Obesity in UAE: Tips on how to eat less and avoid overeating easily

Experts says overeating is the consumption of larger amount of foods and excess calories than a person needs to survive his daily life, thus leading to weight gain and sometimes obesity. (File)

The growing waistline among UAE residents is a matter of concern. According to a BMC Public Health journal (2014) – UAE is the fifth most obese nation in the world.

According to the World Health Organisation (2015), at least 2.8 million people die every year for being overweight or obese. The average BMI in the UAE is 25.6, that means the average UAE resident is considered overweight.

So how are people ending up obese in the UAE?

Overeating may sound like it's a just a habit, or just love for fast food, but in many cases it goes deeper than that and can be a clinical condition.

Dubai Municipality launched several initiative as a way to encourage residents to shed those pesky excess pounds and start focusing on a healthy lifestyle.

So what is overeating?

Experts says overeating is the consumption of larger amount of foods and excess calories than a person needs to survive his daily life, thus leading to weight gain and sometimes obesity.

It can refer to specific episodes of over consumption, like overeating during a holiday or festivity, or it can refer to eating a lot of food throughout the day.

Some people overeat compulsively and refer to food to cope with their negative emotions, stress, sadness - such people feel guilty, ashamed and depressed after eating and may also have a clinical disorder called binge eating disorder (BED) which characterizes people that eat large amounts of food in a short period of time.

The key to healthy eating and living is to 'Listen to your body', that is to eat when you are hungry and to stop eating before you even feel full.

How to avoid overeating?

Dubai based dietician Reem Abdallah gives the following tips on how to eat less and avoid overeating easily:

Eat your breakfast: Breakfast kick starts your metabolism after a long night fast, it is also important to curb your hunger till you reach lunch time.

Aim for a healthy breakfast that has an average of 250 calories.

Eat slowly: Eating slowly ensures that food satisfaction signals have time to reach the brain. It takes 12 or more minutes for these signals to reach the brain of a thin person, but 20 or more minutes for an obese person.

Eat small frequent meals: This will keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady thus preventing your crave for unhealthy food.

Eat every 3-4 hours, since keeping a large time gap between your meals causes an increase hunger and doubles your portions by next meal.

Eat high volume meals: Choose foods that are higher in water content such as fruits and vegetables as you get bigger portions for fewer calories.

Choose fresh fruits over dried fruits, for the same amount of calories you can have one cup of grapes instead of 2 tablespoons of raisins.

Add as much vegetables as you want to your meal, you can go for fresh, steamed, boiled or roasted vegetables.

Increase your fiber intake: Having almost 25gm of fiber per day increases your satiety and satiation level. Fiber makes you feel full and keeps your blood sugar and cholesterol level regulated.

Start your meal with a salad and try replacing your refined bread, pasta and rice with whole grain versions.

Include protein in your meals: Animal based and plant based proteins are important as they make you feel more satisfied and less hungry and help you preserve your muscles.

End restrictive diets: Do not deprive yourself; this may increase your craving for some food items which will lead to overeating.

Give yourself permission to have what you're craving for in moderation.

Try not to be an emotional eater: Distract yourself with a hobby such as reading, dancing, singing, swimming when you feel stressed, sad, depressed. Do not refer to food as a way to deal with your emotions.

Control your cravings and appetite rather than them controlling you.