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Overfat & undernourished
When we hear that an individual is malnourished, most of us would picture someone who’s starving – a wisp of a person who appears to be simply wasting away. Certainly, people who lack adequate nutrients and calories are malnourished, but malnutrition can exist even when calories are plentiful – it just requires too much food with little nutritional value. So here’s a new word for your vocabulary: “malnubesity”. A merger of malnutrition and obesity sounds like a conflict in terms, but, in fact, malnubesity is real – many of us are overfat and undernourished.
How did we get here? We need to look at our evolutionary history for an explanation. Our prehistoric ancestors needed to eat a lot of food in order to meet their calorie needs. For one thing, they were extremely active – burning thousands of calories a day in their constant quest for food. And, their plant-rich diet didn’t have abundant sources of concentrated calories – think added fats and sugars – like we do today.
Our ancestors also had to eat a lot of plant foods in order to get vitamins and antioxidants that their bodies didn’t manufacture. Producing your own vitamins would be an expensive process, calorie-wise. So we were designed to obtain our vitamins from the diet – rather than spending energy to make them – so that more calories could be put to better use in fueling energy-hungry brains.
Human evolution, then, had to design a way to encourage us to take in highly palatable, high calorie foods in order to ensure that we’d meet our needs for nutrients and energy. So we developed a sophisticated reward system – one in which the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain is stimulated by calorie-dense foods, encouraging us to eat more of them.
In other words, we’re hard-wired – and rewarded – to eat foods that will give us the most calories per bite, and to ensure we’ll get all nutrition we need. That’s fine if you’re roaming around in environment laden with plant foods and low fat protein sources. In fact, it’s actually hard to overeat on a diet like this, because the fiber and protein are so satisfying.
But in the modern world, our food supply is overloaded with highly processed, high calorie, appetizing foods that are lacking in vital nutrients. And since we have the neural pathways that encourage us to eat them – and even reward us for doing so – we’re more than happy to comply.
As a result, many of us have become overfed and undernourished. With a diet that supplies an excess of calories and a shortage of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, our health is going to suffer. A little extra padding is one thing, but malnubesity encourages fat to settle in places it doesn’t normally go – surrounding vital organs, like the liver or pancreas, then forcing its way inside cells and significantly affecting how these organs perform.
We’re designed to be incredibly active, but our calorie needs don’t hold a candle to those of our ancestors. Many of us work in situations that hardly require us to move at all. We’re also built to consume as much high-quality food that nature can provide, but we live in what’s been called an ‘obesogenic’ environment – we’re surrounded by easy-to-get, highly processed, high calorie foods.
This mismatch between our genetics and our lifestyle is what’s led to this paradox of malnutrition coupled with obesity. We eat exactly opposite of the way we’re supposed to. We should be taking in lots of plant foods and lean proteins that will maximize nutritional quality at a relatively low calorie cost.
And we’ve got to get off the couch, too. Most of us don’t burn 6000 calories a day – but we sure eat as if we do.
Kids & breakfast real life advice
Kids and breakfast – it’s an uneasy alliance. On a typical school day, breakfast often gets shelved in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep, an “I’m not hungry” claim, or a waiting school bus. And when they do eat, parents pat themselves on the back because, ‘at least they ate something’ before their kids went charging out the door. But just because a belly is full, doesn’t mean the brain and muscles are getting the fuel they need.
Recently, Herbalife sponsored a survey* among parents of children aged 6-12, to get an idea of how many kids usually have breakfast at home in the morning before going off to school, and also to find out what they’re typically eating. Of the more than 1100 parents surveyed nationwide, 73 percent said that their kids ate breakfast at home every day before going off to school – while only about 5 percent reported that their kids always skipped it.
That was the good news. But what the kids were eating cast a bit of a shadow on the findings. Most kids were having plenty of refined carbs with their morning meals, but not much protein. And fruit intake was pretty scanty, too.
Kids’ top breakfast choices were refined grain products – foods like cold cereal, waffles, pancakes, toast and bagels. Fewer than half of those surveyed said that their kids typically ate protein-rich foods like eggs or yogurt in the morning, and only 41 percent said that their kids ate fruit before leaving for school.
