We are constantly being told that being fat is bad for our health, it increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and diabetes just for a start! This can all sound very depressing and morbid if we are carrying a few pounds too many.
So let's look at the positive aspects of losing weight; we may just find that apart from averting some serious diseases there may be other benefits to be had in shedding the pounds!
In England, the problem has reached an all time high with 70% of men and 60% of women being overweight or obese with 25% of all adults falling into the obese category.
There are a number of diseases associated with carrying too much weight. They include:
As we have discussed, carrying around too much weight can threaten our health and well being but can also be uncomfortable to carry around, but how do we decide what is too much weight?
The general rule of thumb in deciding this is to establish your body mass index of BMI. The healthy range of BMI is 18.5 - 24.9. Anything below 18.5 is considered to be underweight, the range 25 - 29.9 is overweight and the range 30- 39.9 is the obese range.
There are two factors which are equally important in the process of losing weight and they are diet and exercise; whilst reducing calorie intake alone can lead to weight loss, by adding exercise we also burn extra calories.In addition, exercise can increase metabolism which is the rate we burn calories while at rest as well as building more lean muscle mass which in turn will burn more calories than fat!
There are health benefits from exercise also; exercise can reduce the risk of developing some diseases such as breast and colon cancer as well as improving confidence and sense of well being which reduces levels of anxiety and depression.
The benefits of even a small amount of weight lost can produce significant health benefits. Losing as little as 3 - 5% of total body weight can result in reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes. Think of this in real terms as a 3% weight loss for a person who weighs 20 stones amounts to 8.4 pounds, a little over half a stone!
We have briefly looked at the health benefits that can arise from a small weight loss but shedding the pounds can have other less expected benefits and I don’t mean an excuse to shop for new clothes! There are benefits to be had but there are also some downsides.
Most people will be aware as they are losing weight that their energy levels rise rapidly and too surprisingly high levels. This can be attributed to the fact that even carrying around a few less pounds just takes less energy which means you become less tired from just coving around. In addition, the oxygen we breathe in can be used more efficiently and we will be less likely to get out of breath.
Recent studies in Sweden (2013) have suggested that as a person loses weight it results in an alteration in brain activity; the brain becomes more active when forming memories and it is found that less brain activity is required to retrieve those memories. The studies were carried out on older women and after 6 months of weight loss these effects were observed.
It may be thought that if you lose weight you will feel more attractive and so be more attractive to your partner; so how is this not good for your relationship?
The downside of being more attractive to yourself and your partner is that it is likely that you will be more attractive to other people and this in itself may result in your partner becoming threatened and jealous. It may be that your partner is overweight and considers that they are no longer ‘good enough for you’ and so your weight loss has started to bring out your partner's insecurities.
Obesity has been linked to cancer of the bowel along with smoking, sun worshipping and exposure to radiation. Obesity can cause inflammation of cells that can trigger changes in the cells of the bowel and so one effect of losing weight is to reduce the inflammation and so the risk.
A recent study at Stamford University in the US suggested that as many as 87% of people who had undergone weight loss surgery reported changes in the way their food tasted; interestingly, approximately 50% said the taste was more intense and the other 50% reported it as tasting blander.
Similar results were observed at Leicester Royal Infirmary when a study was carried out and results showed 75% of patients reported a dislike of some foods after their surgery; the most common food that patients developed an aversion to was meat and dairy products.
Without extra pounds to put pressure on the joints and make the lungs feel like they are exploding, exercising is a lot more fun.
Weight loss can be associated with reduced bone density but this is only a major concern if the dieter becomes underweight or the diet that has been followed does not contain the necessary nutrition. The actual fact is that the benefits of losing weight outweigh the risks as extra weight puts added strain on joints.
Losing weight may reduce the need for some drugs, in particular medication for raised cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. It may be that the medication can be stopped or reduced.
A downside of weight loss when it has been substantial is sagging skin. Over time this may rescue by itself or some kind of skin reduction procedure may be considered.
It is known that obesity can affect fertility and is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome both of which can reduce a person's chances of becoming pregnant. This and the fact that being pregnant as well as obese comes with a list of associated medical problems means that losing weight can help to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
So, we all know that being overweight is not good for our health but it is good to know that there are other benefits but not many downsides to losing those pounds.