Everyone has heard about the national epidemic of obesity. More than one third (~35 percent, over 78.6 million) of US adults are obese. Even in Vermont about 25 percent of adults are obese. But, why does this matter? And what are we supposed to do about it?
First, let’s define obesity. It is measured by something called a BMI, or Body Mass Index. This measurement uses the weight and height of an individual and tells us how much fat someone has in their body. It’s not a perfect tool, as it doesn’t count how much muscle you have, but it works for most people. Use this link to calculate your own BMI.
- If your BMI is less than 18.5 you are underweight.
- If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9 you are normal weight.
- If your BMI is 25 to 29.9 you are overweight.
- If your BMI is 30 to 39.9 you are obese.
- If your BMI is 40 or above you are morbidly obese.
Obesity matters because it is very unhealthy for your body and will lead to dangerous health conditions. Some of these conditions include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, certain types of cancer, depression, arthritis, sleep apnea, liver disease, gallbladder disease, and many more. Studies have shown that being morbidly obese can shorten your life by as much as 14 years.
Obesity is a complex issue, and is not easy to lose weight. It takes lots of hard work and support from friends and family. The best way to lose weight is to eat a healthy diet and practice regular physical activity. This means eating lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and water, while avoiding soda and too many fatty foods or sweets. This also means getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week (e.g., brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week (e.g., jogging or running). These lifestyle changes are not temporary; they should be the way you eat and move every day for the rest of your life. This can be hard to do, but if you work hard to follow these lifestyle modifications you will start to see a difference!
Some people exercise regularly and eat well but still have trouble losing weight. If you are having trouble losing weight, there are nutritionists and health coaches that can help. Ask your doctor and they can help get you in touch with the right people and give you some helpful tips. There are also websites and apps that can help you stay on top of your goals. One helpful one is the Supertracker from the United States Department of Agriculture, which allows you to track your physical activity, calorie intake, and look up nutrition information on any food.
In rare cases, even with years of working hard on diet and exercise, some people are still unable to lose weight. This tends to happen more in people who are morbidly obese. In cases where someone has been morbidly obese for a long time it may be worth talking to your doctor about other weight loss options. These can include surgery or medications. These options won’t make you start losing weight by itself, it will just make it easier to lose weight when you eat healthy and exercise regularly. The “sleeve gastrectomy” is one of the leading weight loss surgeries offered, and in some cases can drastically improve health problems like diabetes.
Losing weight can be hard, but it is really important for your health. Even if you can only lose 15 pounds studies have shown that you can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars by measurable amounts. So get up, get moving, and eat well – you can lose weight and stay healthy, and encourage others to do the same!
Jessica Faraci, MD, was born and raised in Massachusetts, and moved to Vermont for medical school. She is happy to remain in Vermont for her residency training with her husband Jonathan (an internist) and newborn daughter Eliana. She is interested in academic medicine, obstetrics, preventative care, and the physician-patient relationship. She is especially interested in teaching, and enjoys volunteering at elementary schools, high schools, and local science fairs.