Manage your weight


Your weight needs to be managed so that you avoid being overweight or obese.

Being overweight is defined as having abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair one’s health.

By keeping an eye on our weight, we are thereby minding body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height ratio that is commonly used to indicate whether we are overweight, or are managing our weight well.

BMI is defined as a person’s weight in kilogrammes, divided by the square of one’s height in metres (kg/m2). A BMI greater than 25 means one is overweight; and a BMI of 30 or more means one is obese.

The BMI should be considered as a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fat in different individuals.

Facts about weight and obesity

According to the WHO, in 2013, 42 million children under the age of five were overweight worldwide. Once considered a high- income country problem, obesity is now on the rise in low and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.

In developing countries with emerging economies (classified by the World Bank as lower and middle- income countries), the rate of increase of childhood overweight and obesity has been more than 30 percent higher than that of developed countries.

Causes of obesity

An increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in calories.

An increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanisation.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.

Health consequences

Raised BMI is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as:

Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012.

Musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints); and

Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon). Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.

Managing your weight

The problem of being overweight or obese, along with related non- communicable diseases, is largely preventable.

Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity a viable choice.

At the individual level, people can:

Limit the intake of fats and sugars;

Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts;

 Engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults). Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at the societal level it is important to:

Support individuals in following the recommendations above, through sustained political commitment and the collaboration of many public and private stakeholders;

Make regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to all – especially the poorest individuals. The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

Reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;

Ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;

Practising responsible marketing especially those aimed at children and teenagers;

Ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity in the workplace.

The author is an orthopaedic specialist

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