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Obesity – balancing your weight and health - Part IV. (October, 2006)

Overall health is better in those whose body weight is within the normal range than those who are either overweight, obese or grossly obese or unduly under weight. Having discussed excess body weight problems due to some basic hormonal causes, let us now consider those where obesity is simply due to long standing imbalance between food intake (calorie intake) and energy output due to physical activity and the normal resting metabolism (calorie output/energy spent). Apart from height/ weight charts, there are also “rule of thumb” methods of finding out whether you are within the normal range or not. If marginally beyond normal limits, it is relatively easy for you to take corrective measures by following some simple guidelines. But if falling within the range of “obesity” or “morbid obesity”, the subject needs detailed medical evaluation and expert help and treatment for control of the weight problem.

Classification of Excess weight:
Simple method of calculating your ideal weight is as follows: For women take 100 lbs. for first 5 feet height and add 5 lbs for each inch of height. For men it is 106 lbs for height up to 5 feet and 6 lbs for each inch of height. In addition in both sexes reduce 10% if the subject has a small body frame and add 10 % if body frame is large. A better method of assessing obesity/over weight is by calculating Body Mass Index. It is calculated as Body Wt. in Kgs/ (divided by) square of Height in metres (kg/m2). “Normal range” of BMI is 18.5 to 25. “Over weight” if BMI is over 25 up to 30. “Obese” if BMI is 30 and up to 40. “Morbidly obese” if BMI is 40 or more.

Action plan for weight management – general guidelines:
  • The aim is to keep and maintain body weight at healthy levels.
  • Do incorporate some aerobic physical activity regularly. This increases muscle mass and burns calories too. It should be balanced with diet to maintain body weight.
  • Any changes to be made in one’s eating habits should be gradual and to be continued as permanent life style changes.
  • Alcohol to be avoided or taken only in moderation.
  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet.

A well balanced diet – general rules:

  • Vegetarianism is better than meat and other non vegetarian food.
  • If you do take meat etc – do not take meat more than once a day. Fish and poultry are better than red and processed meat. Eggs, though good in proteins, have very high cholesterol. Hence do not take more than 4 eggs per week and as you get older take less and avoid the yellow of eggs.
  • Take plenty of fibres – include leafy green vegetables and leaves, fruits, beans, root vegetables,whole grain foods, nuts and bran flakes etc.
  • Regular intake with every meal of fresh salads and fruits for dessert too. Avoid cookies, cakes and puddings for dessert.
  • Cooking – avoid frying and cook by baking or steaming wherever possible. For frying use minimum oil and use polyunsaturated oils like corn oil.
  • Reduce salt intake and avoid or minimize use of any flavours as they often contain salt like substances.
  • Variety is the spice of life; this applies to food too. Avoid too much of any one kind of food or too many calories too!
  • Learn something about Food Pyramids and try and follow its general suggestions.


    Normal range of body weight:
    These people need to continue their present life style making few adjustments wherever they seem to be off track either in quality and quantity of food intake or level of physical activity. The food requirements vary according to their life style which may be “sedentary”, “low activity level”, “moderate activity level” or “strenuous activity level”. Food intake ( calorie needs/day) in these 4 levels of activity are 10 cals/lb, 13 cals/lb, 15 cals/lb and 18 cals per lb. of desirable body weight. As an example in a man with height of 5’6” and body weight of 140 lbs doing moderate physical activity the total calorie needs would be 140x 15 = 2100 calories per day or roughly 2000 cals/day. It would be about 1800 cals/day for a person following low activity levels. One may take the help of a specialist in nutrition or one’s family doctor if he is well informed on the subject.

    Recommendations for those who are overweight, obese and morbidly obese will be explained in forthcoming Newsletters.

    Best wishes for good health and ideal body weight too,

    Dr. M.Mohan Rao, MBBS,MS,FICS,MCH,

    Director & Senior Surgeon (Retired but not tired),
    Dr. U Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital.


    Updated on 01.10.2006.

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