New Year's Resolutions: Weight Loss
Entering into the New Year, many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions and many of these resolutions may revolve around losing weight. There is continuous pressure by society and the media propagating unrealistic standards of beauty that often fuels our desire to be thin or lose weight, and in recent years there has subsequently been a strong push back in the right direction to accept all definitions of beauty and all body shapes or sizes. With that in mind, there is an additional lens to view weight loss through, however, and this involves the impacts that being overweight can have on an individual’s health and wellbeing.
What does it mean to be overweight?
There are many ways to categorize weight; however, the most widely accepted definition is the World Health Organization’s body mass index (BMI), which is weight (in kilograms) divided by height squared (in meters). A healthy BMI is considered to be between 18.5 to 24.9, underweight is less than 18.5, overweight is defined as 25 to 29.9, obese is 30 to 39.9 and severely obese is greater than 40. Body fat percentage is another means of classifying weight, with greater than 33% in women and 25% in men being considered overweight.
Why should we care about being overweight, though?
Well, excess weight or body fat affects nearly every system of the body and can have dramatic long-term consequences, including the following.
- Cardiovascular: obesity is seen associated with elevations in blood pressure (essential hypertension) and atherosclerosis (build up of plaque in the blood vessels), which are risk factors for heart attack. Furthermore, excessive strain can be placed on the heart, causing remodeling of the heart muscle that can negatively impact cardiac output.
- Respiratory: the most common consequence is obstructive sleep apnea, which causes derangements in sleep and is a risk factor for heart failure. Less commonly, obesity hypoventilation syndrome can occur due to the weight of the chest wall impacting the ability to take appropriately sized breaths.
- Gastrointestinal: increased intra-abdominal pressure can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Furthermore, high cholesterol levels are associated with the development of gallstones and fatty liver infiltration.
- Metabolic: obesity is associated with type II diabetes, which can cause irreversible damage to the blood vessels of the eye, kidney, heart and limbs.
- Reproductive: obesity causes elevations in both estrogen levels and androgens (male sex hormones), which can lead to early puberty, lack of ovulation resulting in issues with fertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women.
Other issues associated with excessive weight include osteoarthritis due to the strain on the joints, reduced mobility, stress incontinence, depression, and increased risk of stroke.
Unfortunately, obesity is a very complex issue, though, with more than just calories in/calories out as the cause of excessive weight gain. There are many factors associated, including genetics, and many conditions that can cause the body to retain fat, such as hypothyroidism. Read more about Diabetes. A good way to begin is to speak with your doctor about appropriate goals and lifestyle habits to achieve a healthy weight, which often involve a regimen of dietary portion control with healthy food choices and exercise involving at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio-based exercise. Outside of weight loss, these lifestyle changes can have dramatic positive impacts on your health, causing you to feel better and have more stamina, which is a great way to begin the New Year!
So as we begin 2018, here’s to a happy New Year and a healthy you!
- Osama Hamdy, MD, PhD. Obesity. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/123702
- Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. Adult BMI. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html