Is Obesity a Form of Malnutrition?

The Center for Disease Control states that two out of every three Americans are overweight today, and 35% of those individuals fall into the category of obese. While many place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the individuals, there are many factors other than personal choice and will power that influence what we eat.  One of them is malnutrition. 

We don’t usually think of a person who is overweight as someone who is malnourished. Historically malnourishment was associated with underweight and starvation.  The National Institutes of Health define malnutrition as the condition that occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients. That can occur even when one is eating enormous amounts of foods ,when the foods have little or no nutritional value. 

The human brain is incredibly intelligent and sensitive to what goes on in the body. It will signal the lungs to breathe, the kidneys to flush, the liver to detox. It also monitors the nutrients that may or may not be present in the bloodstream. When your diet primarily consists of low-nutrient foods, your brain will not be happy with what your body has to work with and It will make you hungry.  

Here are a few examples of what happens to you when you eat foods with few nutrients:

  1. you will initially feel energized, but within an hour or so you will begin to feel hungary and/or tired
  2. you will be distracted by your hunger, unable to focus and concentrate
  3. if you eat more low nutrient foods, you will repeat the cycle of energy and fatigue
  4. over the course of the day, you will consume many calories but few nutrients
  5. you will become overweight, tired and hungry

Low nutrient foods are highly processed foods. They usually come in a box.  High nutrient foods are fresh foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You might also add beans, quality meat, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts to a list of high nutrient foods. 

Here is what happens when you eat high nutrient foods:

  1. You will be consuming multiple nutrients and fiber that work together to provide satiety and energy
  2. you will feel energized and focused between meals
  3. you will not feel hungry or tired between meals

You will find that because quality foods have a better ratio of nutrients to calories, you won’t overeat. (It’s easy to eat a big bag of low nutrient chips but highly unlikely you will eat a bag of apples in one sitting)          

There is often a sense of shame or embarrassment associated with obesity. When you come to the understanding that the underlying cause may be malnourishment, then you can make changes in your food that will eliminate hunger and low energy and begin to shed unwanted pounds. .