Women and Obesity

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Women and Obesity

Weight gain in young mothers

Some girls who used to be slim prior to their marriage, gain weight gradually after marriage. This is due to the change eating habits or eating rich food to which they might not be used to previously. Perhaps a more carefree and comfortable life is also to be blamed for this. This is acceptable to them as well as to their spouses now to consider their weight gain as a sigh of good health until they become pregnant. Obesity right from the first month of pregnancy has its own disadvantages. The fatty tissues in the abdomen make the expanding uterus, as the months advance exert great pressure on the bladder and bowels, disturbing the function of these waste eliminating organs. Wrong conceptions about the needs of a pregnant woman and her unborn child are held by her mother, mother-in-law, husband, other well wishers and relatives. They are of the opinion that a pregnant woman should double the amount of food to feed herself and her child to be born and she should rest and relax more to preserve her energy for the time of labour. Nothing is near the truth, because the correct way of sensible eating and mild exercises and activities till the last, facilities a normal and comfortable delivery of a healthy child.

Post-natal obesity

While in some cases there is a reduction in weight after child birth, in others, the young mothers keep gaining weight and remain obese for the rest of their lives. Generally, two reasons can be attributed for obesity after child birth. In most cases normal delivery of the child is either not preferred or is discouraged for certain reasons and ceasarean operation is either chosen or forced. This deprives the young mother of normal activities and exercise after delivery, resulting in the uterus not shrinking as it should, and gradually distention of abdomen takes place. The additional nourishment consumed undergoes poor digestion and the weight keeps increasing.

Some young mothers despite normal delivery gain weight steadily because they are fed on fatty and starchy food in place of proper nutritious food under the erroneous notion that the weakness caused by labour can only be compensated by a rich diet. Sometimes young mothers, after delivery, are also made to rest more than it is necessary. Just as exercise is a must till almost the last stages of delivery, for easy delivery, mild exercise after delivery is necessary for the contraction of the uterus to its original size. But exercise becomes more difficult if there is a weight increase. Therefore, obesity worsens the condition.

Women who use contractive devices or oral contraceptives on a regular basis also tend to become obese. This is due to the effect of the hormones contained in those drugs.

Menopause and added bulk

Some women tend to gain weight during their menopause. Due to hormonal imbalance, obesity sets in, even though they had maintained normal weight previously. Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life. Some women seek medical solutions in the form of hormone supplement for their irregular monthly cycles, disturbing symptoms and mild discomforts. Obesity caused by hormone-pills is a bit difficult to get rid unlike other forms of obesity.

Influence of mind over body

Some women suffer from obesity for identifiable psychological reasons that manifest themselves as expressions of their underlying unhappiness and for no other reason. Such persons feel unwanted at home and outside. They develop severe complexes, become discontented with every one around and become indifferent towards anything and everything. They lose interest in every activity which provide a pleasant diversion. In such cases, unless the underlying cause is attended to, they remain obese. Whenever they feel tense, overcome with unknown fears, they seek a diversion in frequent eating. This type of eating gives them only a false sense of their tension being eased. At such times due to the absence of actual hunger, they resort to eating snacks which please their palate. This naturally adds bulk to the body.

Influence of hormones on obesity

Endocrine glands are the organs which pour internal secretion into our blood. But for these glands, the growth of our body and mind becomes defective and results in various disorders and diseases, obesity being one of them. The glands produce some chemical substances which are called hormones. Hormone is a circulating chemical substance that is capable of acting on distant organs from its original site. The glands that function in a unique way, need a mention in this chapter because a few glands and their functions are responsible for causing obesity. These are the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, and gonads.

Hormones are the agents that stir up activity and bring about psychological changes in our behaviour and bodily functions. Abnormal conditions of our health, are the direct result of an excess of deficient secretion of these hormones.

What causes overeating?

Among the glands, the pituitary is the master gland that governs all other glands. It somewhat hangs from the hypothalamus which is at the base of the brain. It monitors the activities of the other glands to produce exactly the correct amount of their respective hormones.

Hypothalamus are a group of neurons that act as the centre for appetite, the stimulation of which results in the sensation of hunger. If there is and abnormal function of this appetite centre in the hypothalamus, obesity is caused due to overeating.

Obesity also results it the hormones that the pituitary gland secretes, are deficient. One notable feature of this deficiency is, along with causing obesity the height of the person gets retarded, particularly in the case of growing children. Girls stay short and stout and the onset of menses is delayed or absent for a very long period. In cases where this gland is overactive and secretes hormones in excess of what it should, the person grows to an abnormal size. This is known as gigantism.

The second gland that contributions to obesity, is the thyroid. This is situated in the neck. A deficiency in the hormones secreted by this gland results in the speedy division of cells. Such an increase in the number of cells causes obesity.

