Obesity has become a global health concern, with the World Health Organization (WHO)
estimating that over 1 billion adults worldwide are overweight and at least 300 million are clinically obese. With obesity comes an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, making it crucial to understand the treatment options available. In this article, we will explore the WHO’s recommendations for the treatment of obesity.
The WHO defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. They recommend a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment for obesity, which includes lifestyle changes, medication,and, in some cases, surgery.
The WHO emphasizes the importance of adopting healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity as the foundation of any treatment for obesity plan. This includes reducing the intake of energy-dense foods (such as those high in fat and sugar) and increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They also recommend regular physical activity, which can be as simple as taking a walk or engaging in sports.
The WHO states that medicines can be used in the treatment of obesity, but they should only be used in combination with lifestyle changes and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. The most commonly used medications for obesity are appetite suppressants, which work by reducing hunger and cravings. However, it should be noted that these medications come with potential side effects and should only be used under close medical supervision.
The WHO recognizes that in some cases, surgery may be the most appropriate treatment for obesity. Bariatric surgery, which includes procedures such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding, can lead to significant weight loss and improvement in obesity-related health conditions. However, the WHO stresses that surgery should only be considered for individuals with a BMI of 40 or higher, or for those with a BMI of 35 or higher who have obesity-related health conditions. Gastric balloons are also an option for weight loss and improved health conditions and can be considered with a BMI of 30 and above.
Ways to Reduce Obesity (As Recommended by the WHO)
In addition to these treatments for obesity, the WHO also provides five ways to reduce obesity. These include:
Incorporating and Maintaining a Healthy Diet
- Promoting healthy eating: Encouraging the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reducing the intake of energy-dense foods.
- Plan ahead: Plan your meals for the week, make a grocery list, and stick to it. This will help you avoid impulse buys and ensure that you always have healthy ingredients on hand.
- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables: Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. These can be eaten as snacks, added to meals, or blended into smoothies.
- Choose whole grains: Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread, are more nutritious than refined grains like white rice and white bread.
- Limit processed foods: Processed foods are often high in added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Try to limit your intake of these foods and opt for fresh and whole foods instead.
- Cook at home: Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients and portion sizes of your meals. It also saves money.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking water is essential for maintaining good health. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Eat mindfully: Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meals, rather than eating on the go or in front of a screen. This will help you to savor your food and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness signals.
- Experiment with different ingredients: Trying new healthy foods and recipes can help you to find new favorites and keep your diet interesting.
- Get enough protein: Protein is an important macronutrient that helps to keep you full and satisfied. Good sources include lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Remember that healthy eating is a journey, not a destination. It’s okay to slip up occasionally, just try to make healthier choices most of the time.
Increasing physical activity
Encouraging regular physical activity, such as walking, cycling, or engaging in sports. Some simple ways to add regular physical activity include:
- Take a walk: One of the easiest and most accessible forms of physical activity is walking. Whether it’s a brisk walk around your neighborhood or a leisurely stroll in a park, walking is a great way to get moving.
- Take the stairs: Instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs. This simple change can add up to significant extra steps and calories burned over time.
- Get a standing or treadmill desk: If you have a sedentary job, consider investing in a standing or treadmill desk. This will allow you to move more throughout the day, which can have positive effects on your health.
- Take a fitness class: Many gyms, community centers, and parks offer fitness classes that are open to the public. Try different classes to find one that you enjoy and that fits your schedule.
- Start a workout routine: Create a workout routine that includes cardio and strength training, and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be long, even 20 minutes of exercise can help.
- Use your lunch break: Use your lunch break to go for a walk or do a quick workout. This will help you to feel refreshed and energized for the rest of the day.
- Take up a sport: Joining a sports team or playing a sport can be a fun way to get moving and meet new people.
- Get a workout buddy: Find a friend or family member who is interested in working out with you. Having a workout buddy can make exercise more fun and help you to stay motivated.
- Use your phone: Most smartphones have a step tracking app that you can use to track your steps and see how active you are throughout the day.
- Make it fun: Remember that physical activity should be enjoyable, so find activities that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle.
Improving the built environment
Making it easier for people to walk, cycle, and engage in physical activity. Improving the built environment refers to making changes to the physical structures and spaces in which people live, work, and play in order to make it easier for people to be physically active and lead healthier lives. This can include things like:
- Building sidewalks and bike lanes: Making it easier for people to walk or bike to work, school, or other destinations.
- Creating parks and recreational spaces: Providing safe and accessible places for people to engage in physical activity, such as playing sports, hiking, or just enjoying nature.
- Making buildings more walkable: Designing buildings and communities so that it is easy to walk to shops, schools, and other amenities.
- Encouraging active transportation: Promoting the use of active transportation, such as walking, biking, and public transit, as alternatives to driving.
- Designing streets and intersections to be safer: By redesigning streets and intersections to slow down cars, provide separate space for pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve visibility, it will make it safer for people to walk or bike.
- Encouraging development in walkable, mixed-use areas: Encouraging the development of walkable, mixed-use areas that have a mix of residential, commercial, and retail space in close proximity, making it easier for people to walk or bike to the places they need to go.
- Making buildings more energy-efficient: Encouraging the use of energy-efficient design in buildings, as well as the use of green spaces and natural features, can improve air quality and reduce heat island effect, which can have a positive impact on health.
- Providing education and awareness: Educating people about the risks of obesity and the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity.
- Enabling access to affordable and healthy food: Improving access to affordable and healthy food options, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
In conclusion, the WHO advises that treatment for obesity should include a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, surgery. Further, the WHO emphasizes that the treatment for obesity is essential to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve overall health. Consult with your family physician to develop the best course of action to create a healthy lifestyle for you and your family.