There’s more to breakfast than a full stomach. Kids need healthy carbohydrates –like whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits – to provide fuel to active muscles and busy brains. And a good shot of protein in the morning – from foods like eggs and low fat dairy products – not only keeps kids from getting too hungry, it also helps to keep them mentally alert. A recent USDA report said that our kids aren’t getting nearly enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium or fiber in their diets – all of which could be supplied by a breakfast that included fruit, dairy products and whole grains.
We’re all busy in the morning – and so it may be tempting to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making sure that kids eat. If they say they’re not hungry, why push? If they’re in a rush, busy parents may find it easier – or believe it’s faster – to pick something up than to help kids put together a healthy breakfast at home.
But I wonder.
The newsstand I walk to every morning is right next to a donut shop and around the corner from my neighborhood elementary school. I’m always astonished at how many parents are buying their grade-school kids greasy donuts and sugary coffee drinks at 7:30 in the morning. Does it really take that much longer to prepare a bowl of high-fiber cereal and fruit, to make a slice of whole grain toast to be eaten with a carton of yogurt, or whip up a quick protein smoothie in the blender?
*Survey of US adult population, conducted by Synovate eNation, 9-15-2010 through 9-24-2010, margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.
Food cravings & your body
Are food cravings really the body’s way of telling us we’re lacking certain nutrients? The belief holds that nature creates these strong and specific food cravings so we’ll consume the necessary foods to make up the deficit.
It seems like a logical connection – that pregnant women, for example, must crave ice cream because they lack calcium, or pickles because they need sodium. Or that we turn to chocolate to cheer us up because it supplies us with compounds that are supposedly lost during a crying bout.
But scientific studies discount these notions and instead say that cravings – specifically, the intense desire for a particular food, drink or taste – are triggered not by nutritional shortages, but by a more complex set of circumstances.
Yes, chocolate does have some biologically active compounds. Two of them – phenylethylamine and anandamide – could potentially trigger the release of mood enhancing chemicals in the brain, but there’s so little found in chocolate that it’s doubtful there’s enough to have much effect. On top of that, they’re broken down during the digestive process so it’s unlikely that they reach the brain intact – which is the only way they’d do any good.
Pregnant women do yearn for foods that are very sweet, spicy or salty. But it’s thought that these food cravings are driven not by any specific nutritional need – that instead they reflect a natural drive put there by Mother Nature. In ancient times, when food was scarce, a craving for highly palatable foods would help boost calorie intake and ensure a healthy pregnancy. Nowadays, getting enough calories is usually not the problem. But pregnant women may be using cultural norms – they’re ‘eating for two’ – to support giving in to their urges for high calorie fare.
In another blow to the theory that nutritional deficits drive food cravings to replace the nutrient in question, it’s been well documented that some women who are iron deficient will eat huge amounts of ice – which is virtually iron-free. My mother-in-law used to do this. When she was going through menopause, she’d munch through two trays of ice cubes during the evening news. It’s not known why low iron stores trigger this craving, but the yearnings usually go away when the iron deficiency is corrected.
So it looks as if it’s the complexity of the individual – not so much the complexity of foods – that sparks these strong urges. We’re influenced by personal, physiological and social pressures in making food choices, and we may use cravings as a way to justify their consumption.
Ice doesn’t repair an iron shortage, but some people apparently derive pleasure from chewing it. Pregnant women don’t crave ice cream because they need calcium – they crave it because it’s delicious and because its consumption is sanctioned during pregnancy. It’s not just the bioactive compounds in chocolate that we ‘need’. We crave chocolate because it’s such an amazing sensory experience– it’s sweet, smooth, creamy, aromatic – and extremely pleasurable to eat. And since it’s loaded with fat and calories, it’s a sinful, forbidden food, too – which just makes it that much more appealing.
Are you a supertaster
Do you turn your nose up at black coffee? Can’t stand bitter foods like broccoli, spinach or green tea? If so, you might be a supertaster. Thanks to an extra bunch of taste buds on the tip of your tongue, these bitter flavors taste more strongly to you than they do to most people. It’s been said that, for a supertaster, experiencing flavor is like feeling objects with 50 fingers instead of five.
