Health and weight are often considered as two plainly intertwined concepts, which is true; however, their relationship is much more nuanced and involves other variables as well.
While weight is a determining factor of one’s health status; it isn’t the only one. The number you see when you step on a weighing scale only gives you a vague idea about your health; it doesn’t tell you the whole story.
If you want to see the complete picture, you need to consider other aspects of your health as well, such as your height and body mass index.
Measuring up to a specific number of kilos/pounds doesn’t mean you are healthy. Generally, people believe that being on the lower end of the weighing scale is equivalent to being healthy, but that’s not true.
A slender person can be just as unhealthy as an obese person; the former may not have the same health risk factors as the latter, but they will have some form of medical concerns.
To better understand the relationship between health and weight, one needs to have a clear understanding of BMI and body composition. Having a firm grasp on the four concepts is essential to lose weight healthily and reach the maximum level of physical fitness.
If you don’t realize the importance of any of the four factors and only focus on shedding the extra pounds, you might lose a little weight but will most probably gain it back. Losing weight and keeping it off are two different things.
You may be able to lose weight by taking extreme measures, such as going on overly low-calorie diets and following a vigorous training routine, but you will not be able to sustain it. If you want to keep the excess fat off, then you need to focus on losing weight healthily without depriving your body of the vital nutrients.
Now let’s take an in-depth look at the three crucial aspects of a person’s health; weight, BMI, and body composition.
A person’s body weight refers to the total mass contained by their body. In other words, how much does the matter in your body collectively weigh?
BMI or body mass index is an estimation of the fat percentage in your body. It is calculated by using a person’s height and weight. The formula for computing BMI is body weight (in kilos) divided by height (in meters) squared.
Weight (in kilograms) / [Height X Height (in meters)].
When calculating BMI in pounds/inches, then the formula is
Weight (in pounds) / [Height X Height (in inches)] X 703.
BMI is used to gauge where a person stands on the scale of risk factors associated with certain weight levels. That is how much an individual is at risk of developing the medical conditions caused by particular weight counts.
Healthy and Unhealthy BMI
According to the World Health Organization people with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.5 are healthy while anything more or less than that range is unhealthy. A BMI between 24.5 and 29.9 means that a person is overweight, and any count above 30 indicates obesity. Lastly, people who have a BMI below 18.5 are underweight.
People who fall into the category of overweight or obese BMI are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes and various other serious health concerns such as cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, underweight individuals have a high probability of developing anaemia, immune dysfunction, osteoporosis, fertility and developmental issues.
Although an unhealthy BMI puts you at risk of developing medical conditions, it is not the only contributing factor. Many other factors play a part in increasing or decreasing a person’s chances of developing a health problem such as activity level, drug use, eating habits etc. To better understand this concept, let’s consider an example.
A person with a healthy BMI is at a higher risk of health problems if they:
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
- Excessively consume sugar and processed foods.
And on the contrary, a person who falls into the category of overweight BMI has a lower risk of contracting an ailment if they
- Work out regularly
- Have their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol level within the normal range.
Body Mass Composition
Body mass composition is a detailed description of a body’s composition. That is, it is used to describe the percentage of fat, protein, water, muscles and bone in the human body.
Body mass composition is a better metric of measuring a person’s health as it shows a clearer picture of the body. However, calculating someone’s body mass consumption is not as straightforward as BMI. It requires specialized medical equipment; therefore, people rely on BMI to assess their health level.
Obesity is a condition characterized by excessive fat accumulation in the adipose tissues of the body that can lead to a bunch of health problems such as diabetes, sleep apnea etc.
What exactly is an Obese Person?
People who are overweight or have ‘obesity'(that is they have a lot of body fat) are referred to as obese. A person becomes obese when their energy consumption is more than their energy expenditure. In other words, if someone consumes more calories than they burn, they become obese after a while.
One of the most widely used methods of determining whether a person is obese or not is by measuring their body mass index. People with a BMI over 30 are considered obese.
According to NHS, every 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children (aged 10-11) have obesity in the UK. A relatively Recent Obesity Foresight report that looks at ways of controlling obesity has estimated that approximately 60% of the UK’s total population will be obese by 2050, creating a cost of £45.5 billion to bear for the economy.
