Why you should be looking after you and the impact on your life and those around you when you are overweight or obese.
Let’s first define adult overweight and obesity. The US Centers for Decease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines it as ‘weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height’. I know what you’re thinking right now – the definition is about a mile wide. And you would be correct.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
To determine if a weight relative to a height is considered to be healthy the BMI is applied as a screening tool. This tool is very black & white and doesn’t take any circumstances into consideration.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 for adults 20 years or older is considered to be in the normal to healthy weight range.
I’ll use myself as an example. I know I’m too big (read “too much fat”) and won’t pass up on a good meal or drinking occasion – I’m 6’2″ (1.88m) and weigh 264lbs (120kg). This results in a BMI of 33.9 and is considered to be obese. I’ve been told I don’t look my weight. Probably due to having wide shoulders from years of competitive swimming in my early and late teens.
Now use the BMI calculator on someone who has been working out for 25 years in the gym and has between 9-11% body fat. Mr. X is also 6’2″ (1.88m) and weighs 242lbs (110kg). Guess what? Mr.X is obese too according to the calculator since he has a BMI of 31.1.
The above example shows that the BMI calculator should always be used in context of the person in question. The calculate your BMI go here.
Main reasons for overweight and obesity
There are several reasons or causes why people are overweight or obese and not all of them have something to do what they put in their mouth.
It can be:
- Usage of certain drugs
- Psychological issues
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Midlife weight gain
- High calorie foods
Most media outlets, “health gurus” and “social weight warriors” only focus on the last cause. Why? Because it’s easy and they can score cheap points by playing on overweight people’s insecurities about their weight, size or general physical appearance.
Sure, for a large portion of the population it is about intake and output. We should never discount the fact that it can be a combination of the above that allows someone to gain weight or make it impossible for someone to lose weight.
What’s the answer then?
So, what is the magic solution? There isn’t one, sorry. No magic pill, fad diet or TV chef turned health nut will get you to your body’s right weight.
If it is the case that it is about intake and output we all know what to do. Less in, more out. It is really that simple. And no, don’t start with “I have this issue or injury and that’s why I can’t lose weight” – watch this video and take a seat.
Never think about weight loss or weight management as a “diet”. Diet to me insinuates a short term solution. You need to make a lifestyle change to affect and see change.
Physical health implications of overweight and obesity
Compared to adults of a normal or healthy weight, people who are obese have an increased risk of*¹:
- Type-2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Some cancers
There are more physical risks, but I think you get the picture. Having a higher than healthy weight seriously impacts your health and quality of life and in mild and severe case the length of your life. Think about that.
Mental health implications of overweight and obesity
Sure, we can see when someone is overweight/obese, but oftentimes the mental or psychological effects it has on the person are overlooked. Most of us have heard about Negative Body Image and even though this is not exclusive to the realms of people who are overweight or obese, the majority of people classified as such are affected by negative body image.
You can be affected by Negative Body Image*² if:
- You have a distorted perception of your shape–you perceive parts of your body unlike they really are.
- You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
- You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.
- You feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body.
A combination of negative body image, actual overweight/obesity and other physical, social and psychological issues can result in clinical depression, anxiety or other mental disorders. These often lead to a person eating more, exercising less and in turn gaining more weight creating a vicious circle.
What can you do?
Admitting that there is an issue is generally a good first step. I honestly don’t believe that anyone who is overweight/obese and goes around proclaiming that they “love their bodies, curves, bumps, jelly and all” truly believes that. Let’s put it like this – If your life depended on the fact that you had to lose 50 pounds otherwise you’d be dead in 6 months, what would you do?
Let’s put it in another way. If I had the chance to go into a store and buy a Large of XL sized shirt of the rack instead of a 2XL/3XL shirt that the manufacturer doesn’t even make/store doesn’t stock, I would feel much better about myself and my body. Period. Full stop. No argument or discussion.
Or how about this one. If I had, what was perceived to be a healthy body shape, I would most likely not be judged or feel judged for getting a extra large burrito with all the sides from that amazing food truck. Sure, I generally don’t give a shit about what other people think of me, but every now and then those looks hurt. I could do without them.
Don’t try to do it yourself
Once you’ve admitted that there is an issue, get some assistance. Don’t try to do it alone. You got into the situation there all by yourself. What makes you think that you can change all by yourself? Very few of us can, that’s just reality. Why? Because we go completely overboard, are uneducated and listen to the fitness gurus who offer a quick fix.
Find a good nutritionist and get your blood analysed. Start exercising – a 30 minute walk after work is exercising too. Stop buying shit food! Put down the carbonated, sugared drinks. Stay away from processed foods. If you do, read the label. Check saturated fats, sugar and sodium levels on the packaging.
Most of all, be realistic in what can be achieved. Stop believing those “amazing weight loss stories” or Biggest Loser journeys. Set small goals you can reach in a reasonable time and then make a new goal whilst still keeping the main goal in sight. That goal should always be “Getting & Being Healthy”.