Obesity is endemic in our country today. In the United States, approximately 42% of all adults are obese or overweight at an unhealthy level. This is not a new problem, but it is a growing one because obesity can lead to a large number of physical and emotional conditions, some of which can be deadly.
Obesity is typically measured by Body Mass Index, or BMI. It used a formula that determines the amount of body fat a person is carrying based on their height and weight. A BMI that is 30 or higher is considered obese. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and the normal weight range is 18.5 to 24.9.
You can check your BMI using this BMI calculation tool on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website. The Department of Health & Human Services, NIH, also published this chart to help you determine your BMI. Some doctors have different BMI standards for men and women, but the NIH and CDC both have one set of standards for both genders.
Knowing your BMI gives you an idea of how much weight you might have to lose in order to get to a healthier weight range. But what are the benefits of losing weight? What are the impacts of being overweight?
The cost of being overweight can be substantial as you can see below.
Body Weight and Your Physical Health
Being overweight can lead to quite a few health conditions. Some of them can be quite serious, even fatal. The most common medical conditions associated with obesity and being overweight include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Fatty liver
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Overactive or underactive immune system
- Joint health and osteoarthritis
- Sleep apnea
- Certain types of cancer
- Problems with pregnancy
Being overweight can also increase your risks for these diseases and others. Obesity is often linked to mobility issues which can start a vicious cycle of inactivity and weight gain. If you can’t move it is much more difficult to lose weight. If you can’t lose the weight or gain more weight, your conditions get worse.
The good news is many of these conditions can be reversed with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Research shows that if a person loses just 5 to 10 percent of their total body weight, they are very likely to experience certain health benefits which may even include reversing certain health conditions.
You are not stuck and most of these health conditions can be stopped or reversed if you take control and take deliberate steps to losing the weight.
Body Weight and Your Mental Health
Physical conditions are not the only consequences of being overweight. Obesity can severely impact your mental health too. While this is not to say that a person must lose weight in order to be mentally healthy and happy, there remain strong links that suggest a negative correlation between obesity and mental health.
According to the CDC, approximately 43 percent of adults who have depression are also obese. It is more likely that a woman who has depression will be obese than a woman who does not have depression.
But does obesity actually cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions? A 2010 study found that a person who is obese increases their risk for developing depression by 55 percent.
Anxiety and depression also tend to be more prevalent in people who are overweight or obese. This can be triggered by factors such as self-image, sleep problems, low self-esteem, chronic physical conditions, hormone imbalances, social isolation, and their general mood.
Weight loss can help improve depression and anxiety for a number of reasons. It can help a person feel better about themselves. It can also reverse chronic health conditions that could be causing the depression and anxiety. By the same token, just being able to get out and move around and interact with people can stave off depression and anxiety.
Keys to Controlling Bodyweight
Losing weight is not easy and it will not happen overnight. That is the first thing to remember so that you can set realistic expectations and goals for yourself. If you set out to lose 30 pounds in 30 days, chances are you are not going to hit that goal; and if you do, you might be doing more damage to your body or setting yourself up to regain that weight in short order. That can leave you feeling unmotivated and disappointed. It can even knock you right off your diet or send you on a binge.
The smart way to lose weight is to do so in a steady and healthy manner. Most physicians and dieticians recommend people to aim to lose about two pounds a week. This is completely doable for most people and it allows your body to gradually adjust to the weight loss instead of enduring a sudden shock of severe calorie restriction and drastic drop in body weight.
Be kind to your body!
The keys to losing weight are simple:
- Consider consulting a doctor or dietician
- Eat 5 to 6 small, healthy meals throughout the day
- Fresh is best. Stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid sodium
- Don’t drop below 1,200 calories per day unless your doctor recommends it
- Learn how to recognize healthy portions (Hint: most restaurants serve 2 or 3 times the recommended serving)
- Avoid sugary foods and find healthier alternative sweeteners
- Lower your fat but make sure you get enough healthy fats in your diet
- Drink lots of plain water
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Eat more fiber rich foods
- If you currently smoke, consider quitting
- Exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes a day
The real key is consistency. You must stick with your program even when you don’t feel like it.
Losing weight the right way will help improve your health. There is an abundance of evidence to support it. If you are ready to lose weight, talk to your doctor or consult with one of the many online resources to come up with a plan that will set you up for long term success.
Then just do it. You will be glad you did.