What are the leading causes of Obesity?
Although a calorie-surplus diet is primarily responsible for obesity, other factors can also play a part. Apart from overeating or frequent consumption of processed foods, some other bodily features can also cause obesity.
Some of the leading causes of obesity are
- Genetics- Obesity has a strong connection with gene makeup. Kids of overweight parents have a higher tendency of gaining excess fat than lean parents.
- Readily available, addictive engineered junk food- Since now people have access to a vast range of incredibly ‘tasty’ yet fattening foods, they end up overindulging easily.
- Food Addiction- Many high sugar and calorie foods activate the reward centre in the brain, and have a similar effect as drugs such as cannabis, getting people hooked.
- Aggressive Marketing- Food manufacturers now use relentless marketing to sell their products, which leads people to overconsumption.
- High insulin levels and insulin resistance in the body is believed to be a contributing factor to obesity in many individuals.
- Medication- A lot of pharmaceutical drugs, such as antidepressants can lead to weight gain by lowering the body’s metabolic rate or increasing appetite.
- Leptin Resistance- Leptin is an appetite reducing hormone that helps in processing fats. Obese people tend to develop leptin resistance that makes weight reduction problematic.
Regardless of the cause of your obesity, you must lose weight in order to improve your health and reduce your chances of developing various medical conditions.
With that said, overweight people can be healthy. If someone doesn’t fit the generalized perception of what looks ‘fit’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unhealthy. If your weight starts to alter your routine and make carrying out daily activities troublesome, then that’s probably your cue to kick start your weight loss journey.
When it comes to losing weight, people like to see instant results, and that is why many fall prey to fad diets. Going on a strict calorie-restricted diet is one of the most commonly employed weight loss techniques.
And while such stringent diet plans can help you lose weight at a rapid pace, they can’t help you to keep those extra pounds off.
Following a diet, yields result only for a while. The moment you go back to eating normally (how you used to before restricting your diet), you will gain most (if not all) of the lost weight back.
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI requires a consistent effort that includes a balanced diet (so you get all the vital nutrients needed by the body) and regular physical training.
Another reason to avoid going on extreme diets is not to deprive your body of any essential nutrients. Most crash diets lack in necessary nutrients. Using those to lose weight means preventing your body from getting wholesome nourishment, which can lead to multiple health problems such as anaemia.
Although most restrictive diets are harmful to the body, some are more widely used than others. Those commonly used diets include.
The Pegan Diet
The pegan diet is an amalgamation of a vegan (plant-based) and paleo (caveman) diet. A caveman diet is a plan that includes foods such as lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds; basically those edibles that were hunted or gathered by cavemen during the Paleolithic era, hence the name ‘paleo.’
A typical meal in the pegan diet includes grilled chicken and salad.
Even though the pegan diet is pretty nutritious, it still restricts the intake of many vital nutrients. Therefore, one must seek guidance from a dietician before choosing it for their weight loss journey.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the eating habits of nations bordering with the Sea. It includes lots of vegetables, oily fish, olive oil and nuts and doesn’t impose any calorie restrictions.
It has proven to improve cardiovascular health and aid natural weight loss without creating a nutritional deficit in the body. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy option for weight reduction at a steady pace.
The Keto Diet
The keto diet aims to get a body into ketosis, a state in which the body stops using glucose as its primary energy source and starts using ketones instead. It’s a high-fat, moderate protein low-carb diet.
The keto diet can only work as a short-term solution. It accelerates weight reduction but also creates nutrient deficiencies in the body. Therefore, it’s not a good long term solution.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet works on the principle of intermittent fasting (IF). Intermittent fasting is a weight reduction technique in which a person eats for five days of the week and fasts on the remaining two.
It doesn’t impose strict calorie restrictions; however, that doesn’t mean you can have high-calorie foods on the eating days. To get results with the 5:2 diet, one needs to eat healthy foods and be physically active.
The Alkaline Diet
The alkaline diet works on the principle of cutting back acid-producing foods to improve health. High levels of acid in the body lead to various medical conditions and causes weight gain. Hence, by eliminating acidic foods, you aim to control your pH level while losing weight (because most acid-producing foods are fattening).
