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Weight Management : The Skinny on Obesity

By Janet Angel, Ph.D.

You hear it all the time, or maybe you say it to yourself each morning when getting dressed...”I used to be skinny!” How does this life-threatening condition called obesity happen to us anyway?

Obesity happens one pound at a time. Life becomes faster, foods are available at every corner, and we are an “I can’t wait” nation filled with excess calories that are setting up home on hips, thighs and abdomens! Becoming overweight tends to creep up on the unsuspecting victim. You down a burger and fries and a super-sized soft-drink; double dipped ice cream cone, drive-thru donut delights, deep dish pizza with the works, and add to this more alcohol, rich creamy and sugary coffee supreme, and processed foods month upon month sometimes for many years before that “aha” moment hits and you can no longer fit into any of the clothes in your closet. The multiple sizes you were keeping have reached the upper limit!

You are not alone, trust me here. “More than two-thirds of U.S. adults and almost one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and since 1980 obesity has doubled for adults and for children tripled.” (NIH) An estimated 97 million Americans are classifiably obese, the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and the number of overweight children has increased at an alarming rate. Even Washington elites are trying to save the children on this one. Being overweight can come with risks such as higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels, the development of Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, higher than normal blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, a larger waste line, gallstones, stroke, fatigue, reduced sexual performance, joint problems, circulatory problems, higher cancer risks, and the list goes on…

Many things contribute to this “growing” problem; eating foods that are calorie rich and nutrient poor, having an inactive lifestyle, hectic work schedule with need to eat meals quickly, fewer than needed hours of sleep, oversized serving portions, poor food choices, inadequate water intake, lack of access to healthier foods due to financial disadvantages and economic trends and more.

As we age, our relationship to food changes along with our bodies. When we're younger we might grab fast food on the run and not think twice about it. In later life, however, eating well can be the key to staying mentally sharp, emotionally balanced and physically energetic with a stronger immune system and a positive outlook. One might think that an obese individual could not possibly be malnourished, but to the contrary- it happens all the time! When someone is hungry there is a signal sent to the brain that it is time to eat. When you eat something, there is a signal to the brain to send digestive enzymes. If the body is not satiated by the amount of nutrients being extracted along with calories consumed…guess what? That person is STILL HUNGRY and will seek more food soon after eating. Usually because of stress that person is going to crave fatty, salty, and sugary foods…and the cycle continues and the waistline gets bigger.

Something surprising happens tough when you have the proper enzymes to activate absorption. Most people don’t realize that enzymes play a role in every metabolic process the body undertakes. And they are more important as we age. Scientists at the world-famous Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago found that older people had only 1/30th as many digestive enzymes in their saliva as young folks. Dr. Eckardt of Germany discovered after 1,200 tests that the enzymes of the urine are only half as rich in old age as in the prime of life!

As we age, taking a concentrated full-spectrum plant-based digestive enzyme seems imperative to good health; after all, we may face dietary obstacles due to some of the following occurrences:

• Emotional factors. Emotional factors such as loneliness and depression can affect your diet. For some, feeling down leads to not eating and in others it may trigger overeating. If emotional problems are affecting your diet, it is important to talk to your doctor or a therapist.
• Lifestyle changes. Newly single seniors may not know how to cook or may not feel like cooking for one. People on limited budgets might have trouble affording a balanced, healthy diet. See the resources below for suggestions on cooking for one and easy, healthy menu selections.
• Metabolism. Every year over the age of forty, our metabolism slows down. This means that even if you continue to eat the same amount and kinds of food as when you were younger, you're likely to gain weight because you're burning fewer calories. In addition, you may be less physically active now.
• Activity level. Seniors often cut back on activity for physical and medical reasons. Weight gain can result from the decrease in calories burned
• Taste and appetite. Your senses of taste and smell diminish, so you may be inclined to season your food more heavily than before—even though seniors need less salt than younger people. You may struggle with loss of appetite due to lifestyle, loneliness or a medical condition.
• Health issues. Physical ailments and prescription medications often negatively influence appetite. Talk to your doctor about overcoming side effects of medication or specific physical conditions.
• Digestion. Due to changes in your digestive system, you generate less saliva and stomach acid as you get older, making it more difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness, a keen memory and good circulation. Often times fats and fat soluble vitamins become more difficult to break down and digestive upsets rise.

Some of the factors described above, like changes in the digestive system, as well as health concerns like the increased risk of fragile bones, means that nutritional needs change as you age. Periodic review of your diet is always helpful, particularly if you have specific medical conditions. Your doctor can help you assess your nutritional needs and make suggestions for meeting them, but review the suggestions below to help you stay well:
• reduce sodium (salt) to help prevent water retention and high blood pressure,
• monitor fat intake in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels,
• consume more calcium and vitamin D for bone health,
• eat more fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation,
• cut back on sugar and on dry foods,
• make sure you get the recommended amount of important vitamins and minerals,
• increase your water intake (unless your doctor recommends you do not based on meds)
• participate in regular physical activity – adhering to suggestions of your doctor.

Additionally, because of lifestyle changes and a slower metabolism, it is important to consider how you eat as well as what you eat. To manage your weight and maintain optimum health, focus on eating efficiently. This means choosing foods that maximize nutritional value, not calories. Along with eating well, you can include a 100% natural Digestive Enzyme to be certain you are absorbing more of the nutrients from the foods you are eating.

Why are digestive enzymes recommended? As we age digestive enzyme production tends to drop. That means that those in mid-life tend to find that eating certain foods begin to pose a problem for their digestive tract. Having adequate types and amounts of digestive enzymes will help to insure that your body is deriving more of the nutrients from your diet, so that you can maintain a healthier lifestyle, while enjoying a variety of foods.

Whole, natural, fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, healthy sources of protein (poultry, fish, eggs, tofu) and dairy products that contain calcium constitute efficient eating. Highly processed (junk foods) and refined foods usually contain more calories and fewer nutrients, and that is why people often feel hungry soon after consuming them. Make dietary changes that are nutrient-dense, low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and calcium, with moderate calorie content. Think about having flavorful foods and foods that appeal to the eyes so you will look forward to mealtimes.

Steaming is the best way to cook vegetables; it preserves nutrients; but please keep the lid on to hold the nutrients. Light sautéing is next. Boiling leaches nutrients—but you can use the leftover cooking water as soup stock! Fish, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and tofu all count as protein, so it's easy to vary your healthy protein choices. Try skinless turkey or chicken, or fish, baked, broiled, grilled, steamed or poached, and you'll savor the flavor while adding healthy, low-fat, low cholesterol nutrition to your diet. Go easy on red meats, which contain saturated fat, and on salty meats such as bacon or ham. Be sure to get calcium-rich foods into your diet. Get enough essential fatty acids and “good” fats from natural oils such as flax oil, fish oils, olive oil, avocados, sunflower oils. If you eat nuts, chew them very well.

In addition to drinking enough water each day, aim to consume foods with high water content. Staying properly hydrated flushes toxins from your body, relieves constipation, helps keep your joints flexible and your mind clear. High water content foods include melons, grapes, cucumbers, onions, apples, cabbage, and, of course, soup! In order to help your body stay “regular” it is essential to also eat foods that help to populate the small and large intestines with friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. So include yogurt, kefir, and other cultured products in your diet. It is possible to live a healthier and more vibrant life. Choose wisely starting today! Always seek the advice of your physician before starting a new health regime.

©Janet Angel, Ph.D. 2013 May
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