Op-ed: Obesity and sedentary lifestyle

The author highlights the reasons for obesity and states that a sedentary lifestyle and high food demands have increased the levels of obesity in the world. The author also discusses ways to combat obesity.

The world has gone to two extremes with the passage of time, on one hand, countries with surplus food have been hit by a pandemic of obesity, on the other hand, in some countries of the world, people are suffering from the unavailability of food.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 462 million adults are underweight, while, obesity has increased up to 3 times since 1975. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and above, were recorded to be overweight and about 650 million of them fall in the obese category. Obesity kills more people than underweight does.

Read more: Worldwide, obesity rising faster in rural areas

Over-eating and inactivity have become common lifestyles for the last 50 years. Almost 20 per cent of the food worldwide is lost to overeating and waste, while 795 million people starve at the far end of the world. This uneven distribution has caused an imbalance in the world and has become a form of a pandemic with the passage of time.

One of the major causes of the food imbalance is overeating and obesity which eventually leads to many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, depression, dementia and a few types of cancers. Despite this, obesity has increased uncontrollably in the last 50 years.

Read more: Obesity: Post Modern World’s Pandemic in waiting?

What has caused obesity?

In the past, people used to remain active because the daily lifestyle activities were un-assisted, however, with the mechanical advancements and industrialization, the human race was hit by a wave of inactivity and sedentary lifestyle.

Along with that, the advancements in medical sciences increased the life expectancies of humans, which resulted in a population explosion. The population of the world increased from 1 Billion to 7.8 billion in the last 200 years. As the population increased, the demand for food also increased, in order to meet the requirement of food worldwide, humans started looking at science again.

Read more: Population explosion: A bomb as dangerous as nukes

Science came up with a solution in the form of hybrid and genetically modified food sources. The countries with enough resources started using advanced technologies in order to meet the food requirements, which resulted in surplus food.

All these factors contributed to the habits of inactivity and overeating in humans, which ultimately resulted in an increase in obesity and cardiovascular diseases in young generations.

Then came the revolution of urbanization, which provided humans with an improved but busy lifestyle. In order to survive in urban society, one has to work 8-12 hours a day to meet his basic demands. The urban living structure came with a lot of advantages and disadvantages, one of the primary disadvantages is not able to take out time for general well-being and in order to meet the food demands in such a time-oriented environment, the fast-food concept came in like a life saviour.

Fast food became necessary, and lunch in offices was replaced by fast foods. With the passage of time, food culture started being completely replaced by fast food. Fast food is the quick source of food, comprised of fried and unhealthy food, but being quick and pleasing to taste buds, increased the phenomenon of over-eating.

Read more: Rising European life expectancy undermined by obesity: WHO

Role of adulterated foods

First world countries met the increasing food demands with genetic modification and had enough resources to observe and regulate the quality of such food. On the contrary third world countries, remained clueless about modern technologies, and in order to meet increasing food demands, the only way they could think of was adulteration.

When everybody was dying of hunger the negative forces of the society decided to use this food scarcity pandemic to earn some extra pennies and they started mixing chemicals and anything they could find with food. They were able to succeed in their objectives, because governments in third world countries, with not having enough resources, couldn’t regulate the quality of food.

This caused pseudo-urbanization in third world countries and people started eating adulterated foods on daily basis. That kind of food seemed fine initially but with time the diseases like cancer, vitamin deficiencies and cardiovascular diseases in young people started becoming more and more prominent. Therefore, this sentence won’t be wrong that in first world countries obesity is a major cause of death while in third world countries malnutrition.

Read more: Increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods a cause for concern for our health

Where did we go wrong?

One of the most important questions is why our forefathers did not suffer from such problems? As explained earlier, at that time the population was controlled and food was surplus and secondly, they used to work in fields and were able to metabolize and digest enough or burn more calories they could eat.

At present, we have more of a sedentary lifestyle. We drive cars to offices and sit on chairs there, for more than 8 hours, then we go home and start using gadgets like smartphones and computers. The reason remains the same, we are overeating unhealthy foods and an uncontrolled number of calories, on the other hand, we have an inactive and sedentary lifestyle.

Read more: Short bursts of exercise may improve metabolic health

These factors are contributing to a decrease in the average healthy age of humans. As life expectancy has increased with time, the quality of life has decreased to a much greater extent due to such problems.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the number 1 cause of death worldwide are Cardiovascular diseases which kill 17.9 million people each year, which is about 31% of overall deaths in the world, and the individuals at risk include obese and over-weight people at the top of the list. While in Pakistan 46 people die every hour of cardiac arrest.

Read more: High protein diets increase heart attack risk

Solutions to obesity

Quick solutions may include, incorporation of activity and exercises in our daily lifestyles. Stress and emotional eating are very common among the youth; they eat for pleasure instead of the body’s need.

Food provides comfort and is sometimes unconsciously considered a substitute for unmet needs of love and affection. While the conflict in our mind and emotions create this poor equilibrium, we tend to overburden our body organs for temporary fulfilment.

Read more: Loneliness associated with increased diabetes risk: study

This psychological factor is one of the major causes of obesity today. Therapy can help identify the source of stress eating and eating disorders and can immensely help people change their unconscious eating habits. People can be educated and counselled about the real definition of self-care, balanced diet, healthy and unhealthy lifestyle.

The government authorities should ensure the quality of food worldwide. In Pakistan, food adulteration is a common thing and the government is actively taking steps to rectify the flaws. In addition to that, the government should start focusing on educating people about population control, because that is the only way to reduce food demands, which will in return reduce food adulteration. The addition of regular healthy activities like physical games and exercises are of utmost importance.

Read more: World Health Organization Urges Countries to Tax Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity

In addition to not having enough time and education about workouts and healthy activities, the unavailability of opportunities is also the major cause of the sedentary lifestyle.

The government should start focusing on providing basic necessities like parks, and exercise zones for the people of each and every community along with the tourism opportunities to enhance the community standards.

Healthy activities and basic education about eating habits and lifestyle should be made compulsory in the elementary, secondary and higher education curriculum.

As youth is the future of every nation, it needs to be taken proper care of. Eradication of obesity and incorporation of proper eating and lifestyle habits may in the long term help reduce the starvation and uneven, distribution of food problems, in the whole world.

Read more: Overweight PM Boris Johnson launches anti-obesity drive in UK

The author is a Student of MS peace, conflict and development stream, NUST. She is working as a Psychotherapist, Clinical Psychologist and Humanistic Counselor. The author can be reached at hirrabbasi@hotmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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