By Consultant Dietitian, Dharini Krishnan
Ideal weight for an adult depends on the person’s height, weight, age, the frame of the body and genetic makeup. An average adult of height 160 cms should weigh around 58 to 62 Kgs. Currently, in India, we are facing a problem where children are grossly obese and weight reduction is done the wrong way. The waist-hip ratio of adolescents is out of proportion. The reason for this is lack of exercise and wrong eating habits.
Reasons for overweight starting from Infancy:
Pregnant women do not take care of themselves the right way. Most women are working and hence do not have time to eat a balanced meal. With the advent of nuclear families, women are alone and are not aware of how to handle themselves during pregnancy.
It is a new experience for them. Unfortunately today women depend on doctors for advice rather than taking advice from the elder women in the house. Doctors do not have the time to give the dietary advice to the women. Young mothers need a lot of moral support.
Women today due to lack of physical exercise at the home resort to gyms or swimming pools or squash courts to keep their body fit. Most women are worried about losing their fitness due to pregnancy and hence eat too little. This leads to the birth of small infants, and most often premature.
To make up for the growth, the infant is fed huge amounts of cereal and top feed. This leads to an increase in fat cells in the children. The total number of fat cells in the body is formed before the age of two. If at this age the fat cells are increased, whatever the adolescent does it would be difficult to reduce the excess weight at adolescence or at adulthood. Women should eat well between the 4th month and 8th month of pregnancy. This will assure proper growth of the infant. An average Indian child should be 6lbs to 7.5 lbs. at birth.
Reasons for pre-schoolers being overweight:
Working mothers often have to leave their two month or 3-month-old infants and go to work. These infants need constant care and are looked after by grandmothers or aayah’s or crèches. And in some cases, when the care isn’t given right, the infant is encouraged to crawl less, or walk less by putting the child in the stroller or play pen, or propped in front of the television. Hence the child’s physical activity is curbed at such a playpen.
Toddlers eat every three hours and need a variety in their dietary pattern. Invariably except for one or two meals, instant or fast foods are encouraged. These are rich in calories and fat.
This obese toddler turns out to be an obese school going child. His habits as regards eating patterns or exercise do not change. In fact the child starts demanding more and more junk foods and does less and less physical exercise. It requires a strict parent to give the right combination of foods so that the child grows into a healthy and active child.
How obesity influences weight reduction:
Once the child becomes an adolescent the craving “to look good” sets in. Boys want to look smart with a lot of muscle and girls want to be slim and beautiful. For these reasons, they resort to dieting. They pick up clues from the environment. Follow clues which they get through reading. The most commonly followed practices for weight reduction are as follows:
Crash Diets -do they help in weight reduction?
- Only fruits for 20 or 25 days and then back to normal eating
- Only protein foods no carbohydrates. Dhals, egg, milk and milk products.
- Only vegetables other than root vegetables. In raw form or cooked form ( with very little oil), or home made soups.
- Living on fruits and fruit juices without sugar.
- One piece of cheese or fresh vegetable salad are alternatives for one meal. The other meals are skipped.
- Drinking some mixed juice which claims to contain all the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). It contains some gel which fills the stomach.
- Any of the above mentioned diets can be followed for a few weeks after which the children or adults get bored and resort to normal eating patterns.
Side effects of Crash Dieting or Starving:
When the body looses weight and then regains weight there is more harm done to the body than help. The fat in the body does not get removed. Waxing and waning is a trauma for the body. One should follow a regular balanced diet, reduce weight and maintain the correct weight.
Tips for weight reduction:
- Eat at least two balanced meals per day. Balanced meal should have a main dish prepared form of rice, wheat, ragi(finger millet), bajra, corn etc. Vegetables and protein in the form of dal or non-vegetarian foods (in gravy form and only once a week).
- Snack in between with fresh fruits without added sweeteners.
- Vegetable salads without any dressings are good in betweens.
- Preference for non-vegetarians towards fish or chicken in boiled form. If used in gravy there should be no coconut in the preparation.
- Reduce oil in cooking.
- Roasted and boiled foods are preferred to baked foods.
- Fried foods should be use frugally.
- Fill up with thin butter milk, lime juice with salt.
- Drink a lot of water between meals.
- Sprouts and sundal will make good interesting snacks.
- Sprouts can be made interesting by adding onion, tomato, green chillies and lime juice.
- Follow a consistent exercise pattern such as 45 minutes walk, or 30 minute non-stop fast swim, or 1 hour work at the gym.