Yes, You Can Be Malnourished and Obese

You Can Be Malnourished and Obese

There is a common misconception that overweight people are “well-fed,” but this is a dangerous (and insensitive) assumption. While it may sound counterintuitive, many people who are significantly overweight are actually malnourished, meaning they don’t get enough nutrients from their diet. In an effort to lose weight, these patients often focus their efforts on reducing their calorie intake rather than improving their diet, making it even harder for them to obtain essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamins A & D.

How does obesity cause malnutrition?

For many people, unhealthy foods tend to be the most binge-worthy, which can result in high-calorie consumption of nutrient-deficient foods. Think about foods that you have a hard time putting down—it’s likely that they’re ultra-processed snacks, like potato chips and candy, rather than raw broccoli and carrots. This isn’t an unfortunate coincidence; by containing added ingredients like sugar, salt, fat, and/or artificial colors and preservatives, ultra-processed foods are designed to be addictive, with no regard for nutritional value.

Cost and access to healthy foods is also a major factor in malnutrition and obesity. As an article in Preventative Medicine Report points out, obesity and malnutrition are often tied to lower socioeconomic status, as poorer individuals struggle to afford healthy foods. While it’s easy to assume that people who struggle with weight gain must not experience economic hardship, research shows that obesity and malnutrition affect people from all backgrounds.

How many obese people suffer from malnutrition?

In the US, one-third of all adults are considered obese, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30. It’s difficult to find firm statistics on the number of obese people in the US who are also malnourished, however, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this year found that up to 57.8% of overweight and obese patients admitted to a hospital in Spain for acute coronary syndrome (conditions like heart attacks that stem from reduced blood flow to the heart) suffered from malnutrition. While it is still more common for underweight patients to experience malnutrition, it is becoming increasingly common for obese patients to suffer from nutrient deficiency.

Focus on quality, not quantity

To prevent weight gain, you should eat less, right? Not necessarily. We know from our experience helping weight loss patients in the Inland Empire that restricting your calorie intake is neither a healthy nor sustainable way to lose weight. Instead of focusing on counting every calorie to shed pounds, eat with integrity. This means favoring nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes over processed foods. Because these foods are better for you, you’ll be able to enjoy more of them while actually decreasing your risk of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

Won’t I be even more hungry eating healthy foods?

Our patients often find that eating nutritionally-rich whole foods actually leaves them feeling full longer, as these foods contain more fiber and protein (and less addictive ingredients). Additionally, because food with lots of sugar and carbs causes your blood sugar levels to spike and later crash, our patients report feeling better throughout the day when they consistently eat a healthier diet.

How do I start a healthy diet?

We know it’s a big leap switching from eating processed foods to nutrient-rich, whole foods—which is why we recommend starting small. Here are some incremental ways to start eating a healthy diet:

  • Swap out one food item a day for a more nutrition-packed item. This doesn’t even need to be an entire meal at first. For example, consider swapping out a sweet treat with a few handfuls of your favorite raw nuts. (Nuts are high in healthy fats, protein, and other nutrients—plus eating them will reduce your appetite.)
  • Let appearance guide you. Nutrition-packed items are often deeply colorful, such as dark leafy greens, colorful berries, rainbow chard, orange carrots, and purple beets, so look for colorful fruits and veggies in the produce aisle. 
  • Learn one simple recipe. It may not sound like it would make that much of an impact on your overall health, but learning and repeating just one simple recipe, like this delicious roasted broccoli recipe, can set you on your way to losing weight and lowering your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Adjust your grocery shopping pattern. What we eat at home starts with what we buy at the store, but our shopping patterns tend to be hard to change. Instead of starting your shopping trip in the center aisles—which are chock-full of processed, shelf-stable foods—try beginning in the produce aisle and working your way around the store, avoiding the center aisles. When you get to the frozen foods, pick up some frozen fruits and veggies instead of boxed meals. After you shop like this a few times, it’ll start to become your normal routine and you won’t have to make such a conscious effort.
  • Don’t completely avoid eating foods you like. Eating healthily doesn’t mean eating things you dislike. It also doesn’t have to be complicated. You can easily adapt your favorite meals to include more nutrition. For example, bulk up that turkey sandwich with a large handful of pre-washed salad greens and swap out the white bread for whole grain bread. Your sandwich will still taste delicious and give your body a boost of vital nutrients.

Weight loss in Rancho Cucamonga and the Inland Empire

We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off—which is why our expert weight loss surgical staff specializes in personalized surgical and non-surgical treatment plans to help patients just like you increase confidence and establish healthy, lifelong habits. If you’re concerned about your weight and want to try a solution that works, contact us online or call (909) 579-3111 to schedule your personalized weight loss consultation today.

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