Many Shipping Jobs Available! Register and apply now.

Seafarers’ Health Tips: Managing weight and obesity


Obesity and overweight can be addressed with the right diet and lifestyle choices

Overweight and obesity are the body’s abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that poses health risks. It is a condition that develops gradually due to poor diet and lifestyle choices. Body mass index (BMI) is the most common mean to classify overweight and obesity in adults. BMI is computed by dividing the individual’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in metres.

A person with a BMI over 25 or more is considered overweight, while 30 equates to obesity.

Facts about obesity and overweight

Obesity is preventable by proper weight management. The population of obesity adults tripled between 1975 and 2016. More than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and above were overweight in 2016. 650 million individuals within this 1.9 billion count were classified as obese.

Obesity and overweight can lead to physical and mental health problems, and increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, as well as type 2 diabetes. Common ailments which plague overweight individuals are musculoskeletal disorders and osteoarthritis – a highly disabling joint degenerative disease. Cancers of the endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney and colon are linked to obesity.

Obese individuals also suffer annoying discomforts such as gastroesophageal reflux, urinary stress incontinence, infertility, sleep apnoea, breathing problems, as well as psychological issues namely depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Causes of obesity and overweight

The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and that expended due to increased intake of energy-dense foods high in fat and sugars. A physically active man requires about 2,500 calories, while ladies at 2,000 calories to maintain a healthy weight.

Lack of physical activity also contributes to overweight and obesity. However, some rare genetic conditions can also cause obesity. Underlying medical conditions like underactive thyroid glands (hypothyroidism) can lead to weight gain. This can be prevented if it is properly diagnosed and treated. Certain drugs including corticosteroids, medication for epilepsy, diabetes and mental illness can also contribute to weight gain.

How to manage/lose weight

In order to lose a sustainable rate of 0.5kg to 1kg a week, individuals are advised to reduce their energy intake by 600 calories a day. Replace processed and fast foods, sugary drinks and alcohol with healthier choices. Consume at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, while starchy carbohydrates should comprise just a third of the food consumed. Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals are examples of starchy carbohydrates. Replace them with higher fibre or wholegrain varieties such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or unpeeled potatoes.

It is also recommended to reduce saturated fat intake, found in fatty cuts of meat, sausages, butter cheese and processed food. Opt for unsaturated fats instead such as vegetable oils, spreads and oily fish. Engage in physical activity as it increases chances of weight loss. Lastly, avoid crash dieting which can result in vitamin deficiencies and other health risks. If over-the-counter and prescription weight loss supplements are an option, consult a doctor or nutritionist before consumption.



ITF Seafarers