It’s been known for nearly a century that people differ in their perception of bitter tastes in foods. But not until relatively recently have scientists traced the origin to small genetic differences among people – variations in a taste gene that explains why about a quarter of us (the supertasters) are highly sensitive to bitter taste, while the rest of us either don’t respond much at all to bitter taste, or at least don’t find it particularly unpleasant.
No one knows why, but women are more likely to be supertasters than men. Most parents probably assume that their children are super-tasters, given that so many children have an aversion to vegetables. But with kids, there are other factors at work that lead them to turn up their noses at brussel sprouts.
If you’re a supertaster, it can be a challenge to enjoy the health benefits of foods like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tea and soy –foods like these are literally bitter pills to swallow. But there are a few tricks that do seem to work.
A bit of salt helps to block the bitter taste of foods, so a dash of soy sauce or a sprinkle of garlic salt on bitter spinach can work wonders. Rather than trying to choke down raw broccoli, cauliflower and other bitter vegetables, many find that steaming them lightly makes them more palatable. Softer, loose-leaf cabbage varieties – like bok choi and napa – are often milder in flavor than the full-bodied round-headed types. Sometimes adding a little bit of fat helps, too. Stir-frying vegetables in a dash of flavorful olive or sesame oil, or adding avocado to a salad of deep green spinach, can take the edge off the taste.
On the plus side, many supertasters are sensitive not only to bitter tastes – they often also find sweet foods too sweet and very fatty foods unpalatable. As a result, they may eat less fat and sugar than most of us – and that could reduce their risk of obesity and heart disease.
Why I love Farmer’s Markets
Farmer’s Markets help you mark the changing seasons with fresh, local produce.
I know that it’s easier to simply buy all your food in one place, but the supermarket can’t give you that sense of local, seasonal eating the way your Farmer’s Market can. The whole idea of eating what’s in season can get lost on the average supermarket shopper.
Our grocery stores offer us produce from all over the world – all the time – just to satisfy our desires for fresh peaches in the dead of December or apples in July.
And as anyone who lives in Southern California knows, identifying the seasons here isn’t all that clear-cut. I think we basically have two seasons – warmer and cooler – but one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. We can have gloom in June and major heat waves during Halloween – and we mark the seasons by the calendar, not the weather.
So it wasn’t until I became a regular at my local Farmer’s Market that I started to figure it out. I started marking the seasons by the foods that were available and the subtle changes in the offerings from week to week. I’ve come to anticipate the first Brooks cherries that arrive before the Bings and I love to note how different the early May Pride peaches taste compared to the O’Henry’s that arrive in August.
It’s great finding new foods and new varieties to try – and it’s such a fantastic way to introduce more fruits and vegetables into the diet. Now, rather relying on navel oranges all winter, I switch to tart, deep-red Moro blood oranges in March. This week I’m eating baby purple artichokes – something I’d be hard-pressed to find at my local grocery store. Switching it up not only helps to beat the boredom, but there’s more nutritional benefit to be had from a wider variety, too.
If you’re not a regular, start by visiting your Farmer’s Market and buying something you’ve never tried – or at least a new variety of a food that you haven’t eaten before. Then, be thankful to the farmers for introducing you to foods they’ve chosen to grow – not because they look perfect or travel well – but simply because they taste so good.
Trans fat free Healthy or not
Just because foods have less fat, sugar, or calories doesn’t make them healthy foods.
Remember when carbs were the bad guys? The food manufacturers do, I’m sure. A few years back, when everyone was doing the Atkins thing, we were deluged with everything from the impossible-sounding low-carb bread to carb-counter’s chocolate fudge. Trouble was, everyone was too focused on the details – in keeping close tabs on their carbs, they lost track of calories. And many of them gained weight.
The latest nutritional example of not ‘seeing the forest for the trees’, has to do with trans fats. As concerns have emerged about the negative health consequences of consuming these primarily man-made fats, food manufacturers have been falling all over themselves to eliminate trans fats from their products.
But on the heels of all this culinary re-engineering came concerns that food manufacturers were simply replacing trans fats in their cakes and cookies with equally bad-for-you saturated fats.
