It’s not just how you look!
Obesity…everywhere you turn, it’s in the news. With the issue of “body shaming” ever present in our very image-centered culture, it seems that many celebrities have an opinion of what people should or shouldn’t be doing. While it is not ok to make fun of or discriminate against someone because of their weight, the discussion on obesity should be focused around if people are physically healthy regardless of their size. It shouldn’t matter what you look like, but if your body is functioning to the best of its ability in order for you to have a long, healthy life?
Obesity quite simply is an excessive amount of adipose tissue (body fat) from taking in more calories than you burn through exercise and daily activities. Certain factors can influence whether or not you are overweight, such as genetics, behaviors or hormones. However, the main cause is a combination of two things, inactivity and unhealthy diet/eating habits. In our high tech society, our jobs are more sedentary and we are always pressed for time, so the ability to pick up fast (but not necessarily healthy) food in order to have a quick meal is only making obesity more prevalent. From a health perspective, obesity is a leading contributor to much larger problems. It puts you at increased risk for a variety of illnesses and diseases and this is what we should be concerned about. Some of these are high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, Metabolic Syndrome (which is high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL altogether), heart disease, stroke, cancer, breathing disorders (sleep apnea), gallbladder disease, gynecological problems, erectile dysfunction, sexual health issues, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and osteoarthritis. All of these pose serious health problems that can lead to disability or an early death. Also, having any one of these can decrease your quality of life because of the impact your health has on all aspects of your life. So, what can you do to help your body function better?
If you’re overweight, the first course of treatment is to visit your doctor. They are going to do several things: check your health history, do a physical exam, measure your waist circumference, calculate your Body Mass Index, or BMI, (see Fast Facts for levels), check for other health problems and do any necessary blood tests. After your doctor has gathered all of this information, they will help you to develop a plan in order to lose weight. The goal of the weight loss is not only to lose the weight, but maintain a healthy weight once you reach it. Your doctor may recommend that you change your eating habits by cutting calories, make healthier choices, restrict certain foods and discuss meal replacement options. They will also recommend you increase your physical activity to exercising at least 150 minutes a week (they will help you develop a plan to work up to this) and remind when you get discouraged to just keep moving. Just by being active, it can make a significant impact. Some examples are to park farther away at the grocery store or doing yard work…every little bit helps. Your doctor may also suggest you seek counseling and/or join a support group. This is very beneficial to helping you have resources and finding others who are on the same path to fitness that you are. Studies have found that by not going through losing weight alone, people feel that they have support when they need it and are being held accountable by their peers. If needed, your doctor will discuss taking weight loss medications or possible surgery to help you lose weight.
In order to prevent you from becoming overweight and possibly developing serious health complications, the steps are similar to treating obesity. The two most important things are to exercise regularly and follow a healthy eating plan. The vital piece of information to remember is to not view your eating plan as a diet, but as a lifestyle change. We all want the quick fix, but losing weight is not about just losing the weight and you’ll be all better. It’s about maintaining that weight loss in order to live long, healthy life. Most diets are designed to help you lose weight quickly but are difficult to maintain over extended periods of time because they are too restricting. The key is to find a balance. By eating healthy most of the time, when you want that piece of cake or extra slice of pizza, go ahead and enjoy because you need to have that reward. Moderation is the main focus. By not overindulging all of the time, you will not take in more calories that you can get rid of and this will help you tremendously. Another element is to monitor your weight and know/avoid food traps that cause you to eat (stress, etc.). By knowing what causes you to overeat, you can find other ways to deal with these food traps instead of eating. It is vital to set a realistic goal and stick to your plan. If you set your goals too high, then you will not meet them, which will mean you won’t follow your plan because you will most likely get discouraged and give up.
Obesity should never be just about body image. We all know that feeling you get from knowing that you look good and that is important to have no matter what size you are. The focus on obesity should be about being physically healthy. Remember, even a modest amount of weight loss is able to provide health benefits. Your health is worth all the time that you invest in…you can do it! If you have any questions about weight loss and taking the next step, please talk with your doctor. If you want any further information about obesity, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s webpage on Obesity at https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/