Obesity – friend or foe?

How easy is ordering a cooked meal nowadays? A tap of your phone and a mouth-watering dish appears at your doorstep in no time. Even better, we can scoop up any leftovers from a restaurant meal and take them home for later. But, in an era with terrifyingly increasing numbers of obesity and associated health problems, should we be taking a closer look at our eating habits?

What is obesity?

The energy value of food is measured in kilojoules. I’m sure you’ve seen these measurements on the labels of food packages, and heard about their importance in health. What goes in, must (somehow) come out in order to stay a healthy weight. If you’ve snacked out on too much mi goreng or a late night Macca’s run, any surplus energy is, in most cases, stored as fat. What constitutes has a ‘healthy weight’ depends on age, gender, body size, medical conditions and activity levels.

Everything that we put in our body’s must come out. Photo credit Trounce via Wikipedia

We know that obesity kills.

This has led to assumptions that overeating leads to long-term effects that are detrimental to our health. Obesity certainly can contribute to illnesses down the track such as Type II diabetes and hypertension. Yet, in the middle of a field of studies coming through disproving notions that obesity is at the root of a plethora of diseases, one study digs deeper. Published by The New Scientist, it has come forward explaining the theory that eating unhealthily may be causing a defence response from the body, bringing forth obesity as an alternative to other possibly unhealthier effects.

Obesity may be our body’s way of detoxifying cells from fatty meals like this one. Photo credit rawpixel via Unsplash

So, is obesity a good thing?

Well, kind of. Obesity is the body’s alternative to having an excess of fat flowing around in the blood stream. If adipocytes, fat cells, don’t take up the excess fat that they’re specialised for, then other cells of the body will. Additional blood in non-adipose tissue has toxic effects on cells, causing serious damage such as cell death. We can understand why the body wants us to have this safer deposit of fat, but without any exercise burning it off, or with a continual increase in its volume, we can get problems. When adipocytes overfill with fat, symptoms of metabolic syndrome begin to appear. These include increased blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels, having potential effects such as a stroke. Burst adipocytes release their contents into the bloodstream, which can accumulate in organs such as the liver and heart, further amplifying metabolic syndrome. Gökhan Hotamisligi, a diabetes and obesity researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health illustrated the phenomenon as being on par with “an oil tanker being hit… unload[ing] toxic cargo”.

Burst adipocytes, fat cells, are on par with the damaged caused by an oil tanker spill. Photo credit Wikimedia Commons via Wikipedia

Now, a personal attack on eating habits…

The convenience of ‘doggy-bagging’ a meal after you’re too full to finish it during a restaurant outing has been studied for these health reason. Findings suggest that larger ‘leftovers’ sizes causes us to eat more in a subsequent unrelated food consumption undertaking. We’re also less inclined to exercised. Psychological drivers for this occurrence are due to perceived consumption; larger leftovers means a previously smaller consumption is your mind. So, in a subsequent consumption, more is eaten in the wake of feeling better about your previous self, and the reduced inclination to compensate for a larger meal you didn’t think you had.

But, I’m only taking home the rest of a meal I couldn’t finish? Is that really going to kill me?!

An argument can be pulled from this concerning increased portion sizes, another aspect of this issue that has been studied closely. Studies have proven that larger portion sizes leads to a larger bite size from the individual, and a faster eating rate. However, the eating speed is actually about the same as for meals of a smaller size. This all comes together to say that when you eat a larger meal, you eat more food. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I certainly have, that meals served in restaurants seem to be getting bigger and bigger. I feel bad for not finishing a deliciously served meal. But, if I take it home and save it for later, I just end up eating it as a midnight snack.

The age of easy eating is upon us. And my word, do I love it! No more 2 minute noodles when the pantry is empty! But we need to remain wary of our psyche as we’re scoffing down our third Uber Eats for the week, as portion sizes won’t change unless we do. Perhaps shared meals should be more common-place, or we should head back to our roots for home-cooked meals more often.