Health Lines: It’s all in the head

Updated 07 November 2012

Health Lines: It’s all in the head

Very few of us are overweight by choice — so why is it that successfully maintaining a healthy weight appears to be one of the greatest challenges in our lives?
Having been involved in dealing with nutrition and weight management for a number of years I have found that the diet industry largely depends upon selling new diets to people so that they will buy the latest celebrity book on the subject. But the diet industry thrives upon people failing to lose weight.
Losing weight is not just a case of buying the book. To lose weight you need to have motivation and mental preparation — let’s call it a mind journey.
You may have been feeling unhappy about your weight for some time, but have not yet been convinced into taking action because the mind and body have not been working together as a team. Successful, permanent change only occurs after a period of contemplation.

Attitude and food
If you have been dieting and remain overweight for some time, you may have developed an unhealthy attitude toward food. Food becomes an enemy and every day becomes a battle with food. Instead of eating for hunger and good health, you start to eat out of boredom, depression or to comfort yourself. Everyone does this to a degree.
So, think about your life. Why do you overeat? Do you need to change things in your life? Write down the answers.
I receive many letters from people who have long-standing weight problems, with a lot of weight to lose. I really feel that what some of the letters have in common is that they are from really super, giving and caring people. Nurturing people, who have a lot to give others but with no time to have their own needs met, spend so much time thinking of others that there is no time or space for their own emotional needs. If you think you fall into this category, here are some things to think about.
• Try to ask yourself why you overeat.
• Is it boredom or depression?
• When did it start, in childhood?
• Was there a trauma in childhood or a family divorce that started you on a path to comfort eating?
• Is there no time or place in your life for your own emotional needs?
Any of these can cause a void and comfort eating sometimes fills this void. When you realize the reason why you overeat, then you can take simple steps toward finding what you want from life and move forward to a more positive, healthy and fitter you.
Make the time to list what you want to achieve in life and try to take little steps toward achieving them each day.

Accept the fact
You are eating more food than your body needs for repair and energy. That is why the excess food is being stored in your body as fat. So, that is why you need to make changes!
Knowledge is power.
No one makes you overeat — you make that choice.
Comfort eating only makes you fatter — so deal with the causes.
Build your confidence — If you say, “I can”, you will. If you say, “I can’t”, you won’t.
Believe in yourself, keep on trying. If you eat something you feel you shouldn’t have, never mind. We are all human, so keep trying. Getting into shape starts in the mind so make a choice everyday to be fit and healthy.

Ask Alva
How do I know if I am overweight? I am 1.6 meters tall and weigh 80 kilos. — Mary B.

Find out your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. People with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. You can calculate your BMI yourself. Square your height in meters (e.g. 1.6 x 1.6 = 2.56) and then divide this into your weight in kilos (e.g. 80 ÷ 2.56 = 31). Your BMI is 31 and this indicates that you are obese and you need to lose weight for the sake of your future good health. Your ideal weight is around 62 kilos. — Alva

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.