Sunny spell lays bare obesity problem

Seduced by the heat of the sun, t-shirts have been whipped off and legs that have been in hibernation since last summer have seen the light of day. If you have noticed an extra inch or a little more wobble with each passing summer, you are not alone. Research shows that, in the past 20 years, men have gained an average of 8kg and women an average of 5kg. So, do we have an obesity problem?

How fat are you?

Visceral fat is the fat that matters. The fat that is stored around our vital organs such as our heart, pancreas, liver, and intestines. The fat that puts us at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions and complications like infertility, stress, depression, arthritis and gallstones.

The is not the fat that makes us flabby. This is the fat that makes us sick. Appearances can be deceptive, so people can be thin on the outside, but fat on the inside.

Take a look at the statistics. Right now, two out of three adults living in Ireland are overweight or obese. It is estimated that around 2,000 people in the Republic and 450 people in Northern Ireland die each year from obesity-related illness. This puts obesity on a par with smoking as the biggest preventable cause of death and disease.

Muffin tops and big bellies

Our waist measurement is a relatively good indicator of visceral fat and a simple way to check if we are carrying too much weight in all the wrong places. We know that the spare tyre we carry around our muffin top is bad for our health and waist circumference is now recommended by the World Health Organisation as a measure of risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Waist circumference is not the same as your trouser size, so get out your tapeline to see how you measure up.

How to measure your waistline:

:: Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips

:: Wrap a tape measure around your waist, midway between these points

:: Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement

How do you measure up?

For men, risk increases with a waist circumference over 94cm (37 inches)

For women, risk increases with a waist circumference over 80cm (32 inches)

Simple ideas for weight loss:

:: Keep mealtimes regular. Eat three square meals a day, with enough protein to maintain and sustain your appetite and energy. Don’t skip meals and fill up on junk food in between.

:: Make sure half your lunch and dinner plate consists of vegetables or salad. Add a palm-size portion of protein, such as eggs, meats, fish, pulses, dairy products or nuts and seeds.

:: Eat within a 12-hour window eg if you have breakfast at 7.30pm, finish eating dinner by 7.30pm. This is a good way to stop temptation creeping in at supper time.

:: Exercise every day. Walking, dancing, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) – no matter what your thing is, get up and move it.

:: Cut out sugar and refined, white carbohydrate. These simple carbs can result in insulin resistance and weight gain.

:: Eat more good fats like oily fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil to help regulate appetite and support metabolism.

:: Avoid low-fat foods, which tend to be packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Instead, eat real, unprocessed food in the state that nature intended it to be eaten.

:: Have one carb-free meal every day. We use carbohydrate as energy, which gets stored as fat if we don’t use it, so it makes sense that reducing our intake of bread, rice, pasta and cereals can help most people with weight loss.

:: Eat more vegetables than fruit. Too much fruit adds sugar to the diet, so aim for a max of two portions of fruit a day. Eat more vegetables instead.

:: Keep well hydrated. Often we confuse hunger for thirst, so sip a couple of litres of water a day.

This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 2 June 2018.