Tips for Successfully Managing Your Weight
In the United States, 36.5% of adults are obese. Another 32.5% are overweight. Combined, this represents more than two-thirds of the adult American population. Additionally, obesity impacts one in six children in the U.S.
Clearly, this has become a significant issue on many fronts. Being overweight or obese puts individuals at risk for a range of health problems. These individuals also miss approximately 56% more workdays than people of normal weight. From a financial perspective, the CDC reports that obesity costs Americans $147 billion each year.
Dr. Rubina Baig, Family Medicine Provider at Riverside Healthcare’s Frankfort Campus, discusses why this is such an important topic—and what individuals can do to better manage their weight, with the support of their healthcare provider.
Understanding the Importance of BMI
From a clinical definition, weight is classified into body mass index (BMI) categories:
- 18.5-25 BMI=Normal Weight
- 25-30 BMI=Overweight
- 30+ BMI=Obese
- 40+=Severely Obese
To be fair, BMI is not designed to be a “one measurement fits all” distinction. Some individuals have a larger build or more muscle mass. “BMI is not perfect. It’s just a clue. And, it’s really easy to measure. You get it every time you visit your doctor. So, we use it as a guide,” states Dr. Baig.
While genetics has been linked to weight, the cause of weight gain is really multifactorial. About 40-50% can be linked to genetics, but one must also consider learned behaviors and environment.
“When you were growing up, what foods were you used to eating? Where did you live? Are there healthy grocery stores nearby, or is it more fast-food restaurants? There are a lot of other factors. We aim to educate patients that ‘genetics does not mean it’s your destiny,” explains Dr. Baig.
Weight-Related Health Problems
In respect to health problems related to being overweight or obese, Dr. Baig divides them into two groups: hormonal and body mass. On the hormonal side, weight gain can lead to pre-diabetes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, abnormal periods, fertility issues, skin problems, and more.
Regarding body mass, adding weight creates more of a burden on the structure of the body itself. This can compress certain parts of the body and lead to issues such as gastric reflux, sleep apnea, breathing problems, knee pain, and joint pain.
Although weight gain is not directly correlated to cancer risk, researchers have noticed that people who lose weight or are already on the lower side of the weight spectrum have a significantly better chance of staving off up to 50 different cancers. “So, there’s a lot more benefit with losing weight and avoiding all of these medical problems,” notes Dr. Baig.
Entering One’s Weight Loss Journey
The first step in addressing one’s weight struggles is education. Dr. Baig investigates what her patients’ diet and exercise regimens entail and where improvements can be made. Much of the conversation revolves around carbohydrates and sugar, as well as the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.
“Being sedentary can lead to faster weight gain. So, trying to find ways, fun ways, to keep them active at least three or four times a week; doing an hour or even 30 minutes of exercise,” she shares.
Sometimes, efforts in diet and exercise aren’t quite enough to make a significant difference and medications may enter the picture. However, Dr. Baig cautions that patients still have to implement change for medications to work. “If you make zero diet changes, the medications do nothing.
”Bariatric surgery is also an option for patients who have a BMI of 40 or above, especially if genetics are contributing to one’s weight.“I think the idea behind [this option] is that getting bariatric surgery sooner than later will help that population of patients avoid severe consequences and could help them have a healthier life sooner rather than later,” adds Dr. Baig.
Don’t Give Up
It’s easy to become discouraged when you’re either gaining weight or struggling to lose it, but Dr. Baig urges people to keep in mind there is help available. Seeing your doctor is a great first step, but she reminds patients that it all goes back to diet and exercise as a foundation.
“I would say carb tracking, really getting nitty-gritty with foods and understanding where your shortcomings are; continuing to stay consistent with exercise. I think consistency is key, more than intensity, and it’s good to find things you enjoy. You don’t want to be miserable doing all of this. You want to make it sustainable,” she advises.“We’re not trying to find a fad diet or an exercise trend. We’re trying to build a lifestyle for you.
”And, when all else fails, medications and weight loss surgery are still up for discussion. “I just want patients to know there’s no reason to give up,” she assures.
Contact your provider to discuss options for managing your weight. Need help finding a provider? Visit riversidehealthcare.org or call (855) 404-DOCS (3627).