Jamaica Magazine

Obesity: Are You At Risk?

Are we at risk of becoming an obese island?

With the influx of fast-food companies that have added to the rise of an obese population in countries outside our own, Jamaica may now be at risk of becoming an obese nation itself.

Obesity And Its Causes
Obesity is more than just being a “likkle bit overweight.” Obesity is a chronic disease and is generally defined as weighing over 20% of your ideal body weight. It requires long-term treatment plan to promote a healthier eating habit and weight loss. The condition is linked to several diseases that are responsible for almost 50% of deaths each year. Obesity puts you at greater risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Some cancers (such as colon and breast cancer)
  • Psychological and emotional problems

Let’s make one point clear. Overeating and lack of exercise are not the only culprits of obesity. Although the causes of obesity are not fully understood by experts, there are several other factors that many agree may increase your risk of obesity.

The genes you inherit from your parents can affect your body weight. If one or both your parents are obese, there is a small chance that you may be obese as well. You can however change this fate by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Medication may also help in some cases.

Unhealthy eating can also be a culprit. Living on a fast-food diet does not help. Instead of the ‘at home foods’ that many of us were raised on, our palettes are now craving the super sized offerings of high-fat foods like burgers, fries, chips and ice cream.

Living an inactive lifestyle and having a slow metabolic rate may also increase your risk of being obese. If you have a slow metabolic rate, you are more than likely to store the energy (calories) you did not use as fat. Exercising and building muscles can help increase your metabolic rate. Muscles tend to burn more calories than fat, even while the body is at rest.

Coping With Obesity
Obesity can be treated with weight-loss medications, weight-management programs or surgery. Talk to a health care provider to discuss options that are best for you.

Below are some tips that can also help you manage your weight:

1. Evaluate how, what, and where you eat.

  • It’s always best to prepare your own meals. That way, you can control the ingredients and your portions.
  • Limit the fast food craze.
  • Eat lean meats, poultry and fish (try baking or broiling them).
  • Continue to eat regular (but not too much) amounts of lentils, peas and beans.
  • Try whole grain bread and cereal.
  • Significantly limit your sugar intake.
  • Avoid fats such as butter and margarine; alcohol; processed meat.
  • Although it may be hard, eat less fried foods, cheese and pastries.

2. Don’t forget to eat lots of vegetables and salads.

3. Exercise
You don’t have to join the gym to engage in physical activities. Take advantage of your environment. Go to the park, the beach or your own backyard. Swimming, jogging, walking, cycling and aerobics can all be done without joining the gym and are great for reducing weight and maintaining your ideal weight. Being physically active can burn calories, even while you are asleep.

4. Modify your behavior. Track what you eat, avoid binge eating, reward yourself and use a social support system (friends, family, etc.) that can help to encourage you.

About the author

Deidre Patterson, MPH