Bangalore has two big challenges this summer. The city with growing obesity figures has to battle the bulge and the heat sensibly, say dieticians.

It could be sensuous images of a tub of ice cream that comes to your mind, or the montage of a fizzy drink bottle, shaken and stirred to spew fountains of icy liquid into the sunlight that you remember on a scorching summer day. These delectable choices are irresistible every year because anything cold, sugary and laden with calories can help beat the heat like nothing else.

Dieticians, though are asking people to think carefully before making food choices. With obesity becoming an area of concern across the world, weight watching should be your top priority this summer. Bangalore, like many urban cities in the country, is fast catching up with its Western counterparts in the area of weight gain. Says Dr. Anju Sood, diet expert: “Obesity is an epidemic that is spreading exponentially in all age categories, from adolescents to adults, due to sedentary lifestyle, erratic food habits, and stressful living. The obesity trend in Bangalore is very similar to rest of the metropolitan cities of India.”

To corroborate her statement Dr. Sood has some statistics to offer. She reports: “According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the percentage of obesity among females is much higher than males. In a study done by NFHS, the percentage of married women, aged 15 to 49 years who are overweight or obese increased from 11 per cent in NFHS-2 to 15 per cent in NFHS-3. In south India the percentage of women who are overweight or obese is highest in Kerala (34 per cent), followed by Tamil Nadu (24.4 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (22.7 per cent) and Karnataka (17.3 per cent).”

People tend to reach out for summer staples such as ice cream, soft drinks and sorbets. But most soft drinks contain simple sugars, which, when consumed, are released in the body almost entirely. Says Sheela Krishnaswamy, diet, nutrition and wellness consultant: “A cola contains approximately 120 calories in 330 ml, while a fresh orange juice contains approximately 150 calories in 330 ml. However, a glass of orange juice contains other nutrients. Also the calories in a glass of orange juice are from natural fruit sugars, whereas many soft drinks are made of refined white sugar. The best way to avoid taking in too many calories is to drink natural drinks such as coconut water or buttermilk or fresh fruit juice.”

When asked if diet drinks, which are equally popular, are any safer, Dr Sood is quick to explain that though short term usage of artificially sweetened beverages reduces the intake of calories and promotes weight loss or maintenance, the problem lies in the fact that they could throw off the body’s ability to accurately gauge how many calories are being taken in and actually required. “Some can create other health hazards too,” she says.

Dieticians also advise that you keep an eye on the weight you can gain over summer because it can happen suddenly. And since obesity is associated with problems such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and premature mortality, eating the right foods and working out regularly should be a way of life. It is also important that summer ad campaigns that are now on television and the billboards should try and help people stay on the path of health and fitness. Says Niranjan Natarajan, founder and creative director, Why Axis Advertising and Design: “Advertising does influence people by leading them to making more knowledgeable decisions. Obesity is a big issue today in Bangalore, especially among kids and fortunately, most parents and schools are beginning to recognise it.”

To combat obesity, we need to work together. “We should create awareness of obesity and its dire consequences,” says Krishnaswamy, adding, “Companies, colleges and schools should run nutrition and exercise programmes. Meals served in offices, corporate canteens, and school and college cafeterias should be healthy. There should be more open spaces and parks for public use and good pavements to encourage more people to walk and not drive. There’s so much to be done if we need to fight obesity in Bangalore.”