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Basic General Knowledge on Obesity And Weight Loss!

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Obesity And The Different Weight Loss Techniques!

obesity Before we start discussing obesity in-depth, it is important to be sure exactly what we mean by the term. To some people, the meaning of "obesity" is just a matter of common sense, but how we understand the word is important to how it is diagnosed, and, of course, treated.

Some people think that being obese just means being very overweight. Past a certain point, an overweight person is labeled "obese." However, not all medical authorities use this understanding of the term.

To the United States National Library of Medicine's Medline Website, obesity means having an excess of fat. Being overweight is a wider category that simply means weighing too much, whether or not the extra weight comes from fat or some other type of tissue, such as muscle. Under such a categorization system, a bodybuilder, for example, may be considered overweight but would not be obese because the extra weight comes primarily from muscle. An individual who has excess fat but a smaller physique than the bodybuilder is, however, likely to be considered at least mildly obese.

Determining Obesity

The Body Mass Index, or BMI, is one of the most popular measurements used to determine whether a person is obese, and if so, to what degree. It is calculated based on a person's weight and height, with allowances usually made for age.

Indeed, the BMI is used as a valuable tool in determining whether weight loss medication is to be prescribed. For instance, if a person's BMI is under 30 (or 27, in cases where they also have attendant conditions such as serious hypertension), the person is more likely to be told that he/she should stick to diet and exercise, rather than resorting to the aid of pharmaceuticals.

However, the BMI is by no means a perfect tool. The trouble with the Body Mass Index is that the method of measurement does not differentiate with sufficient accuracy between fat and muscle tissue. As a result, people with a great deal of muscle such as athletes may be categorized obese, even though they do not truly have a problem with excess fat. Pregnant women may also have similar issues with the inaccurate "labeling" of bodily tissues. There is also growing recognition of the differences in physique according to race and genetics. A one-size-fits-all calculation and/or index might not really be the best way to screen a diverse world population. For instance, an online BMI calculator based on appropriate weights for a mostly Caucasian population might yield skewed results if used by some people in Asia.

What's the Big Deal?

Cultural perceptions of obesity have been getting a great deal of media attention in recent years, particularly in connection with eating disorders in the West, and increasingly in non-Western, Westernized cultures. The Western fashion industry has been getting a great deal of the blame for the steady downsizing of the "ideal body." The prevalence of the "coathanger frame" ideal may encourage voluntary starvation and other unhealthy habits. Besides this, it encourages people to attach a social stigma to obesity.

The desire to look slim or thin may also be linked to the rise of so-called youth culture, an aspect of which is the increased desire to have a youthful appearance. Being obese can make a person both look and feel older. For instance, it is no coincidence that many of the waifish male and female models strutting the catwalks are often much younger than their counterparts were a few decades ago. (Of course, it is also possible to go too far in the direction of slimness, where a person's emaciated appearance can actually make them look older.)

For many people, the wish to be considered attractive or to be aesthetically acceptable in one's own eyes, which an overlapping but not identical concern is a major factor in wanting to get rid of or avoid obesity. Whatever your idea of the "perfect" figure happens to be, there are serious objective reasons to be concerned about obesity.

Obesity is a serious issue because it increases the risk of other ailments. One of the most critical locations for fat deposits on your body is your abdominal region. A high amount of fat in this area is linked to ailments of the internal organs, though the nature of this link is still very much a topic for debate within the medical community. Unfortunately, fat around the abdomen is also notoriously difficult to get rid of. Men with waistlines larger than 40 inches are considered to be running a significant health risk, while the threshold for women is 35 inches.

The cardiovascular system is particularly vulnerable to high amounts of fat and cholesterol in the body. Deposits accumulate around the inner walls of blood vessels, leading to conditions like atherosclerosis. Here, the lipid deposits narrow the pathway available for the passage of blood, thus forcing the heart to work harder. Blocked or overly stiffened arteries may also increase a person's risk for gangrene (particularly in the lower extremities), which is often treated with amputation, as there is often no other recourse.

Obesity is even linked to the onset of certain cancers. Once again, the nature of this link is a matter of debate. Some people explain it as a matter of cancer cells being able to feed off a large amount of fat and sugar, and thus being able to proliferate more quickly. Others believe that perhaps fatty cells tend to respond to hormones differently, which somehow facilitates the onset and spread of cancer. Whatever the biological mechanism might be, people with a family history of cancer and/or significant personal exposure to carcinogens are advised to pay extra attention to their weight.

