Stable weight thanks to healthy eating

Obesity is bad for your health. This applies in particular to people with a physical disability. To keep your weight stable, you have to watch what they eat and take enough exercise.

 

Obesity is fast becoming an epidemic in rich industrialized countries. While sedentary lives mean we are using less energy than ever, supermarkets and fast food restaurants invite us to partake in a tempting range of calorie-rich foods. Although we've never had so much leisure time, we are using increasingly less of it for cooking and eating. Gone are the days of lovingly prepared, time-consuming dishes, now replaced by ready meals from the supermarket shelves.

Why is obesity a problem for people with disabilities?

People with physical disabilities are not immune to modern nutritional vices. Plus their metabolism has characteristics that demand they take special care with their diet. Experts have established that paraplegics often experience extreme fluctuations in their weight. Shortly after an accident, patients lose a few kilos. The body initially has a stress reaction to the trauma of the injury. The metabolism works faster, for example to combat inflammation. In the first few days following an accident, shock may often cause patients to lose their appetite, or the injuries they have suffered may prevent them from eating. So they lose weight.

Paraplegics need to be especially careful about their diet

Later, as things gradually return to normal, many people with a physical disability are in danger of putting on weight. Usually their lives have changed completely. Paraplegics sit in a wheelchair all day long and therefore need much less energy. The number of calories they need also falls, as paralysis reduces the muscle mass. Fewer muscles consume less energy. It is particularly important for the disabled to maintain a normal body weight. This is because obesity and diabetes not only shorten your life, they also rob those affected of a large chunk of their quality of life.

Getting the right balance in your diet

The same principle applies to the disabled as to everyone else: as long as the ratio between energy consumption and energy intake is in balance, the weight remains constant. However, if you take in more calories than you need, the body starts to store fat. But calorie-counting by itself is not the only aspect of a healthy diet. It is particularly important to eat a varied and balanced combination of nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) and a sufficient supply of vitamins and minerals. The so-called "nutrition pyramid" can help here, as it shows how much of each foodstuff you should eat every day. If you want to lose weight or make changes to your diet, we recommend that you seek advice from your general practitioner or nutritionist. The physically disabled can find specially trained nutritionists at specialist and rehabilitation clinics.

Does BMI also apply to the disabled?

Yes, the body-mass index (BMI) is also used to calculate the weight of the physically disabled. The BMI describes the ratio between body weight and height. It is calculated by taking the person's weight in kilos and dividing it by the square of their height in meters. For a man weighing 80 kilos who is 1.75 meters tall, the calculation is: 80: 1.75 x 1.75 = 26. A BMI of 25 counts as normal weight, a BMI of 25 to 30 counts as overweight and more than 30 counts as obese.