Despite mounds of studies and health reports sounding alarms on the effects of excess body weight, serious questions remain if the message is understood or well-disseminated. The facts are that excess weight (being overweight or obese) has far-reaching health consequences – increasing risk for:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Alzheimer’s dementia
- Liver and gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
- Respiratory problems
- Arthritis, joint disease
- Difficulty in mobility
- Abnormal menstrual periods and infertility in women
- Cancer of the breast, colon/rectum, endometrium, esophagus, gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovaries, pancreas, stomach, thyroid, mouth, pharynx, and larynx, as well as meningioma and multiple myeloma
- Psychological, emotional issues including low self-esteem, anxiety, even depression
- And on average, people carrying excess weight do not live as long as people maintaining a healthy body weight.
Modern life in America has led many people to eat more unhealthy foods, eat bigger food portions, and be less active. As a result, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese (very overweight) has been rising dramatically. The question is: “Are you carrying excess body weight? Are you heavier than you should be?”
If that answer is “yes,” make a commitment to lose the excess weight (or to maintain your healthy weight) this year – the rewards of a healthy weight are well worth it!! So how do you make these vital changes to live a healthier, longer life? This week and next, I am providing strategies for this chief health agent – weight-loss success.
DR. NINA’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: About Excess Body Weight & Weight Loss
Your Commitment: The facts are that healthy weight loss and management is about your commitment to a healthy lifestyle—consuming a healthy, balanced diet; remaining physically active; managing stress; getting your sleep; and being mindful. For successful, long-term weight loss, you must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits. There is no quick fix, short-term intervention, fad diet, pill, shake, or simple solution.
Assessing Your Body Weight: Being overweight or obese is when your weight is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height. You may have heard about Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a screening tool that is derived from a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. You can calculate it on your own, or utilize an online chart or BMI calculator. A BMI less than 18.5 has a weight status of “underweight” (which can be unhealthy too, by the way); 18.5-24.9 is “healthy;” 25.0 to 29.9 is “overweight;” and 30.0 and above is “obese.”
That being said, while it does give an idea about whether a person’s weight is appropriate for their height, at an individual level, BMI is not diagnostic of measuring body fat or health of an individual. A trained, healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.
Weight Gains Factors: Although anyone is prone to gaining and losing weight, some individuals have a higher risk of developing obesity due to certain factors: genetics and family lifestyle (as obesity tends to run in families).
Bottom line, excess body weight is caused by eating more calories than expended. And although there are many theories regarding the root-cause of gaining weight, the foundational truth is that excess weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than required on a daily basis, as your body stores these excess calories as fat. Combine this with weeks-to-months-to-years of inactivity and a lack of daily exercise–this creates the perfect environment for obesity to occur.
Remember, too, that your battle of the bulge is multi-factorial and also includes modern life issues of:
- The overuse of sugar, fat and salt in foods to entice our taste buds and excite our brain’s pleasure centers, along with its easy availability (in every corner, nook and cranny, 24-7)
- Larger serving sizes of foods and drinks at the store, our homes, and restaurants
- Increase in out-of-home dining
- Generally, unhealthy and cheap food options in school and work cafeterias
- Prevalence of chronic stress, anxiety and depression which often leads to emotional eating. Comfort foods are aptly named because they are rich in sugar, fat and salt – giving a sense of pleasure, though temporary and fleeting…while the calories and fat stay put.
- The culture of holiday overindulgence
- Long-work hours and productivity demands that contribute to sedentary lifestyle, stress, unhealthy choices and unbalanced lifestyles
- Insomnia impacting appetite regulation
- Affordability and convenience of processed, packaged, fatty, fast-food choices
- Marketing of unhealthy foods. Examples include incentives like double orders for better prices, toys with kid’s meal, and misleading merchandising with images and words like “organic and healthy,” when the product is laden with sugars and unhealthy fats.
- Sedentary lifestyle which has been exacerbated by technology–computers, smart phones, tablets–at our workplace, school, and homes
- Yo-yo dieting –our bodies are designed to hold onto fat. Long-term calorie restriction sends signals to the brain that triggers a craving for food. Because of the frustration of failure, many people are simply giving up on slimming down, making excess weight their accepted norm.
Weight Loss: Key factors play an important role in your ability lose weight effectively.
- Create realistic goals. Patience is a virtue, and, too, a key component of any weight loss plan. Most experts recommend a gradual and steady weight loss of ½ to 2 pounds per week. But for those who are 30 pounds overweight, the idea of a 15-60 week period before attaining that goal can be daunting, frustrating, and defeating.
It is important to understand that there is good reason for this recommendation. To lose a pound of fat, it requires that you burn 3,500 calories. In a seven-day week, if you burn 500 more calories than you consume in food, that would equal a one-pound weight loss. And, if you burn 1000 more calories a day than you consume in food, that would equal a two-pound weight loss. And generally speaking, losing weight faster than that can become dangerous, either from not eating enough, or exercising too much. It is paramount to stay focused on this day, this week. Make your commitment to your best health, each day.
- Steer clear from fad diets. Many of us greatly desire to lose weight, and as a result can be easily tempted by fad diets—weight loss plans that promise dramatic results. However, when it comes to losing pounds fast or other gimmicks, there is abundant truth in the saying “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Fad diets can range from only consuming cayenne pepper and water, grapefruit, or even the ever-popular Atkins eating plan. While these diets can help you drop several pounds quickly, for most humans, they are nearly impossible to maintain for long periods of time. As a result, their effects are short-term and fleeting when we stop them. And, too, they can also be dangerous to our health as they oftentimes fail to provide our body with essential vitamins and nutrients (malnutrition), cause intestinal issues, and can even dehydrate us.
- Exercise is Important – But Not the Key to Weight Loss: Burning calories with exercise is important but cannot overcome bad choices and unhealthy eating habits. But with all the emphasis on working out to “burn off” what you eat, experts underscore you’ve missed the real problem: What you eat. The calories that are burnt in any sixty minutes of physical activity can be wiped out in just minutes with the wrong food.
And people who try to lose weight by dedicating hours each day to exercise, get discouraged when the pounds don’t magically melt off. On the other hand, successfully changing what you eat and drink does help when combined with physical activity.
Now that you have a better understanding of how excess weight wreaks havoc with your physical, mental and emotional health – including how you view yourself from a physical standpoint—make that commitment to lose weight! Know, too, that dietary changes are especially important at the beginning of any new weight loss plan. Next week I will provide insightful understandings to help rid excess weight. And while it’s no secret that losing weight is challenging –it is possible! And very possible when you decide to commit yourself to finally losing weight and understand key points. Stay tuned!
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.