Sometimes our hands are tied with respect to what happens in life. But not always. In this lesson, you'll learn that despite the apparently uncontrollable risk factors for obesity, two important, controllable aspects may help you overcome the possibility of obesity.
Controlling Car Crashes and Obesity
When driving a car there are numerous things that you can and cannot control that affect your safety. A risk factor for a bad outcome in a car crash is not wearing your seat belt. Additionally, driving the speed limit is a choice that can help prevent dangerous scenarios. These two examples are things within your control that can help save your life. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things you can't truly control, like another person's rate of speed, black ice, and a deer jumping out in front of you. Factors that contribute to being overweight or obese similarly fall into two categories: controllable and uncontrollable.
Controllable Factors for Obesity
Just to be consistent throughout this lesson, I'll refer only to obesity so long as you promise to remember that I'm also referencing being overweight. There are plenty of concrete actions you are able to take and influences you can control to help prevent obesity.
Some controllable factors contributing to obesity include a positive caloric balance, a state where the caloric intake is greater than the caloric use by the body. Basically this means you eat more calories than you burn. You can help burn off calories by moving around and exercising. You achieve negative caloric balance, caloric intake that is less than caloric expenditure by either exercising more as I just mentioned, eating less, or doing both at the same time. Negative caloric balance will lead to weight loss.
It's also not just the food you eat, but the kind of food you eat that may lead to obesity or weight loss - there's something known as the thermic effect of food. This is the amount of energy necessary to digest, absorb, and transport a certain type of food. Perhaps not all too shockingly, fat requires very little energy expenditure for this when compared to proteins and carbohydrates. Again, this means we use less energy to digest fat. This fact, and the fatty foods themselves, contribute even more to obesity.
We can sort of compare the thermic effect of food to exercise. Fat is like a couch potato, while carbohydrates and proteins are like marathon runners that help us lose weight. In essence, two humongous ways by which you can control obesity is exercising and eating right. You've heard that aplenty, so let's move on to something else that's related, but a bit different.
There are other things that can lead to obesity. Not getting enough sleep throws your body's hormones out of balance and may predispose you to weight gain. Culture and family also influence the possibility of whether or not you'll be overweight. What I'm saying is that sometimes if parents are obese because of improper diets or a culture predisposed to obesity because of the food that's commonly consumed by that group, then children exposed to these situations are more likely to become obese.
As a very interesting example of this, it has been suggested that babies that are overfed by their parents develop more fat cells than babies that eat appropriate portions of food. This increase in fat cells actually makes it much more likely a person will be overweight when they are an adult. Although dieting and exercise will help in weight loss for people with increased amounts of fat cells, the sheer number of fat cells will make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. But all of this doesn't mean that family lifestyles cannot be controlled; they're very much in conscious control and can be modified to help with weight loss.
Uncontrollable Factors for Obesity
The family issues actually remind me to tell you that genetics play a role in obesity, genetics you inherit from your parents. Obesity does tend to run in families, so there's definitely a genetic component here. Your genes are sort of predetermined codes that program you to be who you are today. They're not fully uncontrollable as people with 'skinny genes' can overeat to the point of obesity, but they certainly aren't chosen by you because you're born with them.
Therefore, for all practical purposes here, they're an uncontrollable factor for obesity that can be, however, mitigated with proper nutrition and exercise. It's sort of like a computer program's code can technically be changed later with a little bit of effort. So, genes are what determine how you absorb fat, how quickly you burn it when you exercise, and where it's stored in your body, like more in your hips or your waist.
But there's more here. Medical conditions or medication may predispose a person to obesity. As a really good and simple example, arthritis (the inflammation of joints) can certainly increase weight gain. Arthritis is a painful condition that makes it difficult for the person to move. Now, if you aren't able to or are in too much pain to move about, then clearly that's going to skew the caloric balance we discussed before if nutritional changes aren't taken into account.
In a similar light here, medication that may be given to treat a medical condition - medication that may be necessary to save your life and isn't much of a choice - is also a factor that can predispose you to weight gain. In medicine, it's sometimes a balancing act of what is worse: weight gain or potentially even more life threatening issues if medical intervention is not sought out. Finally, pregnancy is an unavoidable factor for weight gain unless you choose not to have kids, that is. The majority of women do lose their pregnancy weight, however, with time, a proper diet, and exercise.
It all goes back to diet and exercise, doesn't it? I mean, even for most of our, in a manner of speaking, uncontrollable risk factors, there is still much you can do to avert a destiny of obesity or excess weight gain.
Let's start with that then: food and exercise. If you have a positive caloric balance, a state where the caloric intake is greater than caloric use by the body, then you'll gain weight. By eating less, exercising more, or both, you can achieve a negative caloric balance, which is a caloric intake that is less than caloric expenditure. This will lead to weight loss.
Do recall that it's not just about the amount of food you eat, but the kind of food you eat. This is because there's something known as the thermic effect of food. This is the amount of energy necessary to digest, absorb, and transport a certain type of food. The digestion of fat uses less energy than proteins and carbohydrates.
Caloric intake, exercise, amounts of sleep, and family lifestyles can all be altered to help you lose weight or prevent weight gain. There are some factors, however, that are a bit less controllable than what I just mentioned. These include genetics, other medical conditions, medications that you need to stay alive, and pregnancy. But with diet and exercise even the effects of uncontrollable factors can be mitigated.
Once you have finished this lesson you should be able to:
- Recall some controllable and uncontrollable factors of obesity
- Describe negative and positive caloric intake
- Explain the role diet and exercise play in obesity