More than two-thirds of Nigerian adults are considered overweight or obese, especially the female gender. Excess weight may lead to heart disease and diabetes. Creating and following plans for healthy eating and physical activity may help you improve your health.
What is a healthy weight?
Body mass index (BMI) is one way to tell whether you are at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. It measures your weight in relation to your height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and someone with a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese. Go to the right hand sidebar on our website to find a BMI calculator tool you can use to determine your BMI. Another way to find out if you are at risk for health problems caused by overweight and obesity is to measure your waist-hip ratio. If you are a woman and your waist is more than 35 inches, or if you are a man and your waist is more than 40 inches, your risk of disease may be higher.
Now, to our female readers, there are certain health risks of being overweight or obese during pregnancy. Extra weight can cause these health problems with pregnancy:
- gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy)
- high blood pressure
- increased risk for cesarean section (C-section)
What are the health risks of being overweight or obese?
Extra weight may increase your risk for;
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease and stroke
- high blood cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (a fat buildup in the livers of people who drink little or no alcohol)
- problems with pregnancy
- certain cancers
Why do people become overweight?
Over time, if you eat and drink more calories than your body uses or “burns off,” your body may store the extra energy, leading to weight gain. Many factors may play a part in weight gain. The World around You; communities, homes, and workplaces can all affect people’s health decisions. Foods high in fat, added sugar, and calories are easy to find. They also often cost less than healthier choices like fruits and vegetables. Also, many people lack access to safe places where they can be physically active. On top of that, many tools and devices, like remote controls and drive-in banks, make it easy to be inactive.
Overweight and obesity tend to run in families. Research shows that genes can play a role in obesity. Families also share eating habits that can affect how, when, and what we eat.
Some medicines, such as steroids (drugs used to reduce swelling) and some drugs for depression and other psychiatric disorders, may lead to weight gain. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist about the side effects of any medicines you are taking.
Many people eat when they are bored, sad, angry, or stressed, even when they are not hungry. Although you may not be able to control all the factors that lead to overweight, making small changes to your eating and physical activity habits may improve your health.
Paying attention to what, when, how often, and how much you eat can be the first step to helping you eat better.
What kinds of foods should I eat?
Every 5 years the Government releases dietary guidelines that recommend what kinds of food to eat and to limit so you can have a healthy eating plan. Eat more of these nutrient-rich foods, nutrients—like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber—nourish our bodies by giving them what they need to be healthy. The guidelines advise adults to eat the following foods because they are rich in nutrients:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
- seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
- fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or substitutes (like soy or rice milk) that are high in vitamin D and calcium
- beans, nuts, and seeds
Eat less of these foods
Some foods have many calories but few of the vitamins, minerals, or fiber your body needs. Added sugars, solid fats, and refined grains pack a lot of calories into food but do not add nutrients. The Government’s dietary guidelines recommend that you limit foods such as these:
- sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts
- foods with butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature
- white bread like “Agege bread”, rice, and pasta that are made from refined grains
How can I follow a healthy eating plan?
These tips may help you stay on track with your plan to eat better:
- Have low-fat, low-sugar snacks on hand.
Whether you are at home, at work, or on the go, healthy snacks may help to combat hunger and prevent overeating.
- Select a mix of colorful vegetables each day.
Choose dark leafy greens, such as spinach(Ugu), Scent leaf(Nchanwu), and mustard greens, and reds and oranges such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes.
Easy Snack Ideas
- low-fat or fat free yogurt
- fresh, canned, or dried fruit
- sliced vegetables or baby carrots
How much should I eat?
How much you should eat depends on your genes, sex, age, and how active you are. In general, men need more calories than women do, and younger adults need more calories than adults in midlife and older. At all ages, adults who are more physically active need to eat more calories than those who are less active.
What if I need to lose weight?
What defines a healthy weight varies from person to person. Ask your health care provider about what a healthy weight is for you. If you are overweight or are experiencing health problems linked to overweight or obesity, ask your health care provider if a modest weight loss would be helpful. A weight loss of 5 to 7 percent of your body weight over 6 months or longer has been shown to improve health.
Use a food diary to track what you eat
To keep a food diary, write down all the food you eat in a day. Also, write down the time you eat and your feelings at the time. Writing down your feelings may help you identify your eating triggers. For example, you may notice that you sometimes overeat when you are in a big group, simply because everyone around you is eating. The next time you are eating with a big group, be mindful of that trigger and try to limit how much you eat.