We hear a lot about weight loss these days, but, sometimes we lose sight of the real issue... the many health benefits of weight management.
By Donovan Baldwin
Some of us are going to weigh more than the fashion models and athletes. This doesn't have to mean we are NOT healthy and full of vitality. We humas ARE unique and should concentrate on our individual health rather than the specific appearance of our bodies... especially as compared to others.
That having been said, there's a good chance that we ARE overweight, or would not be reading this, and would like to lose some of that extra body fat. Good news is, by the way, that there are some wonderful health benefits of weight loss, and, once the weight IS lost, it can be kept off with regular moderate exercise and healty nutrition.
Every year, on the first of January, many of us make New Year's resolutions. However, you don't have to wait for a new year to start losing weight. In fact, making the decision, and the commitment, to reach a healthy weight, through loss of excess body fat, is one of the best decisions you CAN make!
Many highly controlled and respected studies have shown health benefits start to occur when you lose only about 5 percent of your initial body weight. For a person weighing 200 pounds, that means health benefits of weight loss can be seen with the loss of as little as 10 pounds of body fat!
So, what are some specific health benefits of even modest weight loss?
HEART DISEASE RISK:
Much of the research mentioned above shows us that even a 5-10 percent loss of body weight, as loss of excess body fat, can result in measureable and meaningful reductions in risk of heart disease. In fact, one study of overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes (often occuring later in life due to lifestyle) found this amount of weight loss could lower blood pressure by as much as 5 mm Hg (systolic and diastolic). Blood lipids also improved, and there was as much as a 5-point increase in HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) levels, and a drop in triglycerides (which can increase risk of stroke) of as much as 40 mg/dL.
BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS:
Many measures of blood sugar levels improve with weight loss. Weight loss is an important step in management of blood sugar levels. In the same study just mentioned, a measurement of long-term blood sugar control, hemoglobin A1C, dropped as much as a half point (normal is under 6.5). Insulin resistance also improves with modest weight loss, which helps with blood sugar control.
Fat cells withing the body produce inflammatory molecules called cytokines which tell the body that inflammation is present and causes the body to attempt to combat this inflammation. Even as little as a 10% drop in body fat will generally reduce levels of these substances. Inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases, including heart disease, and losing even those few extra pounds has wide-ranging health benefits throughout your body.
Every pound of weight loss reduces the stress on your knees by four. This means that a 10 pound weight loss can take 40 pounds of stress off your knees, hips, and ankle joints. These joints tend to wear out with time anyway, so, you can slow down the wear and tear, AND, keep your joints much more functional as you age. This, in turn, allows you to remain more active longer, which can help as there are many other health benefits of exercise and weight loss.
HOW TO ACHIEVE HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS:
For most people, weight loss in the 5% - 10% range can be reached through simple lifestyle changes: including better nutrition choices, increased physical activity, and other behavioral changes. It's especially useful to use self-monitoring techniques to track calories and physical activity. Begin by reducing calories to aim for no more, on average, than a 1-2 pound weight loss per week. Health and fitness experts consider this a safe and sustainable goal.
For most women, that will mean eating about 1200-1500 calories a day; for men, about 1500-1800 calories per day. The use of meal replacements (shakes or bars), and preplanned weight loss programs, such as Shaklee's 180 Weight Loss Program, and Wonderslim weight loss products, has been shown to help improve weight loss outcomes.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, NOT NECESSARILY "EXERCISE":
For good health you should set a goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity most days, and resistance exercise (weight lifting), such as I, age 73 do, twice a week. “Moderate intensity” for most people means brisk walking, bicycling, swimming for an extended period, or something comparable; you should be able to talk but not sing during the activity. Again, I, age 73, walk briskly for about 45 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
Check with your doctor if you have any reasons to be concerned about physical activity. In fact, it may be a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning ANY new exercise... excuse me... physical activity program.
Start by filling your plate with colorful veggies. Then, branch out and try new vegetable recipes!
Protein is also important, especially lean protein. There are many choices ranging from tofu to grilled chicken breast. An increased protein intake, plus exercise helps maintain lean muscle mass as you lose body fat. Retaining muscle supports your metabolism, unlike the decrease in lean muscle mass and lower metabolic rate that often accompanies a diet. While it is not unusual for some muscle to be lost when people lose weight without exercise and attention to protein and other nutrients, in a recent study which combined meal replacements with aerobic and resistance exercise, the subjects actually gained muscle while losing weight.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON BENEFITS OF WEIGHT MANAGEMENT:
Keep in mind your goal is to do more than simply change your appearance. You are building your body and your health! Studies suggest that, for as long as people maintain most of their weight loss, the benefits also last.
Think in terms of a permanent change that you will carry into your future, not just a quick fix, that will soon be forgotten as the weight returns. Take your time, and strive to make changes you think you will be able to stick with.
Many people find it helpful to track their progress. Look for an app that allows you to track what you eat and drink—even doing this for a week can be incredible for awareness and accountability. Measuring can also be helpful as inch loss is a good measure of fat loss. Pay attention to your clothes and yourself. If your clothes are looser, you're losing fat. If you're feeling better, you're on the right track to long term health and fitness.
Don't let the scale rule you, or scare you. Weight loss is not a constant line, nor a perfect measure of FAT LOSS. You may actually gain weight in a 24 - 48 hour period, while actually losing excess body fat. You may be gaining lean muscle mass faster than you are losing excess body fat, This is temporary if you stick with your plan. So, weigh in only about once a week. Log your "winning streaks"... days in a row that you get your brisk walk or workout in.
As your new health habits become more permanent, so will your results be more lasting and noticeable.
Enjoy the journey, because every day brings a newer, healthier you!