Monday 8 January 2018

Maintaining a healthy body weight in Nigeria

Obesity and overweight are increasingly causing global health concerns as a result of the myriad of health problems associated with them. For persons resident in Nigeria, it seems almost impossible to keep tabs on weight gain without frequent visits to gyms or buying and consuming certain exotic food products; which are known to be quite pricey in Nigeria. The Nigerian diet as it is today, coupled with increasingly sedentary lifestyles are responsible for the reported large population of overweight Nigerians. Maintaining a healthy body weight or shedding excess body weight need not be expensive or impossible, all one needs to do is put a conscious and consistent effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle that involves dietary modifications and moderate physical activity. Rapid weight loss programs and weight loss supplements are usually not recommended by dieticians and nutritionists.

The Nigerian cuisine is based largely on carbohydrate-rich foods like yams, cassava, rice, beans and grains such as millet and sorghum. The Nigerian forebears who cultivated and ate a lot of those foods were involved in a lot of physical activities that helped them burn the carbs from their diets. They were mainly involved in farming; the most common modes of transportation then were the use of bicycles or feet (trekking) so somehow the intensity of their physical activities ensured they were within a healthy weight range.

Increasing westernization in Nigeria like in other developing countries meant a shift towards more sedentary lifestyles; fewer people did physically exacting jobs. But westernization has not changed so much of the Nigerian cuisine. As a result, most Nigerians of today eat the same foods at almost the same rations their forebears who did more physically exacting jobs ate, causing a sharp increase in the number of overweight Nigerians as reported by several researchers. An increase in overweight or obesity cases meant an increase in related diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and several cardiovascular diseases.

It is, therefore, necessary that Nigerians who intend maintaining healthy body weights make lifestyle adjustments that should include dietary modifications and increased physical activity. To achieve a healthy body weight we recommend you do the following.

  1. Decide to maintain a healthy weight. Making certain decisions often translates into conscious decisions to achieve one's objectives. This also applies to maintaining a healthy body weight. There are no wrong reasons for wanting to shed excess body weight, but health-related reasons trump fashion and confidence. So no matter your reason, deciding to maintain a healthy body weight is a beautiful decision.
  2. Invest in a body weight/bathroom scale. You need to know your present body weight to determine if it is within the healthy range or not. This will help you know how much body weight you should work towards shedding or adding as the case may be. Also, you will need to monitor how effective the modifications you adopt are. Owning a body scale  helps everyone in the home keep tabs on their weight gain. Luckily, bathroom scales are not usually expensive. A bathroom scale will also help make it easy for you to periodically calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) using the formula in the image below.
Image result for BMI calculator kg
Image result for BMI calculator kg cm chart
After calculating your BMI, check the range to which the figure falls in to determine if your weight is within the healthy range or not. 

Since adults do not usually record changes in height as they do in weight, all one may need to do is check his/her height at a health or fitness center and use the figure obtained in calculating one's BMI periodically.

 3.Get involved in a targeted body weight-control program. All weight control programs are not the same. Weight-control programs are often designed for certain people in mind. There are several apps downloadable on most phones and computers designed for body weight control. They usually include diet  as well as body workout  suggestions. Some include animations to put you through the processes. The beauty is that most of these apps are free and workout sessions are adapted to suit both beginners and persons already experienced in workouts. Workout sessions usually last for 5 to 10 minutes and can be done in the comfort of one's home making them especially suitable when the hustles and bustles of life in Nigeria is put into perspective.  Like our Facebook page and send us a message for recommended apps that may be suitable for you.

4. Dietary modifications!Dietary modifications!!Dietary modifications!!!. Effective weight control programs involve both dietary modifications and physical activity. There should be a suitable balance between your calorie intake and expenditure. You may need to reduce your starchy foods portion, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, cut down on processed foods and increase water intake. The particular regimen you follow depends on your present health and fitness status. Weight loss programs are not necessarily expensive and do not always demand special foods not obtainable in the Nigerian market. Most times portion control can do the job. Weight-control programs are easier in more developed countries where foods carry nutritional information. Nutritional information when found on made-in-Nigeria products are not always reliable. 

If you would like to know more about targeted weight-control programs and suitable apps, you could chat us up on our Facebook page  or send us an email on the address displayed on the blog.

Author: Atukpawu Onyinyechi; A volunteer nutritionist at The Informed Mum. 

