Weight Management: Lifestyle Changes, Medication & More

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Lifestyle Changes and Medication
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Our habits and behaviours play a major role in determining our health. This is even truer when it comes to chronic and complex conditions like obesity. You must have heard doctors and fitness gurus say that lifestyle changes are the best way to treat obesity. Why is this so? What role does your lifestyle play in the development of obesity? What other treatment options are available for managing obesity? Let’s understand the importance of forming healthy habits and routines for treating obesity and transforming your health.

Contents:
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    What is Obesity?
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    What Factors Affect Weight Management?
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    What Role do Lifestyle Habits Play in Weight Management?
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    What are Some Other Options Available for Weight Management?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is Obesity?

Obesity is a complex medical condition characterised by the excessive and abnormal accumulation of fat in your body. It is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 kg/m2.

You can calculate your BMI by using the following formula:

Body Mass Index = Weight in kilograms ÷ Height in meters2

What Factors Affect Weight Management?

The main cause of obesity can be explained as consuming more calories than your body can burn. These excess calories then get stored in your body in the form of fat. 

However, obesity is a multifactorial disease that is influenced by many aspects, which include:

  • An unhealthy diet that is high in calories but low in nutrition
  • A sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise
  • Genetics and family history
  • Chronic stress that is poorly managed
  • Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, PCOS, Cushing’s syndrome, insulin resistance, arthritis, depression, etc
  • Certain medications that are used to treat conditions like depression, epilepsyType 2 Diabeteshypertension, allergies, etc.
  • Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, substance abuse, etc.
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What Role do Lifestyle Habits Play in Weight Management?

As weight gain is caused by consuming more calories or energy than you burn or spend, lifestyle habits and family history become major contributors to weight gain and obesity in most individuals. 

When talking about family history, the general assumption is that it refers to the genetic likelihood of inheriting a condition like obesity from parents. Most people fail to realise that family history also comprises the environmental factors present during childhood and behaviours that are learnt from close family members.

The lifestyle habits of the parents have a significant impact on the habits of children as they grow up. Most children have similar dietary habits and activity levels as their parents. Similarly, studies have also shown that children of parents who smoke or consume alcohol are twice as likely to pick up these habits from their parents later in life. This, along with a predisposition to obesity, which also runs in families, can affect your weight both as a child and an adult.

Thus, the habits and behaviours we are surrounded by as children can influence our behaviour and lifestyle as adults. Children of individuals with obesity are thus more likely to develop the condition due to genetics and behavioural risk factors learned from parents or family members at a young age.

The following are some of the key lifestyle factors that can contribute to weight gain and obesity:

Diet

Your dietary habits are a crucial aspect of managing obesity. Consuming foods that are rich in simple carbohydrates, saturated or trans fats, and added sugar is one of the primary causes of weight gain in most individuals.

Controlling your calorie intake is one of the easiest ways to lose weight. However, when talking about restricted calorie intake, it is important to not overdo it. Fad diets that severely restrict your food intake can do more harm than good as they often eliminate whole groups of foods from your diet. This could result in nutritional deficiencies, leading to several health issues.

Try to avoid foods that are rich in simple carbohydrates and empty calories, and instead replace them with nutrient-rich foods that are made up of protein, fibre, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. 

Portion control is also key to losing weight through diet. Knowing how much food you need to consume per meal is just as important as knowing which foods to eat. Portion control along with a well-balanced diet can help you manage your weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Consult your doctor or a nutritionist to formulate a healthy diet plan that works for you.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise and an active lifestyle are other key aspects of weight management. Exercise helps you burn more calories and boost your metabolism, both of which are essential for weight loss. Additionally, exercise also helps you avoid chronic illnesses and the complications associated with them.

Most experts recommend at least 30 to 60 min. of moderate-intensity physical activity every day, for 5 days a week to lose weight. If you are not used to exercising, start with multiple 10 to 15 min sessions and build up to 60 min of exercise gradually.

Include different types of exercise like cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises for an overall improvement in your physical fitness. Consult a fitness expert or a physiotherapist to formulate an exercise plan that promotes sustainable weight loss.

Stress Management

When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol in response. Cortisol can lead to insulin resistance in your cells, as well as redistribution of fat around your abdomen, both of which can contribute to obesity.

Chronic stress can also give rise to unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge eating, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, disturbed sleep, etc., all of which can contribute to weight gain.

Thus, managing stress in a healthy way is important for treating obesity. Practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, etc., or making more time for hobbies and socialisation can also help you lower your stress levels.

If you are concerned about stress and its effects on your health, discuss it with your family and friends, or with medical professionals like your doctor or a psychologist.

Sleep

Though they may appear unrelated on the surface, your weight is closely tied to the duration and quality of your sleep. Sleep deprivation, however minor, can lead to an increase in the amount of stress hormone (cortisol) and hunger hormone (ghrelin) released in your body. This can lead to an increased appetite and overeating, which may cause weight gain.

