Winning the battle against obesity


By Elias Abichacra (Phd)

Obesity is spreading at an alarming speed even in less developed countries. Lifestyle changes are partly responsible for this epidemic. People have become slaves of progress, thus doing less and less physical activity (PA). At the same time, diet habits are gradually being modified and calorie rich foods are consumed at an alarming rate. Globalization, which has spread the Fast-food principle, unfortunately has introduced Junk-food which incorporates too much sugar and fat. Especially children are the first victims of this plague. Let us look how this health calamity happens and how the battle can be won.
Our body is the permanent theater of 2 contradictory biological processes that exist throughout our whole life time. They cohabit together and depending on our lifestyle and different phases of life, we observe that one process can dominate the other. The first process is the building process and is called Anabolism. This process can have a positive result as well as a negative one. If the Anabolism process winds up with an increase in muscle weight through serious strength training program, it is a positive result; whereas if the increase in weight is due to an excess amount of fat, it is a negative result. The destruction process is called Catabolism. Here our body in a non-stop continuous process burns the energy stock stored in our body. The best indicator of this process is the constant body temperature that prevails whatever the weather condition surrounding us. The building process is maintained daily with what we eat and by bringing different types of food transformed after digestion into nutriments which are easier to be assimilated by the different organs of our body. Our body needs sugar stocked under different forms that can be used immediately or lately. Our muscles need proteins from different origins to keep their structure function normally.
So our weight is the sum of these two contradictory processes. If the anabolic process dominates with the building of muscles, paradoxically we gain healthy weight. This is what happens when you practice Weight Lifting or Body Building. If we control our daily intake of food by suppressing calorie rich foods and by lowering our daily calorie intake, then the catabolic process prevails and we lose weight too. The combination of a well balanced diet and a regular PA will undoubtedly enhance the catabolic process. In order to have a swift and decisive victory over an enemy, military experts always recommend to open two fronts that obliges the enemy divide his force. This strategy can be used to win the war against obesity. A regular and well programmed PA, which takes into account the weekly frequency as well as the daily workout duration, combined with a correctly designed diet program, will increase the chance to lose weight faster than if a person uses one of the two components at a time.
I think it is time to tell the truth of which of these two elements is easier to start with: physical exercise or controlling diet (food intake). Even a diehard sedentary person can with a correctly designed fitness program improve his/her physical potential. It is important to give regular feedback to that person to show him/her that he/she has improved. It is vital to test the physical capacity of a person victim of obesity. It allows the trainer to know from which level that person starts. Frankly speaking it is the diet control which is the most difficult part because reducing quantity and quality creates inevitable frustration. Western countries call habit a second nature, meaning that it is very difficult to overcome something you have been used to for a long period of time and which is deeply rooted in your lifestyle. Combating obesity needs humility, mental tenacity, and perseverance as well as tons of patience. You can’t reverse a process that took years to be created in a short period of time. By humility I mean that one should never boast after a training session because the weight scale indicates a sensible weight difference. Most of the time, sweat produced after a workout will be immediately replaced by drinking. After a gruesome marathon, a person burns only 250 grams of fat! Absolutely discouraging! Mental tenacity means that a person must accept suffering physically, especially at the beginning if he/she is not a PA addict. That person must continue training regularly and mustn’t listen to comfort mermaids who want him to stay away from the gym. Perseverance means continue to stick to both programs as long as it is necessary and durable change obtained. Finally the most important quality is patience which means the person must wait to see the dividends of his/her effort. If a person took years to degrade his/her physical status, it is unwise to promise to reverse the problem in few weeks and even months. The trainer must not cheat his client by promising false results. This can push that person in a dangerous vicious circle. A friend of mine, who is an orthopedist who worked in France, told me that 50% of the patients who had to undergo knee surgery could have avoided the operation if they had reduced their body weight. Unfortunately they hadn’t the patience to lose weight. Back problems occur when a person is victim of obesity.
Our backbone is built to support a certain amount of weight. Overweight puts pressure on our backbone, especially at the lumbar section, our knees and our ankles. A construction metaphor can make people understand this problem easily. On a G+ 5 building, the contractor doesn’t load G+ 7 materials. If he does, he mustn’t be surprised to see cracks appear at different parts of the building. Obesity is extra load imposed on a structure that isn’t prepared to support it.
Remember Health is Wealth!

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