The alkaline diet promotes healthy eating and adds a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily meals; however, it doesn’t have any significant effect on the body’s pH level.
The New Atkins Diet
The new Atkin diet works in three phases. In the first phase, the aim is to lose 15 pounds in two weeks, and after that, it comes down to 2 to 3 pounds. It restricts a person’s carb intake to stimulate fat burning, as the body starts using fats for energy.
The new Atkins diet is not a sustainable weight loss option as it forces you to cut down on a major food group, which will eventually lead to health problems.
No matter which diet you choose to follow for your weight loss journey, you need to be physically active and do some sort of fat-burning exercises regularly to lose the excess kilos.
Regular exercise is imperative to lose weight and to stay lean. It helps you burn calories and increases your metabolism, so your body breaks down food faster and doesn’t store it as fat readily.
There are two types of exercises that people do. One is a high-intensity cardio workout, and the other is muscle building. The former aims to get your heart rate up and spike your metabolism rate, which then burns the excess fat in your body. The latter focuses on increasing muscle mass in the body.
Some of the best exercises for weight loss include
- Brisk walking/jogging
- Plyometric exercises
- Weight lifting
Health experts recommend that a person gets at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five times a week. It can be anything from the mentioned exercises or any other with/without equipment training routines.
A healthy diet and frequent physical training do not get immediate results. Therefore, many people use other unorthodox methods to aid their weight loss process. The most common of those methods is taking weight loss supplements or pills.
Weight loss supplementation includes any drug that promotes fat burning in the body. Any such pill works on either of the following principles
- Appetite reduction- You feel full for longer durations; hence, eat fewer calories
- Reduction in food absorption- Your body absorbs less of certain nutrients, such as fat, making you take fewer calories
- Increased fat burning- Your metabolic rate is increase causing you to burn more calories at a time
Although many natural and drugstore supplements claim to promote weight loss, there is only so much they can do. Whether you rabidly pop pills or get hooked on green tea, you will only lose weight to a certain point. Therefore, weight loss supplements are not the answer to your obesity.
Weight Loss Injections
Weight loss injections are increasingly becoming popular among members of the obese community. Although healthcare professionals typically prescribe them to overweight people who meet a specific health criterion (set by NICE), they are becoming easily accessible to anyone, thanks to commercially driven companies that are now producing these injections.
Initially, only two brands of weight loss injections existed; Victoza and Saxenda, which were prescribed by doctors to obese patients alongside changes in diet and increased physical activity.
A weight loss injection contains the injectable drug liraglutide that works in a similar way as the GLP-1 hormone in the human body. It promotes weight loss by suppressing appetite and controlling the blood sugar levels.
Getting weight loss jabs is quite costly and is not a sustainable method to lose excess weight. Plus it can have many harmful side effects such as taste alterations, toothache, vomiting, renal impairment etc.
Taking weight loss injections is not a healthy solution as it is not natural. One must consult their doctor before going for such unconventional weight-loss strategies.
Weight loss surgery is a medical procedure that is generally performed on obese people. With that said, not every overweight person can get weight reduction surgery. You need to meet a specific health criterion to be eligible for such an operation if you want NHS to fund the surgery.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, a person has to meet the following requirements to qualify as a patient for weight loss surgery.
- They must have a BMI over 40 or a BMI between 35 and 40 with a medical condition that can be controlled with weight reduction.
- They have exhausted all other weight loss methods.
- They have been receiving treatment from an obesity team for a while
- They agree to follow post-surgery protocol.
- They are otherwise fit to have surgery under general anaesthesia
A person can get weight loss surgery privately, but they need to pay an unbelievably high price for it. Typically, a person has to pay anything between £4000 and £10000 for weight loss surgery.
Although there are several types of weight-loss surgeries, the most commonly performed are three.
- Gastric Band- An elastic band is placed on your stomach to reduce your food intake. As the size of your stomach is reduced, you feel full after eating fewer calories.
- Gastric Bypass- The top part of your stomach is sutured together with your small intestine, which makes you feel fuller faster and reduces calorie absorption.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy- Some part of your stomach is surgically removed. As a result, you do not eat as much as you could before and feel full sooner.
