Anyone who’s struggled with weight loss knows that weight loss is hard, and that maintaining a healthy weight following weight loss can be even harder. (More on this in my earlier article in this series.) Those who do lose weight and keep it off long-term are a small minority. What if you adjusted your expectations?
Don’t Focus on Weight Loss Only
There is a growing trend in health promotion to focus on getting as fit and otherwise healthy as you can get, independent of weight. What if you make every reasonable effort to...
- get enough exercise and physical activity?
- eat good, real food, not too much, mostly plants?
- drink mostly water?
- get enough sleep?
- practice appropriate stress management?
If you can do these things with some degree of consistency and can keep it up long enough to see some results, you will certainly be better off. You’ll likely feel better, have more energy, and sleep better. You might see a reduction in blood pressure or cholesterol. You might also lose fat and maintain—or even gain—muscle. Think of the fat loss as a bonus.
Healthy and Fat—Is That Even Possible?
There is plenty of controversy about this. Being overweight or obese, especially when most of the fat is abdominal, is an independent risk factor. That means, even if you have healthy blood work, control your blood pressure, and get plenty of exercise, you’re still at higher risk for several conditions including heart attack and stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers. The problem is, little is known about the truly overweight-but-otherwise-healthy person. The scientific term is, “metabolically healthy obesity.” The criteria for this generally include factors such as:
- waist size no more than 40”, men; 35”, women
- normal blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar
- normal insulin sensitivity
- no indicators of systemic inflammation (such as elevated CRP)
- physically fit
This combination is rare. Even if it exists today, it’s unlikely to persist long-term. And if you’ve been struggling with weight for years, it’s likely you already have some adverse effects.
You May Really Need to Lose Weight
In my eight-plus years in my current position, I’ve usually had at least one client for whom losing weight was a necessity. One guy had fatty liver disease. This is serious in itself, but also put him at risk for liver cancer. Many people have knees or hips that have the cartilage worn away from carrying so much excess weight. They really need joint replacement surgery, but surgeons want them to lose some of the weight first. In these cases, medical intervention is often appropriate. Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s Metabolic Health Center offers medical care from a board certified bariatrician (a physician specializing in treating overweight persons), as well as nutritional, behavioral and exercise support. If your health and safety demand that you lose weight, do everything you can to make it happen. Treat it like an assignment from your boss. Make yourself a priority.
Nothing Succeeds Like Success
Having a little success in one area can lead to success in others. Starting to exercise can help you sleep better, leading to more energy, which could be motivating for more exercise. Getting fitter should prompt you to consume more healthful foods and beverages. Making yourself a priority will allow you to schedule time to meditate and get a handle on stress, which often triggers overeating. Reducing stress can also lower cortisol levels, leading to improved blood sugar levels and loss of belly fat. A little weight loss could be motivation to refuse that piece of pie or get up and go to the gym.
Whatever You Do, Get As Healthy As Possible
I would never tell anyone who is seriously overweight or obese that they don’t need to lose weight. It bears repeating: Metabolically healthy obesity is rare and unlikely to last. Do your best to lose what you can. Regardless of weight loss success, do the things that increase your chances of being healthier.
Research shows that those who are most successful at improving their long-term health are persistent in their efforts and don’t give up after setbacks. If you missed your workout today, work out tomorrow. If you ate too much last night, get back on track today. Persist toward the goal of being the healthiest you can be. As always, if I can be of help with this, or anything else, please contact me at the below.