Updated: Jun 4
Obesity affects more than 90 million Americans. Being overweight is bad for you for multiple reasons. This fact has been understood by doctors for centuries.
Let’s go over some of the commonly used terms used to describe body weight. The term overweight refers to a weight above the "normal" range. But what is considered normal? This is determined by calculating the body mass index.
The body mass index (BMI) is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.
Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2. Once this threshold is exceeded and the BMI is ≥30 kg/m2 it is called obesity and this is when weight starts to have a serious negative impact on your health. Severe obesity is defined as a BMI ≥40 kg/m2.
Another useful measure is the waist circumference. It is a measure of the girth of the abdomen. A waist circumference of ≥40 inches (102 cm) for men and ≥35 inches (88 cm) for women is considered elevated and is a threat to your health.
Obesity is not a single disease and carries with it various other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and more. These conditions have a negative impact on a person’s quality of health AND life.
Treating obesity is very difficult
If you are overweight or obese and are motivated to start losing weight and improving your health, you have taken the first step by reading this blog and learning more about the options available. There are many options to address weight loss, here we will discuss one of the most important aspects of a successful weight loss strategy. Obviously there are many components to this.
Why is weight loss important?
Being overweight and obese is associated with a higher risk of dying.
Being overweight and obese is associated with a higher risk of dying. Sounds terrible because it is.
As mentioned above, there are many medical problems seen with obesity such type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and heart disease. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of morbidity and mortality.
The relationship between obesity and death does not discriminate and is similar for all races and ethnicities. It is well established that weight loss reduces the risk to your heart and improves your quality of life.
It is well established that weight loss reduces the risk to your heart and improves your quality of life.
What is the best non surgical approach to weight loss?
The ultimate goal is to prevent, treat, or reverse the complications of obesity and as a result, improve one’s quality of life.
Even losing a small amount of weight, such as just 5% of total body weight will improve your overall health.
In order to be successful it is important to set REALISTIC goals.
Trying to lose 30% or more of total body weight as the initial goal is doomed for disappointment and failure.
It is not unreasonable to lose nearly 10% of your total body weight with lifestyle modifications that don’t rely on surgery or medications for weight loss.
It is also important to realize that everyone is different and realistic and achievable weight loss goals should be individualized.
What can you do if you don’t want surgery or medications?
Behavior modification is of paramount importance for successful weight loss.
The goal is to change bad habits and make long term changes in eating behavior.
This is done by changing your approach to eating while increasing your physical activity.
The reason this is so important is because behavior plays a significant role in weight management. Changing behaviors that contributed to developing obesity is one of the most important ways to treat the disease with long term success.
What behavior modifications are needed to lose weight successfully?
Monitor what you eat
Losing weight is a very complex process. It is more complicated than just counting calories. Having said that, it is important to take personal responsibility and track how many calories you take in and how active you are.
Self monitoring is a very important component of successful lifestyle changes that will lead to losing weight and keeping it off.
What is self monitoring? It means pay attention to what you eat and drink. Pay attention to how much physical activity you are doing daily.
Once you have self awareness, you can begin the journey of correcting the behaviors and changing bad habits.
You can start “food diaries” or “exercise logs” as well as keeping yourself accountable by weighing yourself once or maybe twice a month.
These techniques can help you identify problem behaviors and help you optimize your weight-loss and focus on making the healthy choices part of your long term lifestyle. Developing good habits is the goal.
Before starting any type of exercise program, you should make an appointment with your primary care doctor and make sure you are safe to proceed.
Increasing your activity levels is a great way to make you feel better and if you make exercise part of your daily routine it will not only help you lose weight but will also lower the risk of heart attacks as well.
Exercise alone is not enough to lose weight. It is a big component of the plan and helps with weight loss and maintenance of that weight loss if combined with better eating habits.
How much exercise you need varies from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent mix of the two each week.
This is just a recommendation and may not apply to everyone.
The key point is that physical activity is an adjunct to a weight loss program that also includes reduced calorie intake.
Physical activity does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. If you are just starting with an exercise program just walking a few minutes per day is a good start.
With diet and exercise it is important to set realistic goals!
The goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Now, let us look at how to put these two principles together and start a plan. Here are some examples of simple and realistic goals:
- Going for a 15 minute walk (or jog) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Make a journal of food intake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for one week.
- Get on the scale to weigh yourself every Monday and record it.
You want the goals you set to be simple. Understand this is a big commitment and there will be good days and bad days. But if the goal is simple and realistic, you will be more likely to succeed.
Achieving your goals
As mentioned above, if your goal is to lose weight and increase your overall health you must be willing to make a commitment.
I can’t emphasize enough that when setting your goals for weight loss, exercise, eating healthy etc, it is important to keep them realistic.
To be pragmatic, once you have a better understanding of your eating habits, make appropriate changes and start an exercise program, you should aim to lose about one pound per week. This is a safe way to approach weight loss and will provide lasting results. There are no quick fixes here. It takes work. You can do it.
Take away points:
One of the most important aspects of a weight loss program is modifying behavior. This is also one of the most difficult goals to accomplish. Changing behaviors and making healthy living a lifelong habit takes time. DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. Set realistic goals and commit to make a change. You can do it. Your health depends on it. You will see a difference. Good luck.
Please remember that medical information provided by us must be considered an educational service only. This blog should not be relied upon as medical judgement and does not replace your physician’s independent judgement. This is NOT medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician.