Feeling guilty about wasting that morsel on your plate, think again! Eating over your hunger, especially wanting to finish all on your plate can lead to added kilos at a huge price. The need to finish all that is on the plate comes from conditioned behaviour, rooted in our childhood.
Attitudes about food and eating inherited from our parents makes us dislike waste and ridden with guilt about hunger in poor children. It drives us to eating regardless of our hunger. This becomes a part of the conditioned food habit, we pass down to children like heirlooms. I find it such a common habit and hindrance to weight management. A penny wise, pound foolish approach not only leads to disruption of satiety signals but also extra calories, compounding obesity.
The price we pay is enormous, both individually and as a community. Obesity comes with a huge baggage to our health, economically and ecologically. Obesity is a predisposing risk factor that markedly increases the risk to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hypertension. People with obesity have double the risk of heart disease and stroke and more than triple the risk of diabetes, compared to those who are of normal weight.
A weight gain of 5-10 kgs increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes to twice that of individuals who have not gained the weight. The prevalence of degenerative arthritis, kidney and gall bladder stones, gout, varicose veins, chronic inflammation, reduced sleep and sleep apnea increases in proportion to the degree of excess weight. Obesity increases risk of some types of cancer-endometrial, colon, gall bladder, prostate and post-menopausal breast cancer. Research suggests that gaining as little as 2 kgs at the age of 50 years or later could increase the risk of breast cancer by 30 per cent. Overweight and obesity increases the risk of early puberty, polycystic ovaries, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility and complications in pregnancy like gestational diabetes and still births, low levels of testosterone and breast development in boys. It also increases the risk of birth defects and large babies.
Obesity also increases the risk to poor gastro-intestinal health, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, flatulence, hyper-acidity and nutritional deficiencies including Iron, Calcium, Vitamin A and D. Other complications include poor skin and hair health including acne, darkening of skin, hair fall, dandruff, brittle nails, fungal infection, athlete’s foot, depressed immune system, auto-immune disorders, allergies and sinusitis, poor bone health (osteoporosis / osteopenia) and easy fractures, poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression and stress.
The economic burden of obesity to an individual and a nation can hardly be exaggerated. Diseases related to obesity, lead to loss of productivity and are a burden on healthcare systems. Lost productivity due to diet-related diseases can be huge. Research in the US indicates that medical bills on account of ill-health due to obesity amounted to US $ 51.6 billion and led to a loss of productivity of US $ 3.9 billion. Not surprisingly, obese workers are twice as likely to miss work.
Ecologically, double size means double that carbon footprint! Estimates suggest that obese contribute 1 tonne of carbon dioxide of more than an average person in a year. In other words, a lean population of 1 billion would emit 1000 million tonne less CO2 compared to a super-sized one. Overweight people eat more, use more food and are more likely to avoid public transport (let’s not even get into walking from one place to the next) making it doubly bad for the environment. So, do not worry about leaving a morsel on your plate when pleasantly full and better still serve yourself only as much as you will be able to finish.
Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of http://www.theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India
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