Obesity around the World

The prevalence and/or seriousness of obesity are by no means uniform around the world. These vary according to the levels of affluence, the cultural eating habits, etc. common in a particular area. The United States is widely regarded as the world's "fattest country." Most of the other countries on that end of the spectrum tend to be European.

Scientists have also been studying why certain ethnic groups appear to be more prone to obesity than others. This is not a racist or bigoted comment. Rather, it simply refers to the apparent tendency of different ethnic groups with similar lifestyles (as in multi-ethnic societies where there is not too much correlation between ethnic group and socio-economic class) to have varying obesity rates. According to some scientists, ethnic groups from the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Africa are likely to have evolved with a "thrifty gene" that increases the body's tendency to store up fat. Therefore, people from these ethnic groups who live in Western countries may be in particular danger of developing obesity-related illnesses, and perhaps anti-obesity treatments should be constructed with their genetic makeup in mind. People from the Middle East, on the other hand, tend to have evolved with the opposite genetic tendency.

Of course, the connection between fat/lean genes and ethnicity is by no means "perfect." Ethnic groups tend to have a mix of both types of genes within their population. This particular section of the article should not be taken to mean that certain ethnic groups have "defective" or "inferior" genes. Rather, it simply means that their genetics, which at one time helped them to survive, no longer match up well with their present context. Since evolution takes several millennia to work, this should not be taken as an insult to anybody's race.

Obesity and Diet

So much has been said about the basics of lean/fat eating that the basics of it are very much common knowledge. Many people, particularly in the West, do not eat enough vegetables. An over-consumption of processed carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, white rice) contribute not only to obesity but to diabetes in people who do not appear to be obese, particularly in areas where these foods are staples. Also, it is not just what you eat but how it is cooked. Deep-fried food, for instance, can be very unhealthy, even if the ingredients are otherwise rather nutritious.

However, the best way to avoid the necessity of extreme, possibly expensive diets is to take a long-term view of your eating habits. Start eating healthily while you are still young. In effect, you will be taking a moderate, preventative approach to obesity and its associated problems.

Various "fad diets" such as the Atkins or South Beach diet have tried to ride the diet wave. However, these diets, particularly the Atkins diet with its merciless cutting of carbohydrates, often bring on major side effects, such as fatigue. The South Beach diet, for its part, can be quite expensive.

Also, as will be explained in the next section, dieting alone--no matter how ruthlessly faithful you are in cutting out calories--is unlikely to be enough to help you lose weight in the long term. The pounds are likely to come back once you start eating regularly again, and there is the likelihood that your body will have an even higher fat content, as the muscle weight you lost is likely to return as fatty tissue.

Get Moving

Exercise is an important part of any truly effective weight loss program, so it is quite a shame that many people end up attacking the issue of obesity through diet changes alone. Of course, this is quite understandable, given the frantic pace of modern life, particularly during hard economic times. Setting aside time to go to the gym seems like a rather unfeasible luxury, especially when a person is already feeling exhausted. However, a regimen that focuses only on diet is much more likely to result in the “wrong” kind of weight loss (decrease in muscle mass as opposed to fat) than one that balances healthy eating and physical workouts.

If a person is very obese, he or she might feel that exercising in order to lose weight is a rather daunting prospect, since there is so much weight to lose. However, it turns out that people who are very obese can lose more weight doing the same amount of exercise than a leaner person can. This is because moving about with extra weight actually burns more calories.

Of course, there are also some situations in which a person is simply unable to handle a lot of strenuous exercise. In such situations, it may be better to spread one's exercise through everyday activities, such as fetching things for yourself, or walking short distances instead of taking your car. Over time, a little regular exercise can go a very long way towards improving your health. This is why it helps to start relatively early in life when it comes to introducing a bit more exercise into a largely sedentary lifestyle.

Weight-Loss Drugs

In this section on weight-loss drugs, we refer to legitimate prescription medications, rather than the extremely questionable substances flooding the market (those will be tackled in later sections). Two of the most widely-prescribed weight-loss drugs are Xenical and Meridia.

