Did you know those extra pounds many of us carry can lead to a host of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers? A lot of us worry about the extra pounds we’re packing, but most people don’t understand the difference between “overweight” and “obese.” Body Mass Index (BMI), a method of measuring body fat based on height and weight, can help – overweight is a BMI of 25-29 and obese is 30+. But that’s only part of the picture.
Obesity is a chronic health condition that can be caused by many things, including genetic, hormonal and metabolic issues. For many, it’s not just a matter of eating less even though that is what most diets focus on. In fact, most people can eat more if they make healthy choices. The simple truth is a healthy lifestyle is the best approach. When you are mindful about eating healthy food and including more movement in your day, the chances are you will lose weight without being so focused on the scales. Even if you don’t lose a lot of weight, you will feel better, probably have less pain and be healthier – isn’t that really what it’s all about?
Medical Weight Loss
For someone who wants to improve their health and who struggles with obesity, medical weight loss is a tried and proven approach. Combining medical nutrition therapy, guidance from a physician and physical therapy if needed can make a huge difference over trying to go it alone.
The thing to remember is that you are not going on a diet – you are improving your lifestyle. The changes you make under your doctor and dietitian’s guidance will last you a lifetime.
“We often put all of our focus and energy on the number on the scale,” says Sarah Widener, RDN, LD, CDE, Director of Community Wellness with Med Center Health. “You could lose 20 pounds but if it was done in an unhealthy way, this will not translate positively to your overall health. And if you cannot maintain that weight loss, it’s not going to do your overall health much good. Our lifestyle choices ultimately define our overall health. Food, activity, sleep, and stress all play into our weight and — more importantly — our overall health.”
The Obesity-Diabetes Connection
Many people who struggle with obesity are at risk for developing or have already been diagnosed with diabetes. This can be because their bodies are insulin-resistant. When someone is insulin-resistant, their body does not use blood sugar in an efficient way, leading to prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. By the way, you don’t have to be obese to be insulin-resistant. Many people who are not overweight are at risk for diabetes. You should ask your doctor to check your blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C based on your risk factors on a regular basis no matter your weight. This is typically done during an annual wellness visit with your doctor.
Obesity, however, is closely linked to insulin-resistance. An estimated 70% of Americans who are obese are also insulin-resistant. Insulin is incredibly important for good health because it does the following:
- Helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells to be used for energy
- Signals the liver to store blood sugar for later use
Your body is a finely-tuned machine, especially when it comes to insulin. If something goes haywire, such as a LOT of glucose (blood sugar) entering the blood stream repeatedly over time, the pancreas will pump out so much insulin your body’s cells will stop responding to it. This is insulin-resistance. How do you avoid too much blood sugar? Eat healthy and be more active. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how much exercise is right for you if you are just starting out. A registered dietitian is also your best source for guidance about what to eat. Jenna Polk, RDN, LD with Med Center Health’s Medical Nutrition Therapy program can provide individualized nutrition assessment and education to help people manage their nutrition needs. Call 270-745-0942 or 1-877-800-3824 to learn more.