What is a healthy weight?
Having a healthy weight does not only make you look and feel good but helps prevent serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. The body mass index (BMI) is a weight to height ration and is the most commonly used index to classify if you are overweight or obese. Obesity occurs when energy intake (through calorie consumption) exceeds energy expenditure. When this happens, there is excessive accumulation of fat, leading to obesity.
What are the causes of obesity / unwanted weight gain?
- Unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Aging, especially with hormonal changes
- Medications like steroids
- Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism
Why do women gain weight and belly fat in middle age?
- Hormonal imbalance
One of the main causes of middle age weight gain is hormonal imbalance. Menopausal women often experience weight gain especially around the abdomen, and changing their body shape from ‘pear’ to ‘apple’ shaped. This is often due to declining oestrogen levels which affects the fat distribution. Greater fat around the abdomen (waist circumference) is also linked to a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
- Lower metabolic rate
As we age, the body’s metabolic rate slows down and we burn less calories leading to weight gain.
- Less muscle mass
The body’s muscle mass starts to shrink from age 30, leading to weight gain. This is because muscle burn more calories and keep your body clean.
- Reduced physical activity
This will lead to further decline in the metabolic rate.
At middle age and with highly stressful jobs, our stress hormone cortisol sends messages to our brain to store up fuel to fight stress and we end up eating more. The excess calories are then stored as abdominal or belly fat thus increasing our waist circumference.
How to lose weight?
Losing 5 to 10% of one’s individual weight has shown to be capable of reducing cardiovascular risk factors.
- Adopt positive attitude
Set realistic and achievable goals, with the help of your physician or dietician. Identify causes of your weight gain or reasons for your unsuccessful weight loss.
- Improve your diet
- Have regular meals and a balanced diet
- Reduce fat and sugar in your diet
- Limit your snacks such as deep fried, oily or sweet foods
- Eat more fibre
- Try eating more lean protein and good fats (like essential fatty acids) to improve the hormonal balance if you are menopausal as it can stimulate the body’s metabolism. Essential fatty acids omega 3 and 6 are found in oily fish, wheat germ and seeds such as flaxseeds and nuts
- Eating enough quality proteins also supports muscle regeneration
- Control intake of high sugar food or refined carbohydrates
- Exercise regularly
Start with low impact exercises (30 minutes of walking 3 to 5 times a week) and increase gradually was you get more fit by increasing the duration and distance. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobics exercises a week and twice weekly strength training to prevent declining metabolic rates
- Prescription weight loss medicine
This is only if weight targets have not been achieved despite other methods. You have to consult your physician to exclude any medical causes before starting our medication.
- Weight loss surgery
Surgical intervention may be necessary for some patients who are severely obese with BMI >32.5 with other risk factors.