Practice healthy food indulgence to prevent early-onset of obesity

Obesity has been a worldwide problem for the last decade and a half. During the pandemic, there has been a steep increase in obesity and inactivity. Post pandemic many people have woken up to the fact that increasing obesity has become an immediate danger not just to themselves but to their whole family. With waistlines increasing rapidly, addiction to junk food continuing, sedentary life is becoming common – there is a higher risk of early-onset obesity. Obesity is associated with a plethora of problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, metabolic syndrome etc. Unless stringent measures are not taken obesity will become a problem that will be uncontrollable. Many people are morbidly obese and reached a point where diet and exercise don’t help them. Hence bariatric surgery is on the rise. Before this becomes common, here are a few things that we can try.

Ultra-processed foods, junk food, food delivery services and sedentary lifestyle have all contributed to a rapid increase in obesity rates, especially during the pandemic. Although now most people are back to their regular work and lives, the weight they gained during the pandemic still remains. So how do we shift the paradigm?

Such a big change needs a change in mindset and plenty of guidelines to help people get fitter. Healthy eating should be taken as a challenge by the whole family and the focus should be on healthy food indulgence. The whole family should support and motivate each other. One of the first steps is to identify unhealthy or junk food. For this reading nutrition labels and understanding how fast food chains process food is extremely important. After identifying unhealthy food, it becomes important to remove it from the house. Many home and office environments are obesogenic, ie, create a system conducive to obesity. It’s vital that the environments that you spend the most time in are conducive to healthy eating and prevent access to junk food.

The second important thing is portion control. Most individuals are used to stress eating. So even if they are eating fresh, home-cooked meals, the portion sizes are much bigger than what is recommended- which leads to weight gain. Understanding portion size becomes an important part of weight loss and maintenance. Even junk food and treats consumed in small portions once in a while will not lead to early onset obesity. With food delivery apps at our fingertips, many of us tend to order a lot more food than we need. This over a period of time leads to overconsumption and obesity. Also eating food regularly from restaurants means that there is a tendency to overindulge. Most restaurants also add excessive amounts of fats, oil and sugars to make the food palatable. This makes their patrons addicted to large amounts of food. What helps is to uninstall apps and limit going to restaurants. For some people, it also helps to select food wisely while ordering or eating at healthy restaurants. For others, it might be to set a budget for eating out and ordering in. It’s also about the quantity of the food.

Quantity of food is important quality is important too. Foods which contain empty calories such as candies, soft drinks etc. do not add positively to health and weight management. Empty calories are found in those foods which do not contribute anything nutritionally to the diet. Although many foods might not be empty calories, many foods substantially contain much more calories than nutrients. Substituting these with nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables goes a long way in practicing healthy indulgence. However, many people have this mindset that fruits and vegetables are mundane and boring. Working with a dietitian will help you figure out some exciting recipes which can help in long-term weight management.

Educating children and young adults about the importance of indulging sensibly, eating right, and exercising well goes a long way in helping reduce the burden of obesity. Nutrition education should start from a young age both in schools and at home. The best way to ensure that youngsters practice what is preached is by leading by example. Many schools also have their own kitchen garden which helps youngsters understand the importance of nutrition and to take pride in eating healthy. Educating is one of the best ways to reduce obesity by decreasing unhealthy indulgences.

While there is a lot of focus on cutting out unhealthy food, there is not much information on how to replace it with healthy versions. Moreover, the majority of the population has this belief that healthy food is unpalatable or not exciting enough. When people are taught the art of eating, the way they view food and the choices they make are completely different.

Mindfulness is an important part of practicing food indulgence. It is not only important to understand what we are eating and how to replace that with healthier options, but also why we are making unhealthy choices. Stress causes many of us to make unhealthy choices, and so does hormonal imbalance. With increasing work pressure, competition, traffic, late night assignments – all of this can add to stress which in turn makes individuals make unhealthy food choices. If mindfulness is practiced, it is easier firstly to identify that there is a problem and second that investigations into the root cause of the problem need to occur.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.