By general standards, a person over 35 is called obese when their BMI (Body Mass Index) is higher than 30. The current U.S. numbers are staggering with 2/3 of American adults qualifying as overweight or obese. Obesity is linked to many health problems. It is related to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and sleep apnea to name a few. Studies have also shown that obesity decreases self esteem and a person’s overall mood.
Obesity is difficult to overcome. Research shows that more than 80% of obese people who lose weight regain it within five years. More and more people take medications to fight the consequences of their excess weight and a rapidly increasing number of people resort to surgery in an attempt to solve their weight problems.
There is a direct correlation between the weight of a person and their life span. This is not surprising considering the above mentioned health risks associated with obesity. With the number of people without health insurance rising (close to 50 million), there is an increasing personal responsibility for every individual to do their fair share of maintaining a reasonable healthy lifestyle which includes wholesome nutrition, physical activity and weight management.
Weight loss is really a numbers game. Weight and fat percentages of the body are mostly decided by the balance between the caloric intake and caloric expenditure of a person. In order to lose weight, the daily intake of calories has to be lower than the amount of calories burned by the body. Most cases of obesity are caused by overeating and lack of physical activity. This means that obese people eat more calories than they use and move less than they should, leading to weight gain and all the health risks associated with it.
Sure, part of a person’s weight is determined by their genetics, metabolic rate and environment, but eating healthy and exercise have proven to be a powerful ally in the war against obesity. The combination of eating healthier and increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of exercise can help most people lose weight and improve their physical health and condition.
Exercise is the perfect partner for a diet. Diet alone can over time decrease bone density. It can also reduce muscle density and strength at the same time that it reduces body fat. Exercise helps to maintain healthy bone density and has proven to reduce fat while improving muscle density, strength and aerobic capacity. People who exercise regularly additionally have better overall moods and higher self-esteem.
To be successful at improving one’s weight, health and fitness in the shortest period of time, it is important to understand that there are three fundamental decisions that need to be made. Not doing so will make it more difficult and increases the odds that a person will end up in the above mentioned +80% of obese people that regain the lost weight.
The first decision a person who is serious about weight loss has to make is to start lowering caloric intake by consuming healthier foods (Unprocessed healthy foods often contain less calories and more nutrition per ounce than processed foods, this means you can eat more food, get more nutrition, yet ingest less calories) This is not a diet; It is a lifestyle change. Choosing to eat the foods nature provides to nurture the human body is not a diet. People don’t feed their cats a fast food meal with a soda for dinner three times a week. It is not what cats are supposed to eat and it is not what humans are supposed to eat. Every creature has its own nutritional needs. Eating foods that your body is designed to eat is not a diet, it is a health requirement.
Harvard School of Public Health agrees with 5-13 servings of vegetables and fruits a day rule (depending on sex, weight, height, age, and activity level) but found that the average American only consumes 3 servings a day. HSPH does not even consider a potato a vegetable because it is mostly starch and recommends it be eaten sparingly.
For more information on nutrition and a description of Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, visit: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/
The second decision is to increase caloric expenditure by intensifying physical activity. This will accelerate the loss of weight in a way that will serve the body and mind optimally. It’s not just about losing the weight, but it’s also about losing it in a way that gives the most benefit to the person losing the weight. The general rule calls for two and a half hours of physical activity a week for a healthy person 18-64 years old. Healthy children and adolescents 6-17 years old should be physically active 60 minutes a day.
Exercise is just one of the ways to increase physical activity. Colorado offers its residents plenty of opportunities to be active. Walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming, and winter-sports are all ways to be active without ever having to enter a gym. Joining a sports team is also a great way to be consistently active.
The third decision is to make sure to have adequate rest. Sleep is very important for the body and the mind. During sleep the body detoxifies and recovers. Memories are strengthened and the body works to consolidate emotions and information. While sleeping the mind and body bolster practiced skills and the body produces Human Growth Hormones, which help to maintain and repair muscles and bones. Recent research also suggests that during sleep, the immune system increases the production of certain proteins that help fight disease and infection.
For people with health challenges, it is always smart to consult a health professional before drastically changing a lifestyle. In general, adequate nutrition, physical activity and enough sleep are the three vital components to good health. They are the key to weight management and the yellow brick road to emotional balance. Give it a try.