Xenical is available both in over-the-counter and prescription versions, the prescription type, of course, being stronger. The active ingredient in Xenical is called Orlistat. If you are allergic to this ingredient, make sure your doctor is aware of this if you are considering Xenical. Furthermore, tell the doctor if you have any type of diabetes or pancreatic problems. A history of eating disorders or problems with absorbing nutrients should also be told to your doctor, as should any thyroid problems.

Furthermore, please do not share your supply of Xenical with any other people. Xenical is a relatively well-known drug whose effects--the blocking of fat absorption--are rather attractive to y people suffering eating disorders. Do your best to ensure that you do not become an enabler or facilitator of such disorders. In fact, it may be advisable to keep your Xenical supply locked away, if you feel that someone in your household might be tempted to use it. Also, keep in mind that this drug alone is not enough to effect weight loss. A legitimate physician should only use Xenical as a supplement to a regular regimen of a healthier, lower-calorie diet, plus physical exercise.

Meridia, however, affects brain activity more than digestion. It acts on brain centers dealing with appetite, making you feel full more easily than you otherwise would. This effect is compounded by its other intended effect of speeding up your metabolism. The drug usually comes in the form of capsules of 10 or 15 mg. Its generic name is sibutramine.

Of course, given its targeting of your body's essential processes, it is only to be expected that Meridia can potentially have some very grave side effects. You should avoid this drug if you took any herbal remedies, antidepressants, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors over the past couple of weeks. People with cardiovascular problems or mental disorders should likewise avoid Meridia.

As with Xenical, you are directed not to share your pills with others, even if they are much more obese than you. They may have other conditions or ailments, or may be taking other drugs, which will interact negatively with Meridia. If somebody else asks to use your pills, suggest that they see their own physician and ask about a prescription.

scaleWeight-loss drugs are unlikely to cause quick, drastic shedding of pounds. For instance, it may take up to a year for you to lose just a twentieth or a tenth of your weight. This may not seem all that much if you are already very overweight, but losing just a few percentage points can make a big difference to your risk of diabetes, cardiac arrest, etc. Furthermore, it is likely that you will have to take such drugs on a long-term basis once you start, instead of just hitting your target weight and then leaving off your medication. Once you stop taking your medication, it is quite likely that most, if not all, of the weight that you lost will return.

Weight Loss Supplements

You can also buy herbal supplements that may help you lose weight--at least, according to advertising. Supplements can, for now, usually be bought and sold legally without prescriptions. Even so, you are advised to consult your physician, especially if you are unfamiliar with the reputation of the supplement's manufacturer.

A plant known as Hoodia Gordonii that grows in the Kalahari Desert has been talked about in weight-loss circles for the better part of the past decade. It has been used by Kalahari bushmen for millennia as a way to suppress their appetites--a matter of urgency in a place where food is hard to come by. Apparently, the cactus contains a till-then unknown molecule called P57 that targets the satiety centers of the brain. A drug was developed by a firm called Phytofarm, which then sold the rights first to Pfizer, then to Unilever, both of which returned/dropped the rights. It is not quite clear why this has happened, but the fact that both large companies decided not to pursue the project might be a word of warning to those seeking to try out the product, particularly from small distributors online which might not be selling authentic hoodia anyway.

Another well-known herbal supplement is the Acai Berry. This so-called "super fruit" or "miracle fruit" has received a great deal of television coverage as a weight loss aid. This is attributed largely to its high antioxidant content. Besides boosting metabolism, it also supposedly prevents the degradation of cells associated with aging and some cancers. However, be very wary of supplier/reviewer claims for this drug. The popularity of this supplement has attracted many scammers.

For people who do not like pills, there is a more "organic" alternative in the form of green tea. Reports on the strength of its efficacy as a diet aid vary. However, according to O-cha.com, which provides useful calculations, five cups of this beverage will only help you lose about 70 to 80 extra calories daily. Depending on your weight loss goal, this might be just enough, or too little. The point is that you should combine green tea with exercise and a healthy diet. Furthermore, you might want to check to see if the diuretic and metabolic effects of the caffeine in the tea will negatively affect your body. Furthermore, look into ingesting versions of the drink where you also consume the ground-up leaves, which are an excellent source of fiber.

You might also wish to try Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine grapes in small amounts. It is usually sold in pill form, since one usually cannot eat enough of the plants containing Resveratrol and still get enough of the compound to cause a significant effect. It is claimed that Resveratrol not only helps in weight loss but helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and boosts the immune system. Both of the latter effects will be of especial concern to more mature consumers, since diabetes and declining immunity tend to be major issues as one gets older.