Life after a weight loss surgery can be quite harsh and painful. You need to go for regular follow-up appointments, change your lifestyle by adopting clean eating habits and increasing your physical fitness level with frequent exercise.
Just like all other surgeries, weight loss surgery has potential risks.
- Being left with excess skin folds
- You can develop gallstones
- You might develop a blood clot in your leg or lungs
- A gut leak- if the band on your stomach slips away, it will lead to food leakage from the join between the stomach and small intestine.
- Excruciating stomach ache
Any kind of surgery is risky and must only be received if there is a dire health crisis. However, if a person feels that they don’t have any other option left, they must consult their doctor and thoroughly go through the process before deciding on getting weight loss surgery.
Excess body weight can lead to a number of health concerns and affect your quality of life. Therefore, shedding unnecessary pounds is vital to stay healthy.
Why losing weight is important?
Losing weight is not only important because it makes you physically attractive. Aside from the aesthetic appeal of losing weight, there are a host of health concerns that can be avoided by losing excess body weight.
Weight reduction is an excellent way of reducing your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, joint problems, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and fertility problems.
Moreover, when a person is lean, they are able to lead an active life and get things done more easily.
If a person continues to live with obesity, they increase their chances of getting the following health problems significantly.
Common Health Problems Caused by Obesity
- Sleep Apnea-Obesity can constrict your airways, causing you to stop breathing for multiple periods during the day.
- Heart Disease- High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels due to obesity can harden your arteries, increasing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Liver Damage- Excess fat in an obese person can accumulate around the liver and lead to damage.
- Cancers- Obese people are at a high risk of getting some forms of cancer, such as stomach, pancreatic, kidney, liver and colon.
- GERD-Gastroesophageal reflux disease is one of the most common side effects of obesity. GERD causes the acids in a person’s stomach to leak into their oesophagus.
- Infertility- Obese people are more likely to experience fertility problems.
- Kidney Disease- Obesity complications such as high blood pressure and cholesterol increase the chances of chronic kidney disease in overweight people.
- Joint Pain- Due to excess weight, the joints of an overweight person have to work harder, which creates a strain on them, leading to pain and stiffness.
- Skin Fold Rashes- Rashes on the folds of the skin are a common occurrence in obese people.
- Weakened Bones and Muscles- Excess weight puts pressure on a person’s bones and muscles, causing muscle mass and bone density to deteriorate. That can increase an obese person’s chances of fractures.
- Depression- Obese people are susceptible to having depression and other mental health issues, such as body image problems.
Being healthy, having a BMI between 19.5 and 24.5, is vital to lead a happy and wholesome life. If you want to stay safe from the health conditions mentioned above, you should make sure that your BMI lies in the ‘healthy’ category.
Weight reduction can be achieved through various methods. You can either go on crash diets or follow extreme workout regimes or choose to make healthy lifestyle choices for long-lasting results. No matter which route you decide to take to get to your ideal weight, some tips can help you with the process
Some Useful Tips to aid Weight Loss
- Do not cut out any foods from your diet.
- Control your portions
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat high-fibre food
- Drink plenty of water every day
- Reduce your sugar intake
- Consume less alcohol
- Avoid binge eating
- Do not skip breakfast.
- Have regular meals
- Get plenty of sleep each day.
- Don’t go on diets, eat healthily instead.
Although the desire to lose weight is often fueled with the need to appear a certain way, it shouldn’t only be about that.
In fact, a person should decide to lose weight if they are obese to improve their health and reduce their chances of developing various medical conditions.
Your health level cannot (and shouldn’t) be gauged by how skinny you are. Some people may appear ‘big’ according to the societal standards, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhealthy. Therefore, your focus should not be your appearance but your health.
When you embark on a weight loss journey with the intention to become lean, you can quickly lose motivation if you don’t get results soon.
Weight reduction requires time and giving the body enough time to transform requires patience, which can quickly run out if when a person doesn’t notice visible changes soon enough. Therefore, you must strive to reach the maximum level of fitness and health as that will give you continued motivation.
And once you decide to become the healthiest version of yourself, make sure not to go for shortcuts or quick fixes and instead make healthy lifestyle changes. By doing so, you will be able to achieve a steady pace of weight loss, keep off the extra weight and improve your health considerably.