There are many reasons to want to lose weight, most of it falling under the category of just wanting to look good. Forget, for a moment, about looking good. Forget, for a moment, about disease. Forget about all the big-name medical scares including atherosclerosis, arterial plaque, cardiac arrest, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, all the cancers, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Avoiding heart disease and looking ‘fab’ are great reasons to lose weight. However, there are 5 immediate and significant ways your life can change when you trim the fat that garner almost no attention.
Reason #5: Your joints will thank you.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, in which we lose cartilage and gradually destroy the bones of our joints. Imagine two rocks grinding together and you get the idea. Aging makes it more likely. Like most chronic illnesses, osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle. Your joints hurt, so you move less. Moving less means your joints don’t get loaded. Less joint loading means muscle weakness. Muscle weakness means force doesn’t get cushioned correctly. Less cushion means the condition worsens. More osteoarthritis means more pain. I think you get the picture. The point? Obesity makes it much more likely that you’ll get osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis worsens from a combination of excess joint loading plus the inflammatory chemical and hormonal environment that having too much body fat creates. Bottom line: One important reason to lose weight is to reduce joint pain and improve your movement. These are are things you can benefit from almost immediately.
Reason #4: You’ll get a good night’s sleep.
Two words: sleep apnea. Think of what happens when a rockslide blocks a tunnel. The upper airway collapses while you sleep, cutting off that oxygen tunnel. Just to clarify, sleep apnea is more than a little snoring. Sleep apnea means you stop breathing. Over and over and over as you sleep, which is bad. More body fat means more potential for sleep apnea. This comes from a few combined factors: fat in your airway narrows the space available which makes your airway more prone to collapsing; fat in your upper body puts weight on your lungs and reduces the space available to them. You need more oxygen but you can’t get it as well. While around 25 percent of adults have sleep apnea, 50 percent of obese adults have it. Even more scary: If you have mild sleep apnea, and you put on weight, the chances of you graduating to moderate or severe sleep apnea are:
• 5 percent weight gain = 250 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
• 10 percent weight gain = 650 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
• 20 percent weight gain = 3,700 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
So, why is sleep apnea bad? Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health. This means things like elevated inflammation, rapid cell aging and oxidation, and hormonal disruption (and, yes, higher risk for all kinds of nasty chronic diseases in the long term). Bottom line: Another important reason to lose weight is so that you can sleep better. Not only does this help regulate metabolism, hormone systems, and more. It helps you feel, think and live better right away.
Reason #3: You’ll actually start to taste your food.
This may sound weird, but it seems that people who struggle with their weight don’t taste food as well. People vary in how well and sensitively they can perceive different flavors and textures such as fattiness or sweetness. One hypothesis is that many people with excess body fat also have altered flavor perception. Bottom line: Obese people have altered taste perceptions leading to eating more and eating more of the wrong foods. By losing weight you’ll end up craving less high-sugar and high-fat food. You might even enjoy and extra veggie or two.
Reason #2: Your immune system will work properly again.
Think of body fat like an ATM: a place where we deposit or withdraw energy. It isn’t.
Instead, fat is an active endocrine organ. That means it secretes hormones and cytokines (cell signaling molecules). Hormones and cytokines have effects throughout the body. They “talk” to one another chemically. Like all things, balance is important. If we have a healthy amount of fat, our hormones and cell signals work properly. If we have too much, things go wrong. Increased BMI and more body fat is associated with greater risk for several kinds of infections including: gum infections, nose and sinus infections, stomach infections, and oral herpes.Too much adipose (fat) tissue can release large amounts of immune chemicals. Over time, this chronic high exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to spot and stop actual outside infections. Bottom line: Losing body fat can mean a healthier, more responsive, more robust immune system. And that means less colds, fewer infections, and a healthier daily life.
Reason #1: You’re better able to handle surgery and/or childbirth.
People with a lot of body fat: are harder to intubate, have a higher risk of incisional hernia, have a longer operation time, have a higher risk of catheter site infection, and have a higher rate of serious postoperative complications. Surgery is a risky business for people who are obese. This is a double whammy because people who struggle with obesity also struggle with more health issues that may require surgery. Bottom line: Every surgery patient wants a safe and speedy recovery. And every mother wants a safe birth and a thriving, bouncing baby. Having a healthy range of body fat makes those happy outcomes much more likely.
The real bottom line: there are no advantages to carrying excess weight. Your weight loss goals need better focus than just the aesthetic reasons. That all becomes a nice side to a greater accomplishment.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better