Not to worry, says a recent report. After reviewing 58 reformulated foods from the supermarket and 25 fast-food restaurant offerings, it was found that the new-and-improved foods had significantly less trans fats. On top of that, 65% of the supermarket foods and 90% of the restaurant foods had saturated fat levels that were lower, unchanged or only slightly higher than before. That sounds like good news.
But here’s the catch. The foods in the survey included margarine, French fries, fish sticks, cookies, donuts, cakes, fried chicken, burgers and burritos – not exactly a catalogue of health foods. Reducing the trans fats in fried chicken is like spiking root beer with vitamins – just because it’s “better”, doesn’t make it good for you.
Sure, reducing trans fats in foods is good idea. But you’d also eat a lot fewer trans fats if you just ate less margarine, French fries, fish sticks, cookies, donuts, cakes, fried chicken, burgers and burritos.
You can bet you won’t get any trans fats if you swap in a fresh peach for dessert instead of a cream-filled vanilla cupcake. Here’s what else you won’t get: bleached white flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial flavors, a laundry list of preservatives, two teaspoons of grease and five teaspoons of sugar.
We need to look at foods as a whole, not as a source (or not) of individual ingredients that we’re trying to eat more of (or avoid). Whole natural foods are complex mixtures of all sorts of good things – designed and packaged as mother nature intended.
Flabby arms? Here’s how to get rid of upper arm fat
Do you know what a ‘bingo wing’ is? What about a ‘flabby flapper’? If you have no idea, then you probably don’t have an area of loose musculature at the top of your arms. Plenty of people do however, and it can be a major confidence drain.
This week, I’ll work through how you can regain upper arms to make you proud instead of ‘chicken wings’, ‘whale flippers’ or ‘granny second waves’.
Both men and women can have a tendency to store fat on their upper arms and if that applies to you then, don’t worry, we can tackle the issue with some key exercises. You may also feel that your upper arms are saggy if you’ve lost weight and have excess skin in this area but, again, don’t worry, my advice addresses this too. Together, we will wave goodbye to arm jiggle and show off our toned and defined biceps and triceps.
Although you can’t command your body to lose fat from a specific area, a variety of weighted toning exercises can help you improve your muscle mass. I recommend combining bursts of general fat burning cardio vascular activity with upper arm focused strength exercises, and you will be showing off your newly sculpted guns and saying goodbye to unsightly bingo wings in no time at all.
It’s easy to add in some upper body exercises throughout the day at home or at work. You don’t even need to use heavy weights; a simple full water bottle or cans from the pantry can be a good starting point. In the workplace, you can try using using paperweights or a ream of photocopy paper.
You might also want to consider investing in small sand bags as these can be great tools to help you start toning up. I can also recommend resistance bands as these stretchy ribbons are a light weight solution for adding resistance workouts to your day, they are inexpensive and light weight so you can take one almost anywhere and, although it’s a different feeling than weights, the resistance created is just as effective for toning your body.
Focus on toning up and building your strength:
Building strong biceps, triceps and shoulders will give you muscle definition and rid you of an arm that continues to move long after you stopped waving.
Try focusing on movements that mimic everyday tasks. Sculpting your arms can be as simple as placing books on a shelf! Try to do exercises that are consistent with your body’s needs. If your job requires you to lift objects throughout the day, then getting strong through stretching and exercise can make your day easier. Excessive direct overhead movements are often not necessary and can cause stress on your shoulder joints so keep your movements in front of you.
The benefits of gaining a little muscle:
There are several benefits of gaining additional muscle mass. The most exciting being that your body will naturally burn extra calories all day long in order to sustain your new muscle. You will also find that the additional strength you will gain from lifting weights can help you with your day-to-day tasks and weight-bearing exercise has been linked to considerable improvement in bone density. Resistance training is recommended by ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) as it is especially beneficial for an aging population.
Focusing on upper arm strength-building for just 10 minutes a day will soon pay off.
Dedicating a small amount of time each day to upper body resistance training, and avoiding the trap of spending hours a day in the gym, can help you reap the benefits without the severe muscle soreness that over exercising a specific body part can give you.
