Obesity is becoming a weighty problem – even in Singapore. Defined as an excess amount of body fat, combined with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, obesity is a chronic condition that can have serious effects on your health. Women with more than 30% body fat and men with more than 20% body fat are considered obese.
The National Health Survey conducted in 2010 (ST, Feb 5, 2011) showed that one in 10 Singaporeans are considered obese, with young adults the most obese. Young adults (aged between 30 and 39) have the highest incidence of obesity – with 12.2% of this group considered obese. Men have overtaken women in the obesity stakes – 12.1% of men are considered obese, compared to 9.5% of women.
While the incidence of obesity may be rising, it's a trend that is not impossible to reverse. There are many factors that can affect one's weight – and many of these are within our control. Here's what you can do to keep those pounds off:
1. Develop healthy eating habits
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast – this will help keep you feeling fuller for longer and give you the energy to start your day.
- Eat small and frequent meals to help keep your metabolic rate up.
- Eat slowly and mindfully – chew well and savour each bite. This helps you enjoy your food more (so you eat less) and also helps you avoid overeating, as it can take 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you are full.
- Eat lots of fibre. Fibre helps to make you feel full.
- Avoid eating while watching TV – distracted people tend to eat more. According to a University of Massachusetts study, people who ate while watching TV managed to consumer nearly 300 more calories per day.
- Avoid saturated fats – go for healthier mono-unsaturated fats instead, such as olive oil.
- Eat more foods with a low-glycaemic index to help stablise your blood sugar levels. This includes complex carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholegrain bread – avoid processed carbohydrates, such as white bread and white rice, as well as sugary drinks.
2. Get enough sleep
- Lack of sleep can impact the levels of leptin and ghrelin in your body. These two hormones help regulate your appetite and weight, so keep them balanced by getting enough of your beauty sleep!
- Research has also shown that an insufficient amount of rest will not only artificially boost your appetite, but also prevent you from feeling satisfied with the food that you eat. This can make your battle against weight gain twice as difficult, so make sure you get the rest you need.
3. Get more exercise
- A sedentary lifestyle lowers your metabolic rate, and will increase your fat to muscle ratio.
- To avoid this, try exercising for at least 30 minutes every other day.
- If you are starting from a lower level of fitness, start slowly, before building up to more intense exercises. Try brisk walking or water aerobics – these are low-impact exercises that will help get you started.
- If you work at a desk all day, try standing if you need to read or take a phone call – standing burns 50% more calories than sitting.
4. Reduce your stress
- Chronic long-term stress increases the hormone cortisol, which affects how you absorb glucose. Cortisol levels are a factor in abdominal obesity.
- Deep breathing and exercise can help decrease your cortisol levels.
- Try talking with a friend or family member, going for a massage or even setting some time aside for me-time – this can help you manage your stress and cortisol levels.
5. Treat any underlying medical conditions
- Some health conditions can make it hard to shed those pounds. These include conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and many others. See your GP for advice.
- Muscular-skeletal problems and back aches might prevent you from exercising – seek medical advice or consult a physiotherapist to find ways to manage your pain.
6. Get rid of those toxins
- The world we live in is increasingly a more polluted one, with greater amounts of pesticides, toxic chemicals and hormones in the environment. This can have an adverse impact on your health, and consequently, your weight. That's why detoxing can also play a part in improving your health and weight.
- Minimise the amount of toxins you are exposed to by quitting smoking, choosing organic fruit and vegetables wherever possible, and using natural cleaners at home, instead of harsh chemical cleaners.
- Drink plenty of water – your liver needs lots of it to help eliminate toxins from your blood.
If you've decided to take the plunge and embrace a healthy lifestyle – good for you! To keep yourself motivated, try setting reasonable goals for eating healthily and exercising, and review those goals every month or so. As you develop good habits, you'll start to notice the benefits and this will help spur you on to become even healthier.