Eight-year-old Eric Ishimwe weighed 40kg five months ago when his grandmother decided to search for professionals to help him get normal weight for his age.
Mukamana, Ishimwe’s grandmother who is a nurse, says she first tried to help her grandson lose weight but nothing changed.
“We cut out all sorts of fat from his diet, but nothing changed. That’s why we decided to look for a professional nutritionist to help us,” she says.
A week after getting the expert’s advice, Ishimwe lost 3kg, and his body mass index is now well-balanced.
Obesity is becoming a serious problem in modern times, mostly because of bad lifestyle habits.
Anastasie Mukakayumba, a nutritionist at Santé Plus in Ziniya, Kicukiro District, says in developed countries, obesity is regarded ‘as a sickness’ and it’s prevented and treated like any other illness unlike in certain parts of Africa where being fat is taken as a sign of a good life.
Mukakayumba says few know that getting fat can be a problem; with most thinking they can manage their weight on their own with no professional assistance.
“Some people who want to lose weight follow internet instructions which most of the times are not accurate; others use tips from their friends. Few take into consideration professional advice when trying to lose weight in a healthy manner,” she says.
Health experts say fasting, exercising, excluding some foods from one’s diet and taking drugs are some ways people can use to lose weight.
Mukakayumba says sometimes these tips can work and help people to lose weight, but when not adhered to strictly one immediately regains weight or they get health problems.
“Normally, people should eat a balanced diet comprising proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. If someone excludes one of these types of nutrients from their plate, even when they lose weight, they are not healthy.
“When we help someone to lose weight, we firstly have to know what the reason behind the weight gain is. There are different reasons which cause people to get fat or obese,” she explains.
Reasons why people get fat
Mukakayumba says people gain weight and become obese because of various factors, the reason why everyone should be helped on individual basis.
Not controlling foods, hormones, drugs, stress, sedentarism and socio-economic changes are the main reason for getting fat and obesity, she says.
“When someone wants to lose weight, he has to focus on treatment of the specific cause. If they lose weight and the cause remains untouched, that’s why after a short time they regain it,” says Mukakayumba.
Immaculée Umutoni, a nutritionist, says when someone has reached the stage of obesity, they eventually get sick and should seek medical help.
Medical practitioners who meet these people regularly should work with nutritionists better for treatment, she says.
“Countrywide, from health centres to district hospitals, we have nutritionists. There are also others who work privately. It’s time people changed their mindset on overweight and realised how dangerous it is,” she says.
What to take into consideration
Umutoni says the blood group is the first thing to take into consideration when helping someone to lose weight.
Religion, food preferences, food accessibility and financial means are other factors to consider when helping someone fighting obesity, she says.
“Everyone is unique; that’s why we don’t treat our patients generally. Tips which can work for one person may not necessarily work for another with the same sex and age,” she adds.
When prescribing a diet to help someone lose weight, nutritionists take into consideration the foods they like, their religions, financial means, accessibility and allergic properties, among others.
“We don’t want to help someone losing weight and cause another health problem. People should have a balanced body mass index (BMI),” she says.
BMI is a number based on your weight and height. In general, the higher the number, the more body fat a person has.
BMI is used to broadly define different weight groups in adults 20 years old or older. The same groups apply to both men and women.
If your BMI is less than 18.5, then you’re underweight. When someone has normal weight, their BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Someone is overweight when their BMI is between 25 and 29.9, while 30 and more is considered obesity.