Try to dedicate 10 minutes a day to an arm exercise routine and remember to stretch both before and after you exercise to avoid injury and tight muscles. It’s amazing how quickly your body can respond to resistance training.
There are many effective exercises that focus on the upper arm. Try a combination of bicep curls, bent over rows, tricep kickbacks, shoulder presses and plank holds.
The tricep kickback is one of my favorites as it focuses on the back of your arms and the tricep can be overlooked in favor of the much more famous bicep.
How to do a tricep kickback correctly
– Choose some weights that are suitable for your fitness level and hold one in each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend yourknees and hinge your back forward slightly so that you are looking at the floor in front of you and your back is at a 45-degree angle.
– Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, so that your hands are in front of you and keep you arms tightly tucked into your sides.
– Extend your arms back behind you and slowly straighten your arms; you will start to feel your triceps working as you lift the weight behind you. Hold the lift for two seconds and return to your starting position and repeat. If you want to intensify the work turn your palms upward.
– Try to do 10 reps per arm but stop if you feel uncomfortable.
You can do this exercise with both arms at the same time or you can do it firstwith one arm and then the other. If you prefer to work one arm at a time, be sure to place your dumbbell free hand on your thigh and use a staggered stance to help keep your back in a neutral position.
There are so many health benefits to be gained from a balanced combination of diet and exercise. I believe that taking a little time each day to focus on yourself is never a bad thing and with a consistent approach, you’ll soon be waving goodbye to sagging arms with an arm wave that stops when you stop.
What’s the best-for-your burger?
Burgers will probably never have a reputation as a health food, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about what you slap between two halves of a burger bun. The concept – some meat (or meatlike) product, condiments, and the equivalent of a couple of slices of bread – doesn’t have to fly in the face of healthy eating.
Let’s start with the patty. Some people have been known to choose a fish sandwich over a traditional burger – figuring that fish is always better than beef. This is true as long as the fish is grilled or broiled. But if the fish is fried – and slathered with tartar sauce – then the grilled beef burger is the clear winner, with half the fat and a third fewer calories.
It’s a common assumption that poultry products are always better than beef – and that’s generally true. Most cuts of poultry are leaner than beef and have less saturated fat.
You’ll need to pay attention to your ground turkey labels, though. Regular” ground turkey – which is what most people buy– actually has about the same amount of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol as extra lean ground beef.
But if you use ground turkey breast, you’ll come out way ahead. When you use this in place of extra lean ground beef or regular ground turkey, you’ll save 40 calories and 6 grams of fat.
In most restaurants, you’re unlikely to get a burger made with extra lean ground beef because it tends to be dry and not as flavorful. So if you’re craving a burger at a restaurant, you’re better off with a turkey burger if it’s available.
Veggie burger patties can be a good option – they average about 100 calories and about 2 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. But they’re small, so many people need two in order to fill up – and that doubles the calories. Veggie burgers also have a lot less protein (5 grams or so per patty) compared to the nearly 20 grams you’d get in a ground turkey breast burger.
Consider the rest of the sandwich, too. If whole grain burger buns are an option, so much the better. If your low-fat patties are dry, don’t ‘wrong a right’ by adding greasy condiments (like mayo) or cheese. Opt for ketchup, mustard, steak sauce or barbecue sauce and load up on watery veggies like lettuce and tomato to add moisture.
Watch what you eat does TV make you fat
A recent article in the LA Times carried a headline that said, in effect, that watching television makes you gain weight.
No news there – after all, unless you’re doing sprints across the living room while watching your favorite show, you’re not burning calories.
But it isn’t television itself that’s the problem (although we often add insult to injury by snacking while we watch – more on that later). Simply sitting for long periods – whether it’s in front of the big screen or the little one – leads to biochemical changes in the way the body stores fat and sugar that negatively impact health.
We humans were designed to have an active lifestyle. We share our genetics with our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors who spent many hours a day searching for food. We’re meant to be active all day long, and our biology is adapted to a high level of physical activity. So when our behavior (sitting all day) goes counter to the way we were designed (engaging in lots of physical activity), our biology works against us.