 

Doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to maintain your weight and for optimum health. Regular exercise, relaxation techniques, switching off electronic devices an hour before bed, and practising good sleep hygiene can help you sleep better. If you are still experiencing trouble falling or staying asleep, discuss it with your doctor.

Smoking

The nicotine in tobacco smoke can cause insulin resistance in your cells and accumulation of fat around the abdomen. Though smoking may initially cause weight loss due to appetite suppression, it can lead to obesity in the long term. Studies have found that heavy smokers and chronic smokers are more likely to be obese when compared to light smokers or non-smokers.

Quitting smoking can have several health benefits, weight loss being one of them. If you are trying to quit tobacco use, you can consult a physician, psychologist, or a de-addiction specialist who can help you formulate a plan of action.

Alcohol Consumption

Regular and excessive alcohol consumption can affect the way your body stores and burns fat. Also, most types of alcohol that are made from starch or sugars (wine, beer, ciders, etc.) are high in calories. Thus, regular consumption may lead to obesity.

Alcohol can increase your appetite and also cause you to make unhealthy food choices, both of which can also contribute to weight gain. Thus, avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption can help you in managing your weight.

What are Some Other Options Available for Weight Management?

There are other treatment options for obesity that involve medical intervention to induce weight loss. Your doctor will consider recommending the following options only if you have been unable to lose weight with lifestyle changes:

Medication

Prescription medications that can suppress appetite (liraglutide, sibutramine, phentermine) or alter the way your body absorbs fat (orlistat, beta-methylphenethylamine) are used in the treatment of obesity.

These medicines may cause side effects like headaches, heartburn, constipation, abdominal pain or discomfort, loss of bowel control, tiredness, etc and it is best to take them up only after medical advice.

Also, consult your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or dietary supplements that claim to aid in weight loss.

Devices

Recently, several devices have been approved by medical agencies for managing obesity. These devices are usually implanted into your stomach or abdomen through minimally invasive surgical procedures. These devices include:

  • Electric stimulation system: This is a device that is placed in your abdomen and then blocks the nerve signals between your stomach and brain. This suppresses your appetite and makes you feel full. 
  • Gastric balloon system: This system includes one or two balloons that are placed in your stomach. These balloons expand when filled with saline (salt water), thus reducing the empty space in your stomach. This serves to make you feel fuller, thus reducing your food intake.

These devices often cause side effects like abdominal discomfort, back pain, nausea, vomiting, digestion issues, heartburn, infections, etc.

Surgery

Weight loss surgery or bariatric surgery includes making changes to your gastrointestinal tract to reduce the amount of food you can eat and also decrease the number of calories and nutrients that are absorbed from your food.

Side effects of bariatric surgery include chronic nausea and vomiting, bowel obstruction, acid reflux, heartburn, infections, etc.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Obesity is a complex medical condition that causes abnormal and excessive accumulation of fat in your body.
  • Obesity can be caused by factors like an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, genetics and family history, chronic illness, certain medications, chronic stress, and poor lifestyle habits.
  • Your lifestyle plays a major role in the amount of energy you consume and spend. Thus, changing your habits to burn more energy than you consume can aid in weight loss.
  • Lifestyle modification is the best option to manage obesity as it does not cause any side effects. These lifestyle changes include dietary modifications, increased physical activity, stress management, a better and consistent sleep schedule, quitting smoking, and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption.
  • Other treatment options for obesity include medications, device implantation, and surgery, all of which have drawbacks like high costs and side effects.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading nutritionists and dieticians to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a Weight Management Program which provides 360º care. Start your weight management journey with Phable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Obesity is a complex medical condition which can be caused by several factors, with lifestyle habits being one of the important ones. Unhealthy dietary habits, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, etc. are some of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of obesity.

A lifestyle-based treatment for obesity involves making changes to your daily routines, habits, and behaviours to promote weight loss without any medical intervention. It includes:

  • Reducing calorie intake by eating nutrient, protein and fibre-rich foods with a low-calorie count
  • Increasing calorie expenditure with exercise and physical activity
  • Managing stress in healthy ways
  • Improving sleep hygiene to ensure 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption

 

The best treatment options for obesity include lifestyle changes and treating the underlying condition that is causing obesity, if any. Other treatment alternatives like medication, surgery, device implantation, etc., can lead to several side effects, which can be harmful to health.

The following are some of the health complications that may be caused by obesity:

  • High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol 
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Osteoarthritis and/or joint pains
  • Certain types of cancer

Yes, stress can increase the amount of the hormone cortisol in your system, which can cause insulin resistance in your cells. This can lead to weight gain. Chronic stress can cause persistently high cortisol levels which can redistribute the fat in your body to accumulate around your abdomen. Also, chronic stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits such as binge eating, lack of exercise or physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, all of which can lead to weight gain.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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