In the absence of any symptoms, days come and go without a thought about our health. The value of our health is often given little regard until it is lost, then it becomes priceless.
At a recent local parade, I saw a young female with marked obesity wearing a T-shirt with the expression “You only live once.” I looked at her with concern that her one life might be fraught with medical complications due to her weight. With one life to live, no one wants it to be burdened with medical complications or disability.
Obesity negatively affects nearly every part of the body. Health consequences include serious conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and stroke. The earlier the age obesity begins and the longer obesity is present, the greater the likelihood of developing health problems that can negatively affect quality of life. Mobility is lost, pain is increased, sleep is impaired and self-image is often damaged.
Excess weight can result in a 60 percent to 90 percent increased risk of disability.
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Getting to a healthy weight should not be about getting to some arbitrary number on a scale or clothing size. These may be tools for monitoring progress but are rather empty endpoints. It is easy to become frustrated when weight loss is the sole goal.
To begin with, our bodies are not designed to lose weight. For thousands of years, mankind struggled with getting enough food for survival. Only those with efficient means of storing calories as fat survived lean periods of famine, disease and extreme weather conditions. Our bodies are designed to get fat. Our biologic programming tells us to consume the calories in front of us, even when we are full. When we are losing weight, the human body has internal mechanisms that increase appetite and improve calorie storage.
When it comes to weight loss, our body fights us every step of the way with increased hunger and prolonged weight-loss plateaus. Changing the health risks associated with excess weight should not be exclusively about weight loss.
Having your state of health become the primary focus is far more meaningful and lasting. The pursuit of health is a continuous, lifelong goal. Increased energy, improved mobility, better sleep and less pain are all benefits of a lifestyle change that moves our body to a healthier weight.
In working with patients seeking to lose excess weight, I find long-term success comes to those who decide to make health a priority. They no longer look at food as good or bad. Food now becomes something that can either make their health better or make it worse. With that new perspective, it becomes a lot easier to make healthy choices and achieve a healthy weight.
Nicholas J. Pennings, D.O., of Lillington is director of the Campbell University Health Center and assistant professor of Family Medicine.