If you’re watching the big screen, don’t couple the (in)activity with snacks. If you can, set up your TV at home so you can stretch, walk on the treadmill or lift weights while you watch. If you spend the day in front of the computer, deliver messages to nearby colleagues in person rather than by phone or e-mail. You can also try sitting on a stability ball or walking on a treadmill at a slow pace while you work.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife. This post is originally posted here
Diseases and Facts of being Overweight
In today’s world everyone has changed own lifestyle. Our fore fathers worked hard to live or to get food and nowadays it is readily or instantly available to everyone. Working style and less hard work has grown health problems widely around the globe.
Carrying around excess weight to the point of being obese is becoming an epidemic worldwide. While one of the initial concerns with obesity is usually all about how you look and how you feel about yourself as a person, the longer the problem exists for you the more medical problems are going to arise, some of which can be fatal, so take action now to change yourself.
Obesity is a growing concern especially because overweight rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents. This increases the number of years that they are exposing themselves to dangerous health risks associated with obesity. While it is difficult to truly predict the future impact of obesity, there is strong scientific agreement that obesity significantly increases the risk of serious chronic diseases and contributes to overall mortality.
Here are 20 diseases or conditions that can be attributed to obesity:
1. Diabetes which is a disorder where the pancreas is not producing enough or sometimes not any insulin. Diabetes can lead to a whole host of other medical issues and obesity is one of the main causes due to the body having excess glucose due to overeating.
2. Cancer has many different forms and types and many of them could be prevented with more attention to eating healthy and avoiding obesity.
3. Congestive Heart Failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to the body’s other organs.
4. Enlarged Heart is another heart condition where the muscle of the heart become larger due to being overworked which naturally happens if you are overweight.
5. Pulmonary Embolism is a sometimes fatal blockage of an artery. Being overweight causes most people to reduce activity and after time lack of activity can result in an embolism.
6. Polycyclic Ovarian Syndrome is when cysts develop in your ovaries. These can burst causing even further problems.
7. Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease means that stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach back up into the esophagus. It is common in overweight people.
8. Fatty Liver Disease is a reversible condition where large pockets of fat accumulate in liver cells. Fatty liver can be considered a single disease that occurs worldwide in those with excessive alcohol intake and those who are obese.
9. Hernia is caused when the hole in the diaphragm weakens and enlarges.
10. Erectile Dysfunction is the inability to develop or maintain an erection which can be caused by a medical problem due to obesity or a psychological effect.
11. Urinary Incontinence is the inability to control ones urine and is frequently associated with obesity, weak bladder and pelvic floor muscles
12. Chronic Renal Failure meaning the kidneys fail to work is a much greater risk to those that are overweight or obese.
13. Lymph edema is a condition that occurs from a damaged or dysfunctional lymphatic system sometimes caused by people suffering from obesity actually crushing the lymphatic.
14. Cellulitis is clinically a spreading infection involving both the dermis and subcutaneous tissues due poor lymph flow caused by obesity.
15. Stroke is a lack of blood supply as the body has to work harder when you are obese.
16. Pickwickian Syndrome is mainly characterized by sleep apnea due to obesity placing an excessive load on the pulmonary system.
17. Depression is a condition where a person feels extremely sad all the time. Even to the point of being suicidal. This can be greatly enhanced for someone that has a weight problem.
18. Osteoarthritis is a clinical syndrome in which low-grade inflammation results in pain in the joints, caused by abnormal wearing of the cartilage oftentimes due to obesity.
19. Gout occurs when uric acid accumulates in the blood. Nerve endings then become irritated causing extreme pain made worse by carrying extra weight.
20. Gallbladder Disease commonly affects overweight people as a result of high blood cholesterol levels and causes gall stones.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General report, obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths every year in the U.S. The National Center for Health statistics estimates that sixty three percent of Americans are overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in excess of 25.0. What people don’t know is that many cases of obesity are related to some kind of food intolerance. Eighty to ninety percent of North Americans have some sort of food allergy or intolerance. Eating these foods can result in many symptoms, one of which being weight gain. Many of the foods that people react to are not the junk food you might be thinking of but actually healthy foods that we may be eating because we are on a diet!
