You really should lose weight.
Your doctor says so-and so does your conscience. And with countless diets, programs and products promising to help you shed pounds, it should be easy. But as any veteran dieter knows, it’s hard to lose weight. And it’s even harder to keep it off.
The numbers are shocking:
- 64 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.
- 300,000 deaths a year in the United States can be linked to obesity.
- $117 billion a year is drained from the U.S. economy in the form of health care costs and other expenses associated with obesity.
It’s not that we are not trying to trim, tuck and tone. Americans spend over $30 billion a year on weight-loss products and services. It’s just that we are not very successful-at the same time we’re spending all that money, the percentage of American adults who are overweight is increasing. We’re fighting the battle of the bulge, but losing.
What are we doing wrong? Simply eating too much and not being active enough is the cause of most obesity. But our approach may also be part of the problem. We tend to concentrate on losing pounds to improve appearance, when the primary focus of weight management should be to achieve and maintain health.
If you're not overweight, losing weight offers no health benefits and may even be detrimental. For many people, thought, weight loss is a healthy goal. If you're overweight, shedding pounds often results in reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases. Even small weight losses can have significant health benefits. So how do you tip the scales in your favor? While there are many plans and programs, we'll tell you about the one approach that offers the best odds for success.
Health effects of obesity
Your body has 30 billion to 40 billion fat cells. Each is like a collapsible, thin-walled tank. If you eat calories that you don't need for immediate energy, most of the extras go into these cells and are stored as fat.
You have an almost unlimited capacity to store fat, and that can have a profound effect on your body and your health. That's particularly true if the fat is stored around your abdomen.If you're even moderately overweight you're carrying a constant burden on your back and legs. Eventually, this can aggravate conditions such as degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis). Being overweight also puts you at higher risk for complications following surgery because wounds don't heal as well or as fast, and infection is more common. In addition, obesity also has direct links to serious diseases that can shorten your life. It increases your resistance to insulin and is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus). Your liver also makes more triglycerides and less HDL (“good”) cholesterol if you're overweight, and you're more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease and stroke, as well as high blood pressure. You also have an increased risk of developing cancer of the breast, prostate, colon and uterus, and your risk of developing gallstones or respiratory problems, such as sleep apnea, increases.
And, in a country that relates beauty, intelligence and success with thinness, being overweight has emotional and social consequences. It’s not uncommon for overweight adults to experience psychological stress, reduced income and discrimination.
Overfat is more dangerous to health than overweight
Traditionally, “overweight” has been defined as weighing more than the healthy weight listed for your age and height in a weight table. But that doesn't account for differences in body composition.
For example, athletes are often overweight by weight table standards because of a large frame or muscle development. But they aren’t overfat.
Researchers have learned that body fat, instead of weight, is a better predictor of health.
Although chances are if you're overweight you're also overfat, simply stepping on the scale won't tell you how much of your weight is fat or where you're carrying that fat. And those are both more important factors in determining health risks than weight alone.
How necessary is it for you to lose weight?
In healthy adults, acceptable levels of body fat range from 18 percent to 23 percent in men and 25 percent to 30 percent in women.
But weighing yourself tells you little about how close you are to that mark. Gaining or losing a pound doesn't always mean a pound of fat (see “Over fat is more dangerous to health than overweight,” this page).
Small, frequent shifts on the scale typically reflect fluid changes.
Your body fluid levels vary depending on the amount of salt you eat, your activity level or even changes in the weather. You can also lose fluids after drinking certain liquids, such as coffee, that act as diuretics.
Emphasis on the health risks of excess fat as. excess weight has led to the popularity of body-fat testing. The most accurate body fat analysis requires a trained professional using a reliable method, such as weighting a person underwater, or using an X-ray procedure called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Either method can be expensive and fairly complicated. A procedure called bioelectric impedance analysis is more widely available, but its accuracy can vary.
Although less certain, the most common method to determine health risk uses estimates of body fat based on your total weight. The National Institutes of Health has adopted a threefold approach to determining a healthy weight. This approach is based on key components:
- Your body mass index
- The circumference of your waist
- Personal medical history
The body mass index (BMI), is a tool for indicating your weight status. The mathematical calculation takes into account your weight and height. This tool can give you a good idea if you might enjoy health benefits from losing weight.
Great News!!! If you follow these tips it is actually easier to eat out than at home! After all, you can't go back to the kitchen and get seconds, vegetables always seem to taste better and your kitchen doesn't end up smelling like fish!
Here are some hints and guidelines to help you behave and make better choices.
- Don't go to dinner with the enemy - when the waiter brings the bread basket send it away. If you have a dining partner who insists on keeping the bread basket, have them keep it out of reach from you.
- Whenever it is available - have the cold water fish.
- Try having 2 appetizers or an appetizer, a vegetable side dish and a salad rather than a large entree.
- Start with a deep green leafy salad with an olive oil vinaigrette.
- If you are having wine - stick with red and have it in the middle of dinner or better yet, have it for dessert.
- If the starchy carbs they are serving are refined (i.e., mashed potatoes, white rice, pasta) skip them and order double veggies instead.
- Ask questions - ignorance isn't an excuse for making poor choices! Look at what the options are for vegetables and preparation choices are for different dishes and mix and match to get what you want.
- Follow the 3 bite rule - if a dessert is worth it, share it and have 3 polite bites of it ONLY.
- Eat your veggies - this is a great opportunity to get your 3 cups of veggies and to sample vegetables you don't normally cook at home.
- Enlist support - ask your dining partner to help you stick to your program before you go.