I recently visited the Dr. Phil show, where Dr. Phil and I talked with a woman whose doctor had recently told her she was, medically speaking, obese—much to her surprise and dismay. She’s not alone: according recent studies, nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. And these extra pounds often come with a side order of major health problems—today, or down the road.
You can’t always judge by looking whether you’re carrying more weight than is good for your health. As you’ve probably heard, there’s a simple tool called the Body Mass Index, or BMI, that uses your weight and height to estimate where you stand (here’s a link to an online BMI calculator) and for most people correlates with your amount of body fat. According to government standards, if you have a BMI over 25, you are overweight; if it’s 30 or higher, you are obese. A BMI over 40 indicates extreme obesity.
Some of us with BMIs in the 25 to 35 range or so may be, let’s say, just a little bit in denial about our health risks – but denial won’t make them go away! Now is a good time to identify small, realistic changes we can make to keep from gaining even more weight or developing chronic health problems. Don’t wait for a catastrophic wake-up call such as a heart attack, stroke, or diagnosis of diabetes. Beyond your outward appearance, pay close attention to how you feel. Look out for subtler symptoms that could be related to your weight – what I like to call “wake-up whispers.”
- Do you have pain in your joints?
- Do you experience labored breathing or a racing heart with just a short walk or a climb up a single flight of stairs?
- If you’re a woman, are you having gynecological issues you didn’t have before
- Your family medical history is a different kind of “wake-up whisper.” You can’t feel it, but consider it a warning sign if parents and/or grandparents high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
If you’re in that “whisper zone” of 25 to 35 BMI, try setting a modest goal to lose just a few pounds – and keep them off. Every little bit helps! Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Easy to say that – but how to do it? I know we’d all like a “silver bullet” medication or treatment for weight loss, but unfortunately, there isn’t one, and science isn’t likely to deliver one any time soon. There’s no single cause of obesity, and there’s no one approach to preventing or treating it. The key is to find small, realistic changes you can make that will work for you.