The third gland is the adrenals. These are two in number and are situated above the kidneys. The hormones that these glands secrete, colour our emotions – anger, fear, etc. Excess secretion of these hormones, or when these hormones are administered in massive doses cause a severe disorder known as CUSHINGS SYNDROME. This is also know by the name Moon face. Any tumour or inflammation in this gland also causes Cushing’s syndrome. The person so afflicted, bloats to abnormal proportions and becomes the victim of various other disorders too, like hypertension and diabetes.

The pancreas is a very important digestive organ that secretes the digestive pancreatic juice and an essential endocrine hormone the insulin. Insulin is very essential in sugar metabolism. The stored fat from the refined carbohydrate and sugar due to the abnormal sugar metabolism result in obesity. In one of the succeeding chapters, the important of insulin and sugar metabolism is given in detail.

In some cases, if the sex hormones secreted by the ovaries in females, are deficient during menopause, obesity results. Administering hormones further add to the bulk. So is the case after hysterectomy in some women. The dangers of such hormones are described in one of the succeeding chapters.

Food addiction and obesity

Addictions are of many types. All of us are addicted to some things without even knowing why and how we are addicted. Generally tobacco, alcohol, drugs like opium and heroin are thought to be the things which a person gets a addicted to. But most of us are unaware of an equally serious addiction, that is addiction to food.

Different people are addicted to some food items. Some are addicted to carbohydrates in the form of rice or even wheat, some to spicy food, some to sweets, some to fast food and other commercial food. There are persons who get addicted even to bread and milk. Individually these food as an addiction, i.e. addiction to any one of these, may be harmless without visible discomfort. If abstained from, or lesser quantity of the particular type of food is taken, one may feel some sort of all-gone sensation in the stomach or suffer other withdrawal symptoms. But once they are introduced again, the withdrawals may disappear. As in any other addiction, the more one eats, the more the food is relished. The craving for eating keeps increasing day-by-day.

Withdrawals and the fear of it

Addiction to overeating is a serious problem, because it causes obesity. Overeating unwillingly begins at a very young age when it can be easily controlled or got rid of. But on being ignored or even encouraged, it reaches a stage when withdrawing or controlling it becomes extremely difficult. We often see persons overeating the type of food they are fond of. Addiction to isolated food items can be considered quite harmless compared to addiction to overeating. But if that isolated food happens to contain more calories than the body needs, addiction to that particular type of food will definitely be difficult to control. In case that particular good is not available, something else will be sought which give the satisfaction of eating the missing one. In some cases there are no such cravings for high calorie food like sweets and other processed food. A person simply eats anything that is available till his stomach is uncomfortable full. Less quantity of food makes the individual restless until the eats again after a few minutes’ interval.

The underlying cause for such overeating lies basically with the abnormal functions of the endocrine glands and the amount of hormones they produce. Availability of food in abundance is another reason why addiction is difficult to handle.

Social evil

In majority of cases, addiction to food develops out of a social obligation. The social significant food has achieved, has achieved, has made it go beyond the satisfaction of the physiological need for it. While dining with a group of people, it is more for the group’s satisfaction, the individual eats. If a particular food item is liked and praised, someone in the group or the host persuades the individual to have more of it, making it difficult for him to abstain from over indulgence.

Sometimes, competitions creates greater enthusiasm to eat more. At times it happens that just for the sake of it, people overeat when they are in company. But all this leads to progressive addiction to food. But all this leads to progressive addiction to food. When a person is engaged in some work, the need to eat is not felt much as it is when he sits idle watching games, sports or even while chatting or traveling. Having nothing else to do, they indulge in eating every now and them.

Substitutes can be addictive

Addiction to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol also cause obesity but not in every one. Some times, to quit the habit of smoking or drinking, some people seek a substitute in the form of food. Surprisingly, these substitutes happen to be food which are high in calories. They seem to be mostly chocolates, other sweets or tasty fast food. Some psychological reasons can be attributed for such behaviour. Most of the persons who decide to give up smoking or drinking have a feeling that by abstaining from these they are depriving themselves of the pleasure they derive by indulging in them. They also feel that they should eat more of such food lest they should suffer form physical weakness. If they are advised or forced by others to quit smoking or alcohol, they almost invariably feel that they are obliging others by giving it a try. Therefore, they wish to compensate by eating what they like most, but not what could be a productive substitute.
Drugs that contain mercury and arsenic are prescribed for a variety of diseases. These if taken on a regular basis, result in obesity.

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  • About The Author


    Gopakumar Nair belongs to a Hereditary Ayurvedic family of Kerala who were Practising Ayurveda and traditional Medicine for 200 Years . They can be traced back to over six generations. His experience under the guidance of his guru Valiya thampuraan has earned lot of trust and popularity.

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