Although two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese according to BMI, a recent survey indicates that 55% of us do not believe we are overweight and are not trying to lose weight. While media may emphasize appearance, let’s talk about what’s really going on in the body and why weight matters.
Our bodies are not designed to carry extra weight. We stress our joints, vital organs, digestive, cardiovascular, immune and respiratory systems and even our brains. Over time, extra weight will begin to take its toll through inflammation, insulin resistance, fatigue, depression, sleep apnea, some forms of cancer, diabetes, heart attack…the list goes on. But there’s good news! How we take care of ourselves can help determine how our bodies function going forward.
When we take care of our bodies through habits like fueling them with healthy foods, creating and maintaining fitness with physical activity, finding time to nurture our social side, and improve our mental well-being, the body responds positively because it is supported and can focus on doing its job well.
Not sure where you stand? According to the CDC, Body Mass Index (BMI), which uses a weight and height equation, is a reliable indicator of body fatness in most people. A great place to start is to make sure you know your BMI.
If you want more information, you can also check your weight to height ratio. This ratio helps identify how the fat on your body is distributed. When there is a higher amount of visceral fat (fat located closely to your vital organs such as your liver, heart, etc.), you are at higher risk for problems like heart disease and diabetes. This fat, located in the central part of your body (abdominal area), is metabolically active and may influence how your organs and hormones function.
People have different body types that influence where they gain weight. Those that are apple-shaped tend to gain weight more centrally and are at higher risk for these diseases. This shape is most common in men, women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), or women who are postmenopausal. We may not be able to control our genetics, but we can impact our risk.
Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss factors other than BMI that may be helpful to gauge your health, such as your blood pressure, waist size, fasting blood sugar, and your cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that these values may still be normal, but may be impacted the longer you carry extra weight.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out others in Colorado that have made changes.
If you have tried before, don’t be afraid try again. Rather than viewing this as a short-term diet, be realistic that healthy living is a lifestyle change that takes time to adapt to new habits and a new way of living.
Heather Burchall, MS, RD
RMHP Contributing Blogger
What are your tips for sustaining a healthy lifestyle in today’s society?