Shedding the excess pregnancy and postpartum weight

Pregnancy and the postpartum period are associated with increased weight gain often as a result of the reduced physical activity and increased food consumption associated with those periods in a woman's life. When one adds the hustles and bustles of life in the Nigerian society to the equation, one would most likely find a woman working round-the-clock to attend to the increasing demands for her time and attention with little attention to weight issues. Mothers in Nigeria understand that the struggle to shed pregnancy and postpartum weight is real. Many mothers find themselves losing hope of getting fit and trim again; they just relax and watch themselves climb up the body weight ladder.

The topic of healthy weight gain/loss is important given the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Nigerian society and a reported rise in health conditions linked to them. There are no wrong reasons for wanting to shed excess body weight, but health-related reasons trump fashion and confidence in ranking. Evidence-based research links being overweight/obese to an increased risk of several health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. A mother, therefore, needs to understand the need for her to keep fit and trim. Recognising why she needs to shed the excess weight is often linked to a woman's ability to sustain a weight loss program.

Sometimes, keeping gestational weight gain in check makes it easier to keep tabs on postpartum weight gain. Nutrition in pregnancy can make a lot of difference. Physical exercises like walking are usually recommended for pregnant women who need to keep weight gain in check. The intensity at which an individual walks determines the person's caloric expenditure. As such, brisk walking at about 12 minutes per kilometer is often recommended for healthy, pregnant woman to achieve moderate caloric expenditure.  Before a pregnant woman gets involved in more intense physical exercises, she needs to consult her healthcare provider to determine which ones are safe for her.
Pregnancy and postpartum periods are not times to indulge in some quick-fix weight regimens as they could lead to increased risk to mother and baby. Weight loss supplements are also discouraged during these periods. Healthy behaviors are rather encouraged.

The postpartum period with its attendant demands increases a woman's risk of being overweight. However, it also provides a window of opportunity to initiate lifestyle modifications such as increased physical activity and nutritious eating, that encourage healthy behaviors.  There is said to be an inverse correlation between obesity during the postpartum period and breastfeeding as well as obesity during pregnancy and exercise. Postpartum obese women require targeted programs that use evidence-based interventions for weight loss. Gradual weight loss of about 0.5kg per week (that is 2kg per month) is reported safe for postpartum women. Quick-fix or rapid weight-loss regimens are usually not recommended during this period as they can have negative outcomes. Moderate exercise during postpartum periods have been shown to have no adverse effect on breastmilk, infant weight gain or maternal prolactin level (which help sustain breastmilk supply). Interventions that combine exercise and dietary changes and monitoring, result in great postpartum weight loss.

Recommended steps towards shedding the excess pregnancy and postpartum weight

  1. Keep gestational weight in check during pregnancy. A pregnant woman needs to take note of her weight gain at each antenatal check-up. A healthy goal for total pregnancy weight gain for women of normal weight ( based on Body Mass Index((BMI) 18.6 to 24.9) averages about 11.5kg to 16kg ). Women carrying more than one baby gain between 15kg to 23kg. Keeping tabs on your diet during pregnancy as well as moderate physical exercise helps you keep tabs on gestational weight gain. Women who maintain healthy weights during pregnancy stand better chances of maintaining healthy weights during postpartum periods. 
  2. Keep postpartum weight gain in check. It is completely normal to not lose any weight or even gain some during the first 3 months after birth in breastfeeding mothers. Due to hormonal changes in her body, a new mother may have a bigger appetite and be more prone to holding on to body fat. Restricting calories too much, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding, may decrease both a mother's milk supply and her much-needed energy level. However, after 3 months, the new mum may get involved in targeted weight-loss programs that involve moderate exercises and dietary adjustments.

The recommendations are easy to adapt to if a woman
  • Knows her Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Determines how much weight she needs to lose
  • Gets involved in targeted weight loss programs. There are several free apps available that help towards achieving your target weight. Many involve dietary recommendations and exercises you can do in the comfort of your home for about 5 to 10 minutes every day. Weight loss need not be so difficult, all it needs is a conscious and consistent effort. One small step every day can result in a giant leap. Research suggests that technology-based weight loss programs are very effective in shedding excess weight. Like our Facebook page and send us a message or an email for recommended apps with targeted weight-loss programs to suit your lifestyle. 

Credit to Millicent Onyinyechi, A graduate of Human Nutrition.