly 11% of cancers in females and about 5% of male-related cancers. Being overweight increases your risk of developing several types of cancers, such as kidney, liver, breast as well as pancreatic cancers. While the exact link between excess body fat and cancer is still unknown, scientists postulate that inflammation due to visceral fat is largely to blame.
What are some weight loss treatment options in Singapore?
The primary goal of weight loss treatment is to help you attain and maintain a healthy weight. The aim is always to reduce your risk of developing complications associated with obesity.
Note: All weight loss programs will require you to make changes in your eating habits and lifestyle.
The treatment techniques recommended for you will be based on:
- The severity of your obesity
- Your overall health
- Your willingness to implement your weight loss plans
Depending on your goals, apart from adjusting your eating habits and lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe weight loss medication if necessary.
How do weight loss medications work?
Weight loss medications are intended to be used in conjunction with workouts, diet as well as behavioral changes. They should never be used as a complete substitute.
There are a few types of weight loss medications – here’s a summary of how they work:
- Those that work to inhibit fat absorption
These ensure that fat remains in your gut instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream. This type of medication is generally safe to use. However, there are a few possible side effects, such as lower energy levels, gas, increased bowel movement, oily stools, and diarrhea.
- Those that work to prevent carbohydrate absorption
Because carbohydrates consumed will stay in your gut, this leads to a reduction in energy levels. While this medication is fairly safe, you may experience bloating and flatulence.
- Those that work to suppress your appetite and boost your metabolism
This type can cause a myriad of side effects, ranging from insomnia, palpitations, and dry mouth to high blood pressure, nausea, and anxiety. Some users may also experience gastric discomfort. Also, with extended use, this medication could become less and less effective. It’s also worth mentioning that the medication may not be suitable for people with underlying health concerns.
- Those that inhibit hunger neurons
These increase your satiety levels, causing you to feel less hungry. They are usually used in conjunction with exercise as well as diet, and ideal for those suffering from high cholesterol, high blood pressure as well as type two diabetes.
What should I expect during my medical consultation?
Your doctor will ask you a couple of questions regarding your medical history, your workout regimen or routine as well as eating habits. They will likely recommend that you undergo medical examinations to check for the following:
- Blood cholesterol
- Blood sugar
- Thyroid test
These tests are very crucial because having excess weight can be a sign of a serious underlying health problem. Your doctor may also carry out a body assessment which will involve measuring your neck, waist, and arms. Any excess skin or fat hold that you may have will be measured and taken into account. Your heart rate and blood pressure readings will also be recorded.
- Obesity Management for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes | Diabetes Care | American Diabetes Association (diabetesjournals.org)
- Psychological benefits of weight loss following behavioural and/or dietary weight loss interventions. A systematic research review – ScienceDirect
- Intensive weight loss helps knee arthritis | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Does Body Weight Affect Cancer Risk?