Yet another measure available on the market is to take human growth hormone (HGH) supplements. These HGH releasers do not necessarily contain the hormone itself, but rather ingredients that stimulate your body's production of the hormone. You may think that HGH is no longer relevant to you once you are an adult and have stopped growing. However, this is far from true. A decline in HGH production is associated with the signs of aging, such as hair loss, wrinkles, a slower metabolism, and overall weaker health. Assuming you get your pills from a legitimate supplier, you might be able to see an improvement on all these other fronts, besides just weight loss. This type of multi-purpose supplement might be a good alternative for people with many health concerns. After all, it can be rather dangerous to take several supplements--each having a single effect--since their ingredients might interact with each other in a harmful way and cause unpredictable side effects.

Surgery and Obesity

There are a number of surgical means to aid weight loss. Plastic surgery procedures such as liposuction and lipectomy are only some of these means. In short, liposuction works by first melting the fat and then sucking it out of a person's body through a tube known as a cannula. However, not everybody is considered a good candidate for the procedure. Doctors may be more reluctant to handle patients with diabetes, weakened immune systems, or inelastic skin. Liposuction can be combined with some other procedures in a single session. It is a relatively procedure compared to other plastic surgery options, but even then, patients still do sometimes die on the table, sometimes due to blatant malpractice by medical staff.

Other means involve targeting the digestive system. Some of them, for instance, can stop your body from absorbing too many calories. This is called malabsorptive surgery, of which the gastric bypass is a type. Another can reduce the size of your stomach--or at least the size of its active portion--so that you get "full" more quickly. This is referred to as restrictive surgery, which includes procedures like gastric stapling. Of course, still other procedures combine both means. Together, these two main types of operation make up the category known as bariatric surgery.

However, many doctors will only recommend a gastric bypass or other similarly drastic operations as a last resort. These are only for people who have already tried diet and exercise, but are still morbidly obese. Surgery should not be used as a "quick fix" for people who want a slimmer figure right away.

Caveat Emptor

"Let the buyer beware" is the English translation of this section's title. It is very important advice to anyone trawling the market for products to treat obesity. Given the very high degree of demand for products and services that facilitate weight loss, it is no wonder that several highly questionable options are available to customers.

There are several rather spectacular urban legends dealing with people's willingness to try anything to lose weight. One is about a woman who orders some supposedly very special, effective weight loss pills. In fact, the medication is billed as being so effective that she will only be sent a single pill, and will not need any other doses at all. The pill arrives accordingly and the woman takes it. It works, but over time, she is unable to stop losing weight and starts to feel weaker. The story ends with a tapeworm slithering out of the woman's body during the night: it turns out that the pill contained a tapeworm egg.

Still, the real world of weight loss medications contains more than enough horror stories. One of the most infamous "diet aids" to hit the market is the Bangkok Pill. It has ingredients illegal in at least three countries: the United States, the Philippines, and Thailand. The pills are intended to lower a person's appetite by raising the levels of cathecholamine and serotonin in one's bloodstream. Unfortunately, these pills come with a host of side effects. Firstly, one can become dehydrated since ingredients like Lasix act as diuretics. One can also develop various heart problems, such as angina--of especial concern here, since many obese people tend to already have heart ailments. Other effects can include impotence, vomiting, stroke, and even death. Also, since some of the pills also come from rather questionable manufacturers, some doctors do give credence to the widespread notion that Bangkok Pills often contain shabu. This diet aid may be effective initially or even long-term, but it is not worth the attendant health risks.

On the other hand, customers must not assume that, by keeping to legitimate establishments, they are safe from quackery. The rise of "body sculpting" procedures through massage machines is a prime example that can be used to illustrate this point. These procedures are marketed towards people concerned about cellulite. The treatment is available in various reputable spas and cosmetic clinics. However, some physicians assert that it does not really work. In other words, the procedure is neither invasive nor particularly dangerous, but it may be a waste of your money.

The rule of thumb is that, when it comes to weight loss, you should always start with a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. Only consider more drastic measures when these basic means do not work. Even then, make sure to consult a doctor first. As a final note, beware of any physicians who promise a procedure that will fix all your weight problems, without also telling you to improve your lifestyle.



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