Lifestyle, the best ally in preventing obesity
WHY ARE OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY NOT THE SAME THING?
Overweight can be the antechamber to obesity in the young, but after the age of 50 it becomes a physiological consequence of the change in hormonal balance that sees cortisol levels increase and growth hormone levels decrease, leading to accumulation of adipose tissue at the trunk and reduction of muscle mass.
In contrast to obesity (defined by a body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2), being overweight (defined by a body mass index between 25 and 29 kg/m2), if it remains so in a person without a genetic propensity towards chronic diseases , can be protected towards mortality.
Very different is obesity, which increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, lung diseases and certain cancers.
WHAT ARE THE DISEASES THAT AFFECT OBESE PEOPLE?
These are some of the negative developments caused by obesity:
- hypertension, which affects 2/3 of obese people;
- type 2 diabetes, 45% of which is attributable to obesity;
- metabolic syndrome (association with hyperglycaemia, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, insulin resistance);
- ovarian polycystosis;
- hypogonadotropic hypogonadism;
- sleep apnea;
- chronic obstructive bronchopathy;
- hepatic steatosis;
- cholecystic calculosis;
- certain cancers, particularly of the gastrointestinal tract and endometrium;
- urinary incontinence.
WHAT IS THE TYPICAL PROFILE OF THE PERSON SUFFERING FROM OBESITY?
Common characteristics of obese people are:
- low self-esteem
- anxiety or depression that make it difficult to stick to a diet;
- sedentariness, to which, with the passage of time, is also added a difficulty with movement;
- poor sleep quality, also due to organic problems such as sleep apnea.
These aspects are linked together in a vicious circle that eventually leads to the development of chronic diseases that further increase the difficulty of adhering to an active and healthy lifestyle.
WHAT ARE THE FALSE MYTHS?
It is generally believed that a person becomes obese because he or she is unable to control excessive eating.
This belief, although partly true, is limiting because socially determined factors such as:
- the obesogenic environment (ie the availability of more foods rich in saturated fats and sugars and, in parallel, a lifestyle that leads to sedentariness)
- environmental pollutants (phthalates, biosphenols, parabens, pesticides) that act on adipocytes, with direct and indirect mechanisms: for instance by modulating the intestinal microbiome and appetite.
Unfortunately, toxic damage has a transgenerational effect, mediated by epigenetic processes, ie changes in the expression of our genes, which modify an individual’s phenotype without altering its genotype and which may be transmissible.
Many studies have confirmed that both environment and diet quality can influence the expression of our genes for at least three generations.
OBESITY, STRATEGIES TO INTERRUPT AN UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE
- Start by getting to know yourself better, even with the help of a wearable device;
- set small, easy-to-achieve weekly goals without being in a hurry to achieve complete change. Achieving these micro-changes will increase self-esteem, allowing you to gradually increase the goal;
- don’t be in a hurry, because it is more important to entrench a micro-change than to correct all the bad habits in a few days: even if you succeed, it is very likely that this strategy will fail and you will find yourself back in the starting situation after one or two months;
- reduce sedentariness: at least half an hour of brisk walking and/or stairs during the day is recommended;
- choose the type of physical activity that suits you best and practice it consistently: alternate, for example, 3 days of walking 10,000 steps with 3 days of muscle strengthening with Pilates and/or weights of at least 40 minutes;
- practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai-chi, breathing or body scan;
- pay attention to sleep quality and consult sleep medicine specialists if the hours of sleep are less than 6 and awakenings frequent;
- record the food consumed for 3 days and take it to a nutritionist for advice on how to improve the quality of the diet;
The continuous support of a team of health professionals experienced in the treatment of obesity is essential.
WHEN DO YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED THE FIRST RESULTS?
- Results on cardiovascular risk factors can be seen after a short time because, for example, blood pressure and metabolic parameters improve as early as 7 days after adopting an active lifestyle and a diet low in simple sugars, salt and fat, and rich in vegetables and pulses
- reducing excessive fat accumulation takes longer. Weight must be lost gradually to counteract adaptive thermogenesis, ie the mechanism the body uses to return to its starting weight following a drastic diet. Adaptive thermogenesis is a complex reaction that leads to a reduction in energy expenditure and an increase in hunger that mitigate the effects of dietary restriction.
As the weight loss must be slow, the benefits on mechanical clinical consequences (arthrosis, sleep apnea, etc.) will be seen after about three months, when the weight has fallen by 5%.
WHAT BEARING DOES MENTAL WELLBEING HAVE ON OBESITY?
A lot. Proof of this is that it is precisely at times of greater mental well-being that people decide to change their bad habits, while a depressive state is associated with sedentariness.
It is necessary to inform people that exercising in the open air is one of the best anti-depressants.
Constant physical activity is widely recognized as an excellent way to improve mood and prevent mental illness, as well as to enhance physical fitness.
A study conducted in 15 European states showed that exercising increases happiness and resilience to emotional turmoil.
These benefits are mediated by the synthesis and secretion of several factors including serotonin, which directly support brain homeostasis.
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