By Nutritionist and Dietitian Ms. C. Ni

Overeating is a relative term. The text book definition refers to it as the consumption of an energy intake that is inappropriately large for a given energy expenditure, thus, leading to obesity. In short, it means that what you eat is more than what you need or expend.

"So what? What is so bad about overeating?" you may ask.

Well, anything in excess is not healthy, and the same goes for overeating. Eating in excess has a tremendous, adverse impact on the health of an individual. There is a thin line between eating healthy and overeating. We generally fail to understand this difference and are easily enticed by the many foods around us. Indulging can result in the following:

Excessive weight gain or obesity could become a factor. If guilty, you will notice a tube like structure developing around your belly and weight would rise by an average of 5 to 7 pounds in a month.

To put things in perspective, consider the following. One pound of body fat contains about 3500 calories, so if you drink 2.5 bottles of soft drink such as coke or 2 bottles of 16oz fresh-squeezed fruit juice without sugar added everyday, you could gain one pound every week, 52 pounds in a year.

Diabetes is another illness that can result from too much food. Due to the excessive intake, the pancreas in the body is unable to produce enough insulin in order to balance the high sugar levels produced by the body.

The body automatically responds to extra fat by producing more insulin, according to the volume of food you have consumed. The excess insulin circulating in your bloodstream can cause renewed hunger, creating a cycle of fluctuating blood sugar levels.

This can eventually lead to diabetes. Diabetes manifests a multitude of serious health complications, including kidney disease, and blindness.

Researchers have drawn correlations between diabetes and insulin resistance and overeating, poor diet and inactivity.

And then there is heart disease. A diet with high calorie and high fat intakes can lead to high cholesterol, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. The excessive intake of foods entering the body get stored in the body in the form of fat and the arteries narrow, which increases the risk of a heart stroke or sudden cardiac arrest.

Arthritis can also result from eating too much. The excess weight gain puts increased stress on your skeletal system, causing joint pain and arthritis in your hips, knees and back. The bone deterioration or osteoporosis occurs as the excessive fats deposited around them doesn't allow the essential minerals like calcium and phosphorous to reach the bones.

If you experience stomach pain, uneasiness, vomiting, or diarrhoea, chances are that indigestion is the cause. This comes about because the function of your digestive system is being destroyed by excessive food in the body. It could also cause bloating, flatulence, blood sugar fluctuations, headaches and cravings and may result in liver problems.

Distress over your weight can create an emotional roller coaster that is difficult to get off of. If you are preoccupied with your weight, it can depress you. This may create a never-ending cycle of eating, weight gain and more depression.

Too much food in the system can cause sleep apnea.

Due to the excessive intake of food, the digestion process begins very slowly and disturbs the oxygen supply to the heart. This results in a feeling of uneasiness, which causes the inability to sleep.

Hypertension also sets in when a person eats more and causes men to be prone to infertility. It increases the fat content in the body, which causes a hormonal imbalance. Low levels of testosterone found in the body becomes a problem and the production of sperm is reduced.

Women are also affected. During pregnancy women tend to indulge their sweet tooth, their salty cravings, or eat for two. Those extra calories can be transferred to the fetus. Fetal growth and development become affected by spikes in blood sugar and excessive caloric intake. Maintaining a healthy diet for a healthy baby is important.

There are two types of weight gained during pregnancy: the weight of the growing baby and it's associated needs and the weight that is gained through overeating or making poor nutritional choices.

On average, women at a healthy pre-pregnancy weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds and women who are overweight at pre-pregnancy should aim for 11 to 25 pounds. A pregnant woman may feel tired and sick if she regularly indulges in high-calorie foods, since she isn't getting the right nutrition and energy from her meals.

Several dangerous medical conditions have been tied to an overweight or obese mother, such as Pre-eclampsia. If untreated, pre-eclampsia can result in the death of the mother and/or the baby).

Gestational diabetes can also result (it can increase the mother's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in later life. It may also have negative effects on the baby).

Larger, heavier babies are more likely to remain heavy throughout their lives and have a greater chance of developing medical problems in later life such as asthma, allergies, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

As we can see now, a diet characterized by chronic overeating creates a host of health issues. Obesity is the most obvious and best-documented impact of overeating. However overeating can also result in serious health complications such as fatty liver, insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. And it often masks deeper psychological and emotional issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The five leading causes of death for all ages in Belize in 2005 were(1) heart diseases, (2)diabetes mellitus,

(3) ischemic heart disease,

(4) land transport accidents and


Three of five are related to overeating.

In 2004, 89 deaths were attributed to diabetes. In 2006, there were nearly 50% more or 131 deaths reported. Official police stats say the 2008 murder count reached 103; Ministry of Health stats say diabetes equally claimed 103 lives (40 men and 63 women).

Over 40,000 Belizeans are said to be diabetic (that's roughly 13% of the population). The Ministry of Health indicates that 13.1% of Belize's adult population is living with diabetes. It was also reported that the obesity rate-one of the key risk factors for developing diabetes-was 60%; meaning nearly 200,000 Belizeans are overweight. Meanwhile 30%-over 90,000 Belizeans-are reported to be hypertensive, suffering from high blood pressure and 84 Belizeans require dialysis treatment for diabetes and other conditions that have caused their kidneys to stop working.

Start planning your diet today and avoid health issues tied to overeating. Start eating a healthy diet with the goal of maintaining a healthy weight. Consult your doctor and dietician for an effective weight loss and exercise plan.

The Reporter