Excess body weight in the form of fat is linked to an increased risk of chronic illness and chronic pain. However, losing weight can lower the risk of these future outcomes.
Talking about body weight can bring out the sensitivity in all of us. However, a conversation with your medical provider about your weight may be the single most important discussion you'll ever have when it comes to taking care of your health and planning for a healthy future.
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we place our focus on body weight—and helping you achieve an ideal body weight—because we want all of our patients to live a long and healthy life that is free from suffering. Read on to learn more about bodyweight and how our medical team can help support you in your weight loss goals.
The importance of bodyweight
So much of our identity is tied up in our self-image and how we appear to the outside world. However, focusing on your body weight means a lot more than just focusing on your physical appearance—it also means focusing on your present and future health.
It’s helpful to think about your body as a physical system. Put simply, your skeleton, muscles, and other connective tissues are built to support a certain amount of mass. When you have too much mass—or too little mass—it can throw off many of your body’s processes and set you up for future disease and suffering. Restoring an ideal amount of tissue to your system can help your heart, bones, liver, brain, and many other organs function more efficiently.
Defining bodyweight categories
The most common way of classifying bodyweight relies on a formula known as the Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a calculation that uses your height and weight to determine a bodyweight range category.
In adults, the following BMI ranges represent bodyweight categories:
- A BMI less than 18.5 is “underweight”
- A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is an ideal or “healthy weight”
- A BMI between 25 and 30 is “overweight”
- A BMI between 30 and 35 is “class 1 obesity”
- A BMI between 35 and 40 is “class 2 obesity”
- A BMI of 40 or higher is “class 3 obesity”
This way of defining bodyweight is sometimes controversial because a BMI score cannot capture the variation of individuals, especially when it relates to their body tissues. When a medical provider discusses your body weight and its connection to your health, they are generally most concerned about your body fat percentage. However, if you are very athletic, and have a great deal of muscle tissue and a low body fat percentage, you might still be categorized as obese. This is why discussing your body weight and weight loss goals with your medical provider first, before embarking on any sort of weight loss program, is very important.
How many people are affected by excess body weight?
In the United States, one of the most common health conditions that adults over age 20 struggle with is being overweight or obese. The latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 73.6% of people fall into one of these groups. This number has been on the rise for many years, and experts think that several factors may be influencing the increasing role that bodyweight plays in our lives, including poorer diets, reduced activity levels, and changing communities.
What are the consequences of being overweight or obese?
The grand majority of Americans are all in the same boat: They are all more vulnerable to the health consequences that come from being overweight or obese. Having too much bodyweight is connected to many of the leading causes of death in the US, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. Excess body weight can also affect your ability to get pregnant. Being overweight or obese is highly connected with one of the most common causes of infertility, a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS who can lose as little as 5 to 10 percent of their body weight can have an easier time getting pregnant.
When you have excess body weight, it can make it difficult for you to move comfortably and exercise, which can also increase your risk of developing chronic diseases and chronic pain. For your body to work the best, you must move it every day, and expose it to certain stresses. When you aren’t able to move well, it can also impact your state of mind. Another health consequence of being overweight or obese is an increased risk of a mental health problem like depression or anxiety.
If you have a chronic health condition and are concerned that there may be a connection to your body weight, make sure to discuss this with your medical provider. Often, addressing your body weight alone can make a positive impact on your overall health.
What research shows about losing weight
You likely understand the health consequences that are connected to having too much bodyweight in the form of body fat. However, it can be intimidating to know that you need to lose weight to benefit your health. For many people, it’s difficult to know where to even start.
Luckily, researchers who study weight loss have found that once you overcome your initial hesitation, and just get started, a little bit of weight loss can go a long way. Even modest weight loss—at 5 percent of your body weight—can have positive health benefits. For an overweight woman who is 5 feet and 4 inches tall, and weighs 160 pounds, a weight loss of five percent represents just 8 pounds.
If you can lose even more than five percent of your body weight, you can experience even more benefits. A recent study showed that people with obesity who lost 10 percent of their body weight experienced less joint pain, as well as more energy, clearer thinking, and better mental health.
Strategies for weight loss
When you think of a weight loss program, you may envision a wrestler running around outside in sweatpants on a hot summer day, or a refrigerator full of carrot sticks and celery. The reality is that neither extreme exercise nor extreme dieting is a very good strategy when it comes to reaching your weight loss goals and keeping weight off. However, being deliberate about your physical activity level, and how you’re fueling your body, can support your weight loss goals.
It’s also important to talk to your medical provider if you would like to lose weight. Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all prescription, and your medical provider can help you pinpoint lifestyle changes that you can make and stick to easily. For example, if you are in the habit of drinking soda pop every day, you may find that it is easy for you to lose weight just by cutting this out of your diet. However, another person who is in the same overweight category may not drink soda at all and may benefit more from starting an evening walking routine.
Outside of making dietary and exercise upgrades, one of the most important strategies for weight loss is accountability. Talking to your medical provider about your weight loss intentions can not only help you gain valuable suggestions but can also help you stick to your plans.
How your medical team can support your weight loss goals
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we are eager to help all of our patients who are overweight or obese achieve healthy and sustainable weight loss. Our primary providers are skilled at lifestyle coaching and can partner with nutritionists and physical therapists, as needed, to help get you eating well and moving your body comfortably.
We also have dedicated weight-loss specialists who work with our Medically-Assisted Weight Loss program. Our program can support you in a couple of different ways if you have been unable to lose weight on your own through diet and exercise.
Prescription medication for weight loss
Weight loss medicines can help you take off the weight that you have been struggling to lose otherwise. Some weight-loss medicines help you lose weight by reducing your appetite, while others change the way that your body digests the food you eat. At LVMC, we can assess whether you might be eligible to use prescription medication to help you lose weight. First, you must fall into a BMI category of 30 or above (or 27 and above if you have certain high-risk health conditions). You’ll also need to have a check-up and meet with a nutritionist and have blood work done, too.
Bariatric surgery for weight loss
A surgical procedure can change the way that your body processes food, which can help you lose weight by reducing your appetite and also reducing the number of calories that your body absorbs.
At LVMC, our bariatric surgeons perform two different types of weight-loss surgeries.
- Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass: During this minimally-invasive procedure, a surgeon uses a small camera and tools to reduce the size of your stomach and remove part of your intestine that absorbs food.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy: During this minimally-invasive procedure, a surgeon uses a small camera and tools to make your stomach about one-fifth of its original size. This can help you lose weight by removing your hunger signals and lessening your desire for food.
Surgery is a long-term weight loss decision. If you are interested in weight-loss surgery, our surgeons will discuss with you your overall goals, and take into consideration your BMI and your history of weight loss attempts in the past.
How to Learn More About Meeting Your Weight Loss Goals
One of the most important health choices you can make is the decision to achieve ideal body weight. Exercising, dieting, and getting coaching from your medical team can help you get there. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we can also support you with prescription medications or bariatric surgery.
To get started with a weight loss specialist, contact us today to schedule a consultation.