Newsflash: Being Overweight Matters To Your Health – Forget The Looks!

Posted: May 15, 2017

Being overweight is often considered a cosmetic problem. But the long term health problems it gives rise to, are far more serious than you may think.

We women often obsess about our calorie intake. How many of us have had one of these thoughts when we have looked in to the mirror? “Do I look fat?”  “Does my tummy stick out in this dress?”  “Jeans make my thighs look huge.” “Why does everything I eat go settle in my butt?”

The irony is that we worry about the optics and ignore the real damage, that being overweight, causes.

When the goal is to fix the optics, we usually want instant results, and come up with short term solutions like diet pills, crash diets, intense exercise regiments, and in extreme cases, liposuction. These quick fixes, are, typically not sustainable and many have harmful side effects. Instead, we should implement sustainable, long term, lifestyle changes, that keep our weight in check.

How do you know if you are overweight or obese?

Just because you don’t have the figure of a model or a film star, doesn’t mean that you are overweight. The body mass index (BMI), derived from height and weight is a useful indicator. The normal range for BMI is 18.5 to 25. This is a fairly large range for the BMI, indicating that people of different shapes and appearance can be healthy.

A BMI of 25 to 30 may indicate a person is overweight and a BMI higher than 30 may imply obesity. However people who have unusually high muscle mass, like athletes, may have a large BMI too.

Is being overweight really so bad?

High cholesterol, heart disease and stroke are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the risks of being over weight. Here are some of the health risks of being over weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes: According to this article being overweight or obese can cause insulin resistance especially if it is tummy fat.
  • Arthritis: Excess weight increases the risk for degenerative arthritis, a painful condition that occurs when the cartilage in some joints gets worn away casing bone no rub against bone.
  • Gall bladder disease: Gallstones are more common among women and being overweight or obese or indulging in a high fat or hight cholesterol diet, significantly increases the risk.
  • Breathing problems: Obesity increases the risk of sleep apnea and asthma. Obese people also tend to take small or shallow breaths leading to multiple health problems.
  • Cancer: Obesity increases the risk of a number of cancers including uterine and post-menopausal breast cancer.

Being overweight also results in health problems that are specific to women

  • Problems with conceiving: Being significantly overweight, reduces fertility in both men and women and makes it much harder to conceive. According to this article, being over weight doubles the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and miscarriage. The risk is even greater in case of obese women. Infants born to obese women are also significantly more likely to need neonatal intensive care or have a congenital abnormality.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Although not clear, it is possible that being obese increases the risk of PCOS. It is however possible that the cause and effect have been mixed up and that PCOS puts women at high risk for obesity.

Dealing with weight problems

In dealing with being overweight it is best to come up with long term, convenient, sustainable plans of healthy diet and exercise.

It may help to talk to a nutritionist because there are many misconceptions of what constitutes a balanced healthy diet, especially since there are some contradictory theories on the subject. Don’t rely on random articles on the internet. The internet is a good source of information, but it is important to do extensive research as any particular article may not be reliable.

It is also important to get at least seven hours of sleep every night on average. Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight.

If in spite of your healthy habits, you find that you are still overweight, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor.

There are several psychological and physiological problems that can result in weight gain:

  • Depression can cause obesity and then obesity can make depression worse or vice-versa starting a vicious cycle difficult to pull out of.
  • There are a number of hormonal imbalances that can cause obesity. Some hormones responsible for obesity in women are, thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin and cortisol
  • Stress, treatments for diabetes or treatments involving steroids, can result in weight gain.

Moms, take care of yourselves!

Motherhood causes many women to neglect their own health and overextend themselves for the family. While children are important to their mothers, women must realize they they cannot care well for their children or anyone else unless they take care of themselves first. Mothers of infants often suffer from sleep deprivation and stress. Some even suffer post-partum depression. All of these can lead to weight gain. It is essential families chip in and do their bit, so new mothers can lead healthy lives.

Society too needs to change it’s outlook. Support, not judgement, is what new mothers need as they go through an avalanche of physiological, psychological and lifestyle changes.

Change Is On It’s Way

It is nice to see that in recent times there has been a change in focus from women’s beauty to women’s health. In the past brands played on the insecurities of women to sell products that may help them lose weight as can be seen in this ad here. But as society is slowly changing it’s outlook, such ads are no longer appreciated, and the same brand is now working on new ads that focus on women’s health instead of beauty. This is a reassuring change for the better.

Image source: pixabay

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Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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