Weight loss is often driven by the desire to fit into “that little black dress”, a pair of designer jeans or to look sleek and toned in in your new athletic ware. Many may have aspirations that range from having a BMI of 17 (average BMI of a runway model), or looking like a young wide receiver on the cover of a glitzy sports magazine. These unfortunately are unrealistic and unattainable targets leading to disappointments; they have no positive outcomes.
Others who are more “practical” (myself included) think of getting to their “ideal body weight”, i.e. re-defined as what they weighed when we got married (ha-ha, most of us weighed the least then), or the lowest we have been in our adult lives. This too often is difficult to achieve by most and we stop trying after preliminary trials and lack of immediate results.
There is a multibillion dollar industry supporting weight loss claims for products that do not work and for goals that are unattainable by many. The lucky few who get to goal rarely can maintain the weight loss over two years. Add to this the picture-perfect bodies of celebrities all around us, in print and other media, which are often photoshopped. These are perfect setups to assure failure for most trying to reach their “correct” weight. The result is that most stop trying and may even continue to gain more as they may give up completely. This leads to worsening of medical conditions including diabetes or hypertension.
There is no doubt that being overweight or obese is a disease. It meets all criteria to be labeled as one. It causes impairment of normal function, alters physiological function (abnormal cholesterol, generalized inflammation, insulin resistance etc.), it has characteristic signs and symptoms (increased body fat mass, joint pains, sleep apnea, altered metabolism) and it causes harm and morbidity, (cardiovascular illness, diabetes, metabolic syndrome).
However what really needs to make news is that even a very modest decrease in weight brings about significant health benefits. A decrease in weight of anywhere from 5 to 20 pounds can make a huge difference in an individual’s health and in their mood and how they perceive themselves. This needs to be the primary message that makes the headlines.
These are the facts:
— Studies have shown that a modest 5 to 10% weight loss dramatically lowers your risk for heart disease by having favorable effects on your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and blood sugar. It can also improve sleep apnea — all this in addition to helping you feel better about yourself.
— Weight loss benefits on your heart persist even if some of the weight is gained back. In a recent study of obese people in Washington University, researchers found that the patients in the weight loss program showed improvement in their heart’s pumping ability and its ability to relax. This remained even after the individuals stopped losing weight and gained some back.
— Modest weight loss also appears to increase longevity in obese individuals.
— Studies have shown that losing 10% of your body weight will improve your liver enzymes indicating lower level of inflammation in fatty liver disease.
— In addition to improving your health, modest weight loss is associated with improved energy levels, general mood and self-confidence.
— Weight loss helps decrease medications for hypertension, diabetes, and for the pain of osteoarthritis.
The key is to set realistic and achievable goals and work towards it in small steps to derive the benefits.
For further reading:
Fuentes, Lisa de las. Davila-Roman, Victor. Washington University School of Medicine. Retrieved from http://medicine.wustl.edu/news/headlines/moderate-weight-loss-improves-heart-health/