The Mayo Clinic describes obesity as a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. It is not just a cosmetic concern but a medical problem that comes with increased risks for other diseases and health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and certain cancers.
It adds that obesity may be due to inherited factors, together with environmental, personal diet and exercise choices.
Putting it bluntly, obesity is also about lifestyle choices.
The Philippines and around the world
At least one in three adults in the country is obese. This is a trend that has been increasing over time.
According to the National Nutritional Survey (NNS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) in 2016, the most number of obese young adults can be found in Luzon and this Is one of the highest in Asia-Pacific.
Perhaps because we are a rice-eating nation? Probably, but there are other countries that also consume rice and yet have lower rates of obesity.
On a global scale, obesity is already considered a pandemic where it has already tripled since 1975 and affects over 650 million adults worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared obesity as the largest global public health problem in adults, a more serious problem than malnutrition.
Though being overweight and obese have been part of many people for so many years, Dr. Rocio Medina, Vice President, Worldwide Nutrition Training of Herbalife, believes that there is a need to fight back because this has become a public health problem in the Philippines.
“The problem continues to increase through the years. Obesity as a disease brings a lot of health problems. It is not really just about body appearance, it’s not about how you look but how you feel.”
There are now a lot of challenges and obstacles, she said, because lots of things in our lifestyle have changed. “People used to exercise more but because of our need to work, we forget to establish a work-life balance. We really need to reverse this obesity pandemic by changing the way we eat.”
What can we do?
It is hard for one person to make a change. Everyone is needed—from the populace, institutions, health-care practitioners, businesses, even the media—to send the message and tools to help people change their lifestyle.
While the global pandemic brought about by Covid-19 forced a lot of changes upon us, Dr. Medina said it also brought some good changes. Highlighting the key findings of the Asia Pacific Diet Decision Survey 2020, she said that in the Philippines, one in two respondents changed their diet during the pandemic.
About 51 percent of respondents said they wanted to use the time at home to make positive change, 50 percent had time to research on healthier food, while 42 percent had time to cook more and learn new recipes as reasons for making dietary changes.
Also, eight in 10 consumers (82 percent) considered their health as their top motivator for eating healthier during the pandemic, followed by weight loss (51 percent) and cost efficiency (27 percent).
Eating healthier from now on
She suggests healthier eating options like learning to limit calories from added sugars and still enjoy the food and drinks we love. “Choosing a healthy eating pattern that is low in added sugars (sugars and syrups found in sodas, yogurts, candies, cereals and cookies or sugars added to coffee) have important health benefits.”
She cited the 2018-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10 percent each day. That is 200 calories, or about 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. The average American gets 270 calories of added sugars daily, or about 17 teaspoons of sugar so changes need to be made.
To help improve body composition, Dr. Medina cited three factors, such as increased intake of high biological value protein like isolated soy protein, egg white, beef protein, fish and poultry, whey; decreased consumption of simple carbohydrates like white bread, white sugar, white rice, among others. Finally, to increase physical activity as much as possible, like strength training by two to three times a week, and resistance aerobic training by three to four times a week.
She also pointed to the consumption of nutrition shakes, high-protein and low-carb snacks, and hydration without the added sugars. When coming up with a reduced-calorie meal plan, Dr. Medina said to remember that it should be individualized (“there’s no best plan”), should include 500 to 700 Kcal daily deficit, should reflect personal and cultural preferences, and should include a variety of meal plans such as low-carb, low fat, high protein, Mediterranean, and meat replacement should be considered.