The Health Benefits of Losing Weight

Most people don’t think about their weight or aren’t motivated to lose weight until they have trouble fitting in old clothes, or they visit their doctor and find out they have health issues that are from being overweight.

Your current weight can be a result of many things: age, environment, family genes and history, lifestyle, medications, and more. While some of these factors are out of your control, there’s an important one that you can control – lifestyle. This includes things like nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, tobacco/drug use, etc.

How to Know If Your Current Weight Is Healthy

To find out if your current weight is healthy, calculate your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measurement of your body fat based on your height and weight. Here’s an easy calculator that you can use to calculate your own BMI. After you find out your number, you can see which of the categories you fall in: underweight (< 18.5), normal weight (18.5 – 24.9), overweight (25 – 29.9), obese (> 30).

In addition to the BMI test, you can measure your waist circumference. It’s important to acknowledge that measuring your waist doesn’t tell you if you’re overweight. But it does tell you if you’re carrying extra fat in your abdomen. Abdominal fat is riskier than fat on other parts of your body. It can increase your risk for things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer

A waist measurement of more than 35 for women and more than 40 for men is considered risky.

The Health Risks of Being Overweight

Your doctor has probably told you there are many health risks associated with being overweight. Most notable are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. The good news is all of these conditions can be avoided or improved with weight loss and lifestyle changes.

Being obese is harder on your body and health than being a little overweight. But whether you’re overweight or obese, it’s important to understand that losing just 5-10 percent of your body weight can make a big difference in your risk for many diseases and health conditions. Read more about the health risks of being overweight here.

The Health Benefits of Losing Weight

There are a variety of biochemical and mechanical changes that take place when you lose weight, leading to improvements in your health. According to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), these are some of the health benefits of losing weight:

  • Heart disease and stroke: Losing 5-10 percent of your body weight may lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Weight loss can improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood flow, heart function, and more.
  • Type 2 diabetes: The Diabetes Prevention Program (DDP), a large clinical study sponsored by the National Institute of Health, looked at ways to prevent type 2 diabetes in overweight adults. The DDP found losing just 5-7 percent of body weight and doing moderately intense exercise (like brisk walking) for 150 minutes a week may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer: Despite limited research, there’s growing belief that weight loss may lower your risk for certain types of cancer. Healthful eating and exercise can help lower your cancer risk too. If you’re interested, here’s more information about body weight and cancer risk from the American Cancer Society.
  • Sleep apnea: Losing weight can help decrease the size of your neck. Excess fat in the body and neck collapses airways while sleeping. This is a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. Weight loss can help open up airways, make breathing easier, and reduce snoring.
  • Osteoarthritis: Losing at least 5 percent of your body weight may reduce the stress on your knees, hips, and lower back. Carrying extra weight can put pressure on your joints and cartilage, causing them to wear away.

To read about more health benefits of losing weight, you can visit the WIN website here.

Weight Loss Tips

Improved health may be the biggest reason to lose weight. But other reasons can include improving appearance, self-confidence, and sense of accomplishment to name a few.

Whatever your personal motivations are, write them down and keep them in a safe place. When you’re feeling weak, read your notes to help you remember why you started your weight loss journey.

Making changes is never easy – especially when it involves food and exercise. Habits are very hard to break. If you need help to get started, this website is a good resource.

(Remember: There’s a wealth of information out there about weight loss – some of it good, some of it not so good. Ask your doctor for help. They can be one of your best partners in losing weight and staying healthy for a lifetime.)

What to Do If You Can't Lose Weight

Getting to a healthy weight is so important to health, and sometimes the lifestyle approaches simply don’t work. Surgery to reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is something to consider if you’re very overweight, have whole-heartedly tried and failed to lose weight, and you’re ready to commit to changing your lifestyle.

If this is true for you, talk to your doctor about bariatric surgery and consider attending a bariatric surgery seminar in your local community to learn more and ask any questions you have.

Meet the Author

Peter Anthony Garza, MD is a board-certified surgeon who specializes in performing laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures at Aurora Wilkinson Medical Center in Summit, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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