There are much better reasons to lose weight. More pressing, more evidence-based, more quality-of-life focused reasons. Sadly, they’re not often talked about in the TV news or publications.
Reason #4: Your JOINTS will thank you.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, in which we lose cartilage and gradually destroy the bones of our joints.
Imagine two rocks grinding together and you get the idea of how fun that is.
In my experience, healthy people don’t think much about osteoarthritis because it’s common. Aging makes it more likely. Everyone’s grandma has a twinge of arthritis.
So we think it’s normal. This hides the degree to which it can be very unpleasant and debilitating. Like most chronic illnesses, osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle.
- Your joints hurt, so you move less.
- Moving less means your joints don’t get loaded.
- Less joint loading means muscle weakness.
- Muscle weakness means force doesn’t get cushioned correctly.
- Less cushion means the condition worsens.
- More osteoarthritis means more pain.
- And, onwards, we circle the drain.
The point? Obesity makes it much more likely that you’ll get osteoarthritis.
In one study comparing the heaviest patients to the lightest, the chance of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee was more than 6 times in the heavy group.
The reason this happens is complicated. It isn’t just that heavier people put more weight on their joints, and those joints then degrade over time. It’s also that there seems to be a relationship between the presence of excess fat tissue and inflammation. So, Osteoarthritis probably comes from a combination of excess joint loading plus the inflammatory chemical and hormonal environment that having too much body fat creates.
Bottom line: One important reason to lose weight is to reduce joint pain and improve your movement. These are things you can benefit from almost immediately.
Reason #3: You’ll SLEEP better.
Think of what happens when a rockslide blocks a tunnel.
That’s sleep apnea: The upper airway collapses while you sleep, cutting off that oxygen tunnel. Just so you know, sleep apnea is more than a little snoring.
Sleep apnea means you stop breathing. Over and over and over. As you sleep.
Which is bad. More body fat means more potential for sleep apnea. This comes from a few combined factors:
- Fat in your airway narrows the space available. This makes your airway more prone to collapsing.
- Fat in your upper body puts weight on your lungs and reduces the space available to them. You need more oxygen but you can’t get it as well.
- Fat — a hormone-producing organ — changes your hormonal signals. This rewires your respiratory systems. While around 25 percent of adults have sleep apnea, 50 percent of obese adults have it.
Even more scary: If you have mild sleep apnea, and you put on weight, the chances of you graduating to moderate or severe sleep apnea are:
- 5 percent weight gain = 250 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
- 10 percent weight gain = 650 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
- 20 percent weight gain = 3,700 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
(And it’s scariest for children: 46 percent of obese children have sleep apnea, while the typical incidence in children is approximately 3 percent).
So, why is sleep apnea bad? Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health. This means things like elevated inflammation, rapid cell aging and oxidation, and hormonal disruption (and, yes, higher risk for all kinds of nasty chronic diseases in the long term).
Bottom line: Another important reason to lose weight is so that you can sleep better. Not only does this help regulate metabolism, hormone systems, and more. It helps you feel, think and live better right away.
Reason #2: Your immune system will work properly again.
We tend to think of body fat like an ATM: a place where we deposit or withdraw energy. It isn’t. Instead, fat is an active endocrine organ. That means it secretes hormones and cytokines (cell signaling molecules). Hormones and cytokines have effects throughout the body. They “talk” to one another chemically.
Like all things, balance is important. If we have a healthy amount of fat, our hormones and cell signals work properly. If we have too much, things go wrong.
For example, with too much body fat our immune systems get off kilter.
There’s a huge, scary pile of evidence here so let’s keep it simple. Increased BMI and more body fat is associated with greater risk for several kinds of infections including:
- gum infections,
- nose and sinus infections,
- stomach infections, and
- herpes (thankfully, the mouth kind).
Why? Too much adipose (fat) tissue can release large amounts of immune chemicals. Over time, this chronic high exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to spot and stop actual outside infections.
Bottom line: Losing body fat can mean a healthier, more responsive, more robust immune system. And that means less colds, fewer infections, and a healthier daily life.
Reason #1: You’ll survive surgery and childbirth.
People with a lot of body fat:
· are harder to intubate,
· have a higher risk of incisional hernia post-laprascopy (i.e. popping open again),
· have a longer operation time,
· have a higher risk of catheter site infection, and
· have a higher rate of serious postoperative complications.
Surgery is a risky business for people who are obese.
This is a double whammy because people who struggle with obesity also struggle with more health issues that may require surgery. So obese people may need surgery… but not be able to get it, or not recover as well when they do. Pregnancy is a good example of this.
· Among women who are significantly obese, about 50 percent of them must undergo Caesarean sections, compared to only about 20 percent of the general population.
· Even if they give birth vaginally, obese women may have to have a lot more instruments and medical procedures involved.
· After surgery, mothers with obesity may end up with more surgical site infections.
This is aside from other pregnancy complications, which also go up significantly as body fat increases.
Bottom line: Every surgery patient wants a safe and speedy recovery. And every mother wants a safe birth and a thriving, bouncing baby. Having a healthy range of body fat makes those happy outcomes much more likely.