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Defining Obesity and Overweight

If you hear a person say, "So what if I am overweight; it won't kill me!" Next time tell them, "Boy are you wrong!" In one recent study it was found that heaviness contributes to 300,000 to 500,000 deaths every year. And according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, American adults have a very high long-term risk of becoming obese. Generally, one in two people will become overweight, while one in four will become obese, and one in ten will reach stage II obesity.

A person is considered to be obese if his or her body weight is 20% more than the maximum healthy weight for his or her height. A more accurate measurement is the body mass index (BMI), which has become the medical standard used to measure overweight and obesity. It is a height-weight system of measurement that applies to both sexes regardless of age.

To calculate your BMI using pounds and inches:
" multiply your weight by 704.5
" then divide the result by your height in inches
" and divide that result by your height in inches a second time.

Underweight: if your BMI is less than 18.9
Normal weight: if your BMI is between 19 and 24.9
Overweight: if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9
if your BMI is 30.0 or more

About 25% of the U.S. population is overweight. However, being overweight is different from being obese. In obesity, the excess weight begins to interfere with vital body functions such as breathing, the ability of the heart to pump blood without straining, decreased insulin production causing increase incidences of type 2 diabetes, and increased blood pressure.

When obesity is reversed through a program of diet and exercise, the body begins to repair itself, and the vital body functions can return to normal. Breathing becomes easier, the heart needs to pump less strenuously, and diabetes and high blood pressure disappear.

Here is a simple chart with
approximate obesity levels
for people between 5 feet
and 6 feet in height.

Your height When you are obese
5 feet 0 inches At 153 pounds
5 feet 1 inch At 159 pounds
5 feet 2 inches At 164 pounds
5 feet 3 inches At 169 pounds
5 feet 4 inches At 175 pounds
5 feet 5 inches At 180 pounds
5 feet 6 inches At 186 pounds
5 feet 7 inches At 191 pounds
5 feet 8 inches At 197 pounds
5 feet 9 inches At 203 pounds
5 feet 10 inches At 209 pounds
5 feet 11 inches At 215 pounds
6 feet 0 inches At 221 pounds

Besides the life threatening consequences of obesity (listed above), obesity also affects our musculoskeletal system. The excess weight places enormous amounts of strain and force on:
" The joints of our body, causing the cartilage to wear down prematurely and unevenly, resulting in joint pain (ostoearthritis or degenerative joint disease).
" Muscles cannot function efficiently while trying to overcome the stresses placed on them by extra weight. The result is weak and painful body movements.
" The excess weight of obesity causes a collapse of the supporting structures in our feet (the arches), the knee ligaments, and the vertebra in our backs. This can make walking, even a few steps, difficult and painful.
" The sheer bulk of the extra fat presses on the nerves in the wrists and ankles, producing painful Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and nerve entrapments.

The musculoskeletal system includes those structures that we rely on to help us lose weight and stay healthy. When these structures cannot perform even their most basic chores, such as moving us from point A to point B without effort and pain, than we are indeed at risk for a premature death.

Reversing Obesity and Becoming Healthy

In every study on obesity and weight loss, the results have been the same: effective weight loss can only be achieved through a program that consists of a non-fad diet and regular exercise. Also, you must be prepared to continue this program for as long as it takes for you to reach your goal weight. This may take a month or it may take years. You need to become psyched-up, and stay psyched-up for the "long haul."

In order to improve your overall health, while following your program, you need only lose about 10% of your body weight. This means, if you weigh 300 pounds, you need only lose about 30 pounds to notice an improvement in how you feel, and your overall health!

Getting started losing weight:
" The first step is to consult your family doctor, and have a physical exam.

" Choose a diet that suits your needs and personality:

  • If you think that you will need a support group diet plan, than you may want to consider Topps or Weight-Watchers
  • If you are too busy to cook "healthy," you may need a Jenny Craig or Seattle Sutton-type program, where you buy prepared healthy meals.
  • If you want to not only lose weight, but keep it off, then you will need to always eat healthy. To do this, you must choose a diet that you can live with, and that has become a part of your life-style after you have reached your weight-loss goal. From personal experience, I found that with a diet that included reduced fat (at least 50% fat free), 1,500 calories a day, and reduced salt intake (sodium), I was able to loose 50 pounds, beginning in February 1999, and keep it off to this date. With this diet, and a walking exercise plan it took me 7 months to reach my goal.

" Choose an exercise program that fits your personality, health, your present weight, and your life-style. Because of my busy life-style, I could not find the time to go to a health club or gym for exercise. So I began to walk for exercise. I found that I could fit in an extra 200 steps here and there, and before I knew it I was walking an extra mile a day, enjoying it, and feeling better. No matter your weight, size, health, or schedule, you too can begin a walking program. For more information about walking, and The 10,000 Step Walking Program that I follow to help maintain my weight and health, click here.

" Before beginning any exercise program, including walking, you must do a self-examination. This should consist of a "self-examination" of the parts of your body that will be stressed the most, with the extra burden of regular exercise. For instance, if you think that you may have flat feet, or arthritis of the knee, you are going to need extra support and protection for these body parts. If you do not protect potentially painful or stiff parts of your body, then even a slight increase in walking will produce discomfort, forcing you to stop the activity. Stopping is not good! Self-examinations should be carried out on the following parts of your body:

  • Feet: Our feet are the main supporting structures of our body, and must function pain free to help us lose weight. For information about foot pain and remedies, click here.
  • Knees: Our knees are the major joints that are affected by all weight-bearing activities. If they are stiff, painful, or swollen, they cannot efficiently carry our body weight. For information about knee discomfort and remedies, click here.
  • Swollen and Achy Legs: If your legs feel like they "weigh a ton," and they are swollen and achy, your desire and will power to stick with any exercise program will be greatly reduced. For information about these problems and remedies, click here.

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