Chronic food shortage and malnutrition have been the scourge of humankind from the dawn of history. For much of civilization, being overweight or obese was lauded as a symbol of wealth and prosperity something that was celebrated. Only as countries developed in the 18th century and food became more readily available did the weight of populations as a whole start to rise. At first, the greater availability of food created a stronger, healthier population. But, in the last century, it has developed into a full-blown health problem with many people struggling with weight loss. While the struggles of obesity were initially featured mostly in magazines and on talk shows, today, obesity has become a genre of entertainment, with reality TV programs detailing the lives and weight loss struggles of the obese individuals.

Obesity most often occurs when a person consistently eats more calories than he burns, and his body stores the excess energy as fat. This energy balance, “calories in, calories out” concept, originated with a simple observation involving mice, in 1953.

How metabolism Influences Obesity

Do you know people who complain about having a slow metabolism and how they barely eat anything yet still gain weight? Have you met people who complain about someone they know who can eat whatever he or she wants including large portions of junk food due to a fast metabolism and apparently never gain weight. This scenario raises a very good question on the role of metabolism in weight gain or weight loss. Metabolism or metabolic rate is defined as the series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life. More simply, it’s the rate at which your body expends energy or burns calories. One way to think about metabolism is to view your body as a car engine that is always running. When you’re sitting still or sleeping, you’re engine is idling like a car at a stop light. A certain amount of energy is being burned just to keep the engine running. As humans our fuel source is the calories found in foods we eat and beverages we drink.

How fast your body’s “engine” runs on average, over time, determines how many calories you burn. If your metabolism is fast, you will burn more calories at rest and during activity. A high metabolism means you’ll need to take in more calories to maintain your weight. That’s one reason why some people can eat more than others without gaining weight. A person with a slow metabolism will burn fewer calories at rest and during activity and therefore has to eat less to avoid becoming overweight.

 Effective Weight Loss Strategy!

If you could choose between diet and exercise, diet would have far more influence on your weight than exercise, but of course you should do both. Most people don’t understand this fact. They believe that if they are exercising appropriately then they really don’t have to be careful with their food choices. This is simply false. When you consume healthy foods, your body digests and metabolizes the food to create energy. Simply metabolizing proteins and other nutrients found in healthy food burn calories. The optimal way to lose weight is to follow a lower calorie diet based on the healthy eating pattern and incorporate daily physical activity into your lifestyle. It is important to make small changes in your diet and lifestyle rather than losing 5kgs in one week through a “crash” diet or “fad” diet. Always seek professional advice from a nutritionist to get a personalized diet plan. Successful weight loss involves a permanent lifestyle change; otherwise, you will easily regain the weight that you lost.

Kepha Nyanumba- Afya Pap Nutritionist

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