In the UAE alone, approximately 67 percent of males and 71 percent of females are considered overweight or obese and globally, obesity is fast becoming the world’s most dangerous epidemic with lethal consequences. But HEALTH learns that obesity can actually be avoided with lifestyle modification.

Obesity is a Process
Obesity doesn’t happen overnight and is one of the reasons we should be taking extra-precaution with our weight and lifestyles now. Before becoming obese, there is a pre-obesity stage where an individual is fatter than the recommended height and weight range for their age, explains Dr. Faruq M. Badiuddin, specialist general surgeon. If this situation goes unchecked, then it can progress into obesity, which is up to a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30.

Dr. Graham Simpson, author and anti-aging expert, asserts there are two key factors that trigger obesity: carbohydrates and insulin. “Our dietary environment has changed dramatically with the introduction of high sugar, trans-fats and omega 6-fats,” he says, and also, our basic choices and quantities of foods we eat have changed dramatically over the years. Add to this, the expansion of both the fast food industry and soda industry, which has further exacerbated the problem.

Holistic Treatment
In the UAE, rates of obesity are twice the global average and those battling with obesity are confronted with several challenges, including misguided advice and extreme quick-fix solutions, says bariatric psychologist Dr. Mario Aoun. “The key is a personalized approach for each patient,” he tells, as there is no one-size-fits-all formula here. The next important thing is to adopt a holistic approach that considers the mental and emotional aspects of the patient. “Sometimes you just need help in understanding what you’re going through as gaining excessive weight due to overeating or facing other psychological issues simply means that you need help,” he explains.

Management of obesity is a complex science and as obesity is caused by a combination of factors, a team of nutritionists and psychologists work with the patient to help reduce weight through diet, exercise, counselling, and other tools. “In some cases, depending on the severity of the obesity condition, surgery is recommended as the last resort,” elaborates Dr. Aoun, and this is where bariatric surgery comes in. This procedure involves reducing the size of the stomach, either with a gastric band, removal of a section of the stomach, or re-routing the intestine to a small stomach pouch, so that the amount of food the stomach can hold is restricted. “However, patients who undergo bariatric surgery are required to alter their lifestyle and follow a diet plan for permanent results,” he cautions.

Intermittent Fasting
A very big trend in wellness these days is intermittent fasting which is basically stretching the time span between meals, from eight hours to even more. A proponent of this is alternative medicine expert and osteopathic physician Dr. Joseph Michael Mercola. He explains it takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores and after that, you start to shift to burning fat. However, if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every eight hours (or sooner), it becomes harder for your body to use its fat stores as fuel.

Weight Loss Plateau Tips
We have all had times when, despite our strict diet and exercise, the weight refuses to budge. This happens because our metabolism — the process of burning calories for energy — slows down as we lose muscle. Try these tips to help:

  • Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories, but do not go below 1,200 calories.
  • Add more fiber. Experts suggest aiming for a minimum of 30 grams a day from vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
  • Shake up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Cut the salt out. Retention can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common is consuming too much sodiumfilled processed foods.
  • Get your sleep. According to research, too little sleep can lead to increased levels of stress hormones, which have been shown to cause weight and fat gain, especially in your midsection.

Dubai Takes Action
With obesity contributing to the staggering rates of diabetes, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai Government and Dubai Sports Council launched the inaugural Dubai Fitness Challenge. The aim of this is to motivate Dubai’s citizens, residents, and visitors to increase their physical activity by committing to a minimum of 30 minutes of daily activity for a span of 30 days through a wide range of fitness activities, sports, or exercise.

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