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Are The Health Benefits of Losing Weight Worth The Effort?

Posted Oct 28 2009 11:03pm

When I was overweight – fat - obese – whatever you want to label it, I knew I was headed down a dangerous path.  I was old enough to realize that weighing twice what I should weigh wasn’t healthy, emotionally or physically.  As my weight crept up and then leapt up, I noticed drastic changes in my appearance, and subtle changes in my health.  If you think about weight gain, you will realize that it doesn’t happen overnight.  Generally speaking, if you are substantially overweight, it took years to get to the point where you are now.  Because of this, often times your overall health status changes slowly as well.  That was true for me.

During the years I put on weight I began noticing little health problems that weren’t there previously.  Whereas I had always been able to walk without difficulty, I sometimes found myself unable to walk for even short periods of time without feeling winded and exhausted.  I remember one time when John and I took the children to the park to walk the nature trail.  We set off happily on the narrow trail, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was kinda big for the trail, but I kept going.  As the trail drifted upward, I started to fall behind.  John and the kids ended up quite a bit ahead of me as I struggled to keep up with them.  I couldn’t believe how tired I was when we finally reached the end of the long trail.  As we left the trail, and walked past the marker for the beginning of the trail again, I glanced at the signage.  The long trail had only been .5 miles.  That was the first time I realized that I was seeing some real physical effects of the extra weight I was carrying.  As I grew bigger, this type of exhaustion and tiredness happened over and over.  My family became accustomed to me saying, “I just need to rest for a minute.”

Some other side effects of my weight that I personally noticed in addition to difficulty breathing and becoming easily tired were: sweating more,  pain in my knees and back, harder to keep skin my clear, and at one point the doctor suspected I was suffering from gallstones, but fortunately that turned out to be a false alarm.  Other things that researchers have found are more common in overweight individuals thanin those of normal weight are high blood pressure, high cholesterol,diseases related to hardening of the arteries, such as heart attack and stroke (cardiovascular disease), type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

So all this brings us to the initial question.  Are the health benefits of losing weight worth the effort?  Well, before we can answer that question, let’s see what research has found the health benefits to be.  Here are some commonly accepted benefits to losing even small amounts of weight:

  • Lower your cholesterol levels
  • Reduce your blood pressure
  • Reduced aches and pains
  • Improved mobility
  • Improve your breathing
  • Help you sleep better and wake more rested
  • Prevention of angina, chest pain caused by decreased oxygen to the heart
  • Decreases your risk of sudden death from heart disease or stroke
  • Prevention of Type 2 diabetes
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • May aid in the prevention of some cancers

That’s a pretty impressive list.  I personally experienced several of those benefits as I lost weight, and the health benefits increased even more once I reached my goal weight.  My blood pressure dropped significantly, my energy level increased, my aches and pains disappeared, I no longer was exhausted at the end of the evening and I slept better.  I know too, that by losing weight and getting fit, I have increased the chance that I will live longer.

As you go about your day today, examine how you feel physically.  Are your joints tired?  Do you get easily winded?  What does your doctor say about your weight?  How’s your blood pressure and cholesterol levels? 

If you are ever tempted to take a break from your quest to improve your health, I’d encourage you to think about how every good choice you make gives you one more opportunity to make your quality of life fuller and those day to day tasks easier. Is there a specific health benefit that you are working towards? Is there one you’ve already achieved that you’d be willing to share?  Diane

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