Friday, August 03, 2007

Obesity – Is It Contagious? – Study Says Yes

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As you probably know, Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the Western world, particularly in North America. Statistics show that two thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese. Obesity is now America’s 2nd leading cause of preventable death, next to cigarette smoking and is closing in on becoming the leader. Obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths every year.

Could you conquer obesity? The answer is yes. I don’t want to sound superficial here, but unless you have a medical condition associated with obesity the chances are pretty good. Even those with clinical obesity have been known to overcome it with proper treatment, including medication, behavior modification, nutrition and physical activity.

And I’m not just blowing out hot air. There are quite a few people on Myspace, for example, who have conquered obesity, and some have lost well over 200 lbs in the process. Although I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to accomplish. It takes motivation, dedication and hard work.

Those that have obesity not related to medical conditions have become obese by basically consuming more calories than they expend over long time periods. In addition, one thing most of these people have in common is slow metabolic rate. The second thing they share is they live sedentary lives. And what is the single most important factor responsible for speeding up the metabolism? Answer: Physical activity. But that’s another topic.

Can obesity be contagious?

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people have a higher chance of becoming obese by having obese friends, even if they live far away, than they do by having obese relatives.

According to the research, if your buddy is obese your chances of becoming overweight will increase by 57%, 40% if one of your siblings puts on extra pounds and 37% if your spouse or life partner does.

The study basically found that obesity has a higher risk of being developed from social relationships that from genetic ones. Furthermore, a person does not become obese just by having obese neighbors but by having obese friends.

The alarming thing is, since more and more people in society are becoming obese, others may think that it’s okay to be overweight. This is human nature. And if you hang around a barber shop, like the saying goes, you’re going to get a haircut. That’s not to say, however, that a person should end friendships with people who are obese or overweight.

It might help, however to expand relationships to include people who have healthier lifestyles and/or who have successful plans for weight loss maintenance. And as a result, they can promote improvement of lifestyle with the rest of their friends.

There really is no easy way or short cut in overcoming obesity. Diet pills and weight loss supplements don’t work, although some may work in the short run. Many diet drugs, however, have very harmful side effects. Fad diets also produce temporary results. And many of you, who have tried some variations of these, know what I mean.

One big factor associated with obesity is the super sizing blitz (from the food industry) that has been sweeping North America over the past few years. And that’s not only coming from the fast food industry either. This has also spilled over to the processed food sector that includes a lot of ready prepared food products available in the supermarkets.

First of all let’s establish that the reason people become obese is by consuming more calories than they expend. Obesity is a product of a standard principle of input exceeding output. And as the body gets bigger it needs more calories to support that weight.

Many overweight people, however, will argue that they’re not really overeating. This is because we usually aren’t conscious of and don’t keep track of everything we put in our mouths during the course of an entire day. The only way to get a clear picture is to record all our meals and snacks over a period of a day and add up the total calories. You may be surprised to find out the amount of food you are actually eating on a given day. Only when you become aware of the amount of food you are consuming, you can begin to reduce your calorie intake accordingly.

Besides the quantity of food we eat quality is just as important. What foods does you diet consist of? Do you eat a lot of foods that are nutritiously empty but are loaded with bad fats, bad carbs and salt (unfortunately many these of these foods taste good)? These are definitely factors that we have to consider – factors that contribute to obesity.

What’s a good way to reduce your daily consumption? One way is to use substitution. Choose low fat instead of high fat proteins, and use high fiber carbohydrates in place of refined carbohydrates that have been stripped of their fiber content. Replace sodas with water. You will automatically reduce your total daily caloric intake significantly by following the above 3 steps. Here are some other ideas you could implement into your plan:

Replace potatoes with yams, white rice with brown or wild rice, use whole grain pastas and whole grain bread. Do not take two different carbs in the same meal. In other words if you have bread you shouldn’t include rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.

One efficient yet simple guideline I like to follow for calorie control during my meals is I put all the food I’m going to eat in one regular size plate. And I won’t eat anything more than that. By doing this, you will never leave a meal feeling over stuffed yet you’ll feel satisfied.

This method also eliminates picking at foods randomly from other dishes, similar to a buffet, which leads to over consumption. These are some ideas that may help to improve the food component of your weight loss plan. The other component, physical activity, we will talk about next time.

World Science, “Obesity Found to Spread Socially”,

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