The figures mentioned above are for America but same case applies for other countries. The percentage in each country is different but it is growing every day in every country. This is worldwide issue and you can change it personally.
Wherever you live? We will help you how to make change. Contact us for more details.
Quick guide to body composition, lean body mass and body fat
Body composition analysis can tell you a how much fat and how much lean body mass you have, and help you find your best weight. The term body composition is mentioned by registered dietitians like me all the time, but what does body composition mean? Let me explain…
You’ve probably seen charts in your doctor’s office that provide a rough idea of what you should weigh. These charts take into account your weight, your height, your frame size and your gender – and then provide an estimate of an appropriate weight for you. At best, the charts can only classify you as underweight, at a proper weight, or overweight, based on your frame size. But what the charts don’t take into account is your body composition – that is, how much lean body mass you have, and how much fat you have.
Body Composition 101
Your Body’s Two Parts
You can think of your total body weight (or body composition) as being made up of two parts – one part is your body fat, and the other part is your lean body mass. And, your body fat can be further divided into two types – one type is termed essential fat, while the other is called storage fat.
Body Fat and Lean Body Mass
Essential fat is made up of a very small amount of fat that is stored in organs – the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines – as well in muscle tissue, in tissues throughout the central nervous system and in the bone marrow. It is termed essential fat because the body requires this fat in order to maintain normal bodily processes such as temperature regulation, shock absorption and energy production. Women, by the way, have more essential body fat than men do because of the body’s need to store energy in the form of fat to support childbearing and other hormone-related functions.
Storage fat, on the other hand, is the fat that serves to cushion the internal organs (called visceral fat, or abdominal fat) and the fat that lies just beneath the skin surface (subcutaneous fat) that serves to cushion the skeleton and conserve body heat. Excess accumulation of visceral fat is associated with various health concerns, which is one reason why it’s important to keep body fat within a healthy range.
Lean Body Mass is simply everything that’s not fat – so this component includes your bones, organs, muscles, ligaments, tendons and fluids.
Lean mass and fat mass are made up of two entirely different types of cells and tissues – which is why (even though people say this all the time) muscle can’t “turn into fat”. If you stop exercising your muscles, it might seem as if that’s happened – without resistance training to maintain your muscle mass, your muscles can become smaller, which can make the fat on the surface more apparent. But just as you can’t change a liver cell into a skin cell, you can’t change a muscle cell into a fat cell.
Thin or Lean? Overfat or Overweight?
Body composition analysis provides useful information that can be used to distinguish between someone who is “thin” and someone who is “lean” as well as someone who is “overfat” and someone who is “overweight”.
For instance, someone who weighs less than a height and weight table suggests would be classified as “thin” – according to the table. But, since body composition isn’t taken into account by the height and weight table, that person could actually be carrying excess body fat – in which case they’d actually be “overfat”.
On the other hand, someone who weighs more than a height and weight table suggests would be classified as “overweight”. But, again, since body composition isn’t taken into account, that person could be actually have a low body fat percentage (such as an athlete who has a lot of muscle) – in which case they’d actually be “lean”.
This is important, because it is excess body fat – not simply excess weight – that has an impact on an individual’s overall health and well-being. Healthy body fat levels are around 15% for men and 22% for women, but these values will vary depending on your age. And, while it’s true that having excess body fat can put your health at risk, you do need to carry some body fat, because it performs some important body functions.
Achieving Your Best Weight and Shape
A proper diet and exercise program can help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and shape. A proper exercise program can help to build and maintain muscle mass, and therefore increase the body’s lean mass. At the same time, a weight management program can also help to reduce overall body fat – but keep in mind that you can’t “target” your fat loss or “spot reduce”. Yes, if you do a lot of exercise that targets your abs or your legs, you’ll tone the muscles underneath – and that will make you look slimmer. But when you lose body fat, you lose it more or less uniformly. If you start out heavy and curvy and then lose weight, you’ll probably keep your curves. And, if you’re built without much of a waistline, you can’t really create one – no matter how many situps you do. When you lose body fat, your basic shape will be more or less the same – only smaller.
This post is originally written by Susan Bowerman
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