What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?
Being overweight or being obese are both terms for having more body fat than is considered healthy. Both terms are used to identify people who are at risk of various health problems from having too much body fat. People who are classed as obese carry a much higher amount of body fat than those who are described as overweight. Everyone needs some body fat to provide energy and as insulation against cold, and for other body functions. But an excess of body fat can lead to serious health problems, with an increased risk of suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and other problems.
What kinds of health problems can develop from being overweight or obese?
Being overweight or obese can cause a wide range of serious health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Kidney disease and kidney failure
In addition, overweight or obese people can have issues with sleeping (sleep apnoea is much more common in seriously overweight people), fertility and even higher chances of suffering from certain types of cancer.
What should I do if I am overweight or obese?
Ideally, you should speak to a doctor or health professional about a weight loss programme that is right for you. Experts believe that a weight loss programme is by far the most effective if it includes these three components: diet, exercise, and behaviour modification. Overweight and obese people should seek advice on a suitable exercise regimen to avoid damage to joints and other body parts.
Developing a better relationship with food is also essential if you want your weight loss to be permanent, and there are various behavioural tips and tricks that can help you along the way.
If you have been unable to lose weight or keep if off with diet, exercise, and behavioural changes, some doctors will prescribe weight loss medication, and in extreme cases gastrointestinal surgery is sometimes recommended.
How do we prevent more and more people from becoming overweight and obese?
Health education is an important factor in preventing the levels of obesity from getting ever higher. Luckily, many schools now include a comprehensive health education program that starts as soon as kids get to pre-school age. However, there are many other places where health education can be beneficial, such as community groups, youth and sports clubs, health centres, etc. It is also important that parents understand the advice that is given at schools and other places by reinforcing the message and acting accordingly through conversations, providing healthy meals and generally supporting the advice they have been given.
How can you educate people on obesity?
For many people, the idea of being overweight or losing a couple of kilos is hard to visualise in real terms. Luckily, there are many great educational aids like stethoscopes that are suitable for educational or clinical use. Educational aids can provide a clear image of what a certain amount of fat, or weight, can look like. Charts can show people what the most likely risks of being overweight are, and you can even get a ‘fat suit’ for people to wear, to bring home the message of how much energy is needed to carry around the extra weight. If you feel that there is a lack of health education in your kid’s school or your local community, get together with others to raise awareness of the risks of being overweight or obese.