Obesity is gateway to serious health issues, here's how you can keep it at bay

Obesity has been a cause for concern for a long time and is a significant contributor to the disease burden worldwide. Obesity is directly or indirectly related to more than 200 health-related complications like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, abnormal cholesterol and heart diseases. There is much more to obesity than eating more and moving less. Obesity is multifactorial in causation. Let me briefly explain some of the critical obesity risk factors.


Did you know that genes or epigenetics that you inherit from your family or by your ethnicity can, in some people, actually explain why they are obese?

Obesity-related genes have been shown to impact what and how much one eats (their appetite), how one may respond to certain foods (also called hedonic eating), energy expenditure or storage (their metabolic rate) as well as how much fat and where the fat gets stored.


Appetite regulation helps maintain healthy body weight, with hunger ensuring that people consume sufficient nutrients to match the body’s requirements. Dysregulation of appetite can lead to either obesity or malnutrition, which can have severe health consequences. Our body is naturally programmed to maintain our weight at a set point or level. When we eat food, hunger hormones reduce, and satiety hormones increase. When we control our food intake through diet, the hunger driving hormones increase, prompting us to eat more and regain the lost weight. Also, on losing weight, the levels of satiety hormones can change in an attempt to try and regain the lost weight. As a result, unless guided by an expert obesity management team, very few people may successfully be able to maintain their lost weight.

Mental health

An extremely important yet mostly ignored correctable risk factor for obesity is an individual’s psychological health. Think about what happened to your eating pattern or appetite when you experienced emotions like stress, low mood, tiredness, anger, happiness etc. Yes! The smile on your face tells me that you did experience a change in your eating patterns. Hence, a positively motivated mental state is mandatory for not just achieving weight loss but also maintaining it.


Certain medications like anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, and steroids can cause very significant weight gain. This is why it is important to share the details of these drugs and any medications or health supplements you take, with your weight management physician.

Sleep patterns

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

It’s scientifically proven that inadequate or improper sleep patterns directly impact hunger, appetite and satiety. It also has a negative effect on obesity-related complications like diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea. Hence, good sleep hygiene goes a long way in keeping our body in balance and multiplies the benefits of other weight-loss strategies like diet, exercise and weight loss medicines.


A very common point of discontent, dissatisfaction or demotivation that many people face is the unequal relationship between exercise and weight loss. I often hear from my patients that they honestly do exercise and are unhappy that they don’t lose ‘X’ weight. Let me explain and give you motivation to bounce back with a vengeance!

Every individual responds differently to weight-loss strategies, including exercise. Some lose more… some lose less with the same routine. The energy expenditure through exercise depends on the duration and intensity. Once you are on the path of progressively losing weight, your muscles become more energy-efficient, that is they require and burn lesser calories for a certain amount of work or exercise.

Should you then increase the intensity of your workout to burn more calories? Excess or extreme exercise may severely fatigue or harm your muscles. It is advisable to stay cautious of this thought or action. Instead, let’s turn around the understanding of exercise and start believing and practising exercise for its health benefits first! And happily adopt an integrated intervention to keep on losing weight.

Why is losing weight so difficult?

At present, environmental factors like less space for exercise and physical well-being, high costs associated with healthy fresh foods, easy accessibility (food apps) to lower costing energy-dense foods, and what we see, feel, and smell, all work together to promote weight gain and obesity.

Let me share a very common example. Imagine you are coming home from a hectic day at work, after getting stuck in traffic, loaded with stress, anxiety, anger, tiredness and other emotions that spike your appetite. You reach home and your mind wants a ‘sugar rush’ and an ‘instantly gratifying treat’. You pick up your smartphone and open the food ordering application. You get carried away by the brilliant infographics of energy-dense foods. You choose your ‘soul food’, a dish you know will satisfy your craving. It is delivered ASAP! And it’s eaten faster than it was delivered!

Yummy in your Tummy! Before long, your eyelids begin to droop. You feel sleepy now, and all the ideas of a post-meal workout or walk, are instantly abandoned. Before long, you begin to GAIN WEIGHT. It is now a self-perpetuation cycle! Be aware and cautious of the “Socio-demographic-nutritional-environmental-emotional” transitions happening globally, to protect yourself from the obesity trap!

What should you focus on when starting your weight loss journey?

Weight loss is not merely an aesthetic goal but is focused on providing you with a healthy and happy quantity and quality of life. A program that focuses on ‘weight management for health’ will guide and support you to successfully reach, prevent and help treat the ‘4 M’ destinations of your weight loss journey.

These ‘4 M’s’ include:

  • Metabolic health: sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, fatty liver, PCOS.
  • Mechanical aspects: like snoring, sleep apnea, hyperacidity or acid reflux, knee problems like osteoarthritis
  • Mental health: better self-esteem, personal, social, professional excellence, happy body image
  • Monetary benefits: from a healthy and productive lifestyle.

A successful obesity programme is envisioned to provide you with these benefits and the best possible level of comfort and convenience.

So go ahead, spend weight, and earn health!

The author is a Consultant, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Medanta – The Medicity, Gurugram. Views are personal.

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