Being obese means that a person has excess fat that not only increases their weight but presents health risks. Obesity is characterised by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the UK is now classified as very overweight or obese. Obesity Awareness Week takes place between 11th – 17th January. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the health issues caused by obesity.
Health risks of obesity
In the long term obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and osteoarthritis. Obesity can also lead to day-to-day problems, such as breathlessness, difficulty doing physical activity and joint or back pain.
In addition to the physical problems obesity can also affect a person’s quality of life, their relationships with family and friends, depression, anxiety and self-esteem.
Causes of Obesity:
- Excess calorie intake
- Lack of physical activity
- Certain diseases and medications – such as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), Cushing’s syndrome and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to weight gain.
- Genetics and family inheritance – there are some genetic conditions that lead to weight gain but often it is inherited behaviours that are the problem.
- Age - obesity can occur at any age but the hormonal changes that occur with age can lead to decreased muscle mass and slower metabolism.
- Lack of sleep and stress -, the hormonal changes associated with lack of sleep can cause an increase in appetite and cravings for higher-calorie foods. Stress can lead to comfort eating.
Strategies for Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight and keep it off there are several strategies that have been proven to work. These include:
- Making healthy food choices
- Setting daily food intake goals
- Recording what is eaten each day
- Weighing and measuring foods
- Using positive self talk
- Thinking about past successes
These behaviours tend to become easier over time as they became more habitual (1). Let’s look at the first of the behaviours on the list in a bit more detail:
Making Healthy Food Choices
Avoiding excess calories is key to losing weight. Where those calories come from can also make a difference. It’s generally agreed that avoiding sugar, refined foods and processed fats is helpful for many aspects of health. Including protein with each meal can be key to controlling weight.
Protein and Weight Loss
Clinical trials of 6-12 months duration show that a high-protein diet leads to weight-loss and can prevent weight regain after weight loss. High protein diets have not been reported to have adverse effects on bone density or renal function in healthy adults (1).
Protein and Appetite
High protein diets increase appetite-reducing hormones while decreasing appetite-enhancing hormones such as ghrelin, resulting in increased satiety and reduced food intake (2,3,4).
Research comparing the effects of fat, protein and carbohydrates on both lean and obese men found that a high protein meal suppressed hunger for longer in both lean and obese men (5).
Tom Oliver’s protein powders and high protein bars can be helpful additions to your healthy diet. Both the vegan and whey protein versions of the powders can be mixed into smoothies to create a meal in themselves, or used between meals or after exercise. The high protein bars are all vegan and come in 6 delicious flavours.
Lifestyle Factors to Aid Weight Loss
Regular exercise – exercise burns calories, builds muscle and improves mood. It is important for every aspect of health. If you haven’t exercised for a while start with a short walk each day and increase this gradually. Also, reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down. Instead do as much as you can standing up or moving around.
Mindfulness - take time out to check-in with your mind before you eat or while eating. Focus on why you are eating and how it is making you feel.
Seek support - talking about what you are going through helps, whether this is with a friend, family member or trained professional like a counsellor or dietitian. Guidance on goal setting, meal planning and portion control can also help.
Health Benefits of Weight Loss
For those who are obese losing weight is likely to have many health benefits as well as improved quality of life. Employing some of the strategies above may be a good way to gain health and feel better.
Before making major changes to your diet or lifestyle, talk to your GP.