Hidden Dangers Of Weight Loss
Everywhere you turn these days someone is telling you about the dangers of being overweight. But very few are telling you about the dangers of weight loss. In today’s article I’m going to share with you why losing weight isn’t always a good idea - even if you are overweight. And I’ll share with you smart ways to protect your health regardless of your weight.
The Obesity Paradox
Powerful industry interests have shaped the public conversation when it comes to body weight. Doctors, nutritionists, fitness experts, politicians, and nearly everyone else are quick to warn us about the health problems caused by being overweight. But could they be wrong?
Research has turned up some interesting information when it comes to weight and health. It turns out that carrying some extra weight is actually protective of health. And as men age a little extra weight is especially protective.
Health professionals use a measurement called body mass index (BMI) to classify people as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese (class 1, 2, and 3. BMI is calculated by dividing weight by the square of the height. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.
Initially studies began to reveal that men with kidney disease with BMIs of 25-35 (overweight to moderately obese) had better survival rates than normal weight men. Because everyone was convinced that extra weight was always harmful, this finding came to be known as the “obesity paradox”.
Still, health professionals continued to put a great deal of pressure on all people with BMIs over 25 to lose weight “for health reasons”.
But then studies continued to show new additions to the “obesity paradox”. It turns out that in men with heart failure, heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and now even Alzheimer’s disease have greater outcomes when in the 25-35 BMI range than in the normal weight range. And in all cases underweight men have the worst outcomes by far.
So is the so-called “obesity paradox” really a paradox? Or is it simply that the focus on weight has been mistaken all along?
Does Weight Loss Really Improve Health?
The trouble is that excess weight isn’t always a sign of poor health. And so-called normal weight isn’t always a sign of good health.
Importantly, losing weight isn’t always healthy. So the focus on weight is a mistake.
Research shows that when men are taught that losing weight in and of itself will improve their health, the outcomes are mixed. That’s because the act of losing weight in and of itself doesn’t improve men’s health. And sometimes, the ways in which men may go about losing weight may be counterproductive.
With so much drug company money and politicians’ careers on the line, no one wants to fess up that weight isn’t the thing to focus on if health is the goal. Instead, it is most sensible to focus on health and healthy choices and let the weight fall where it does. Because men can be healthy at most sizes. But they can also be unhealthy at most sizes.
So if your doctor or if someone in your life is pushing you to lose weight for health reasons, think twice. Don’t try to lose weight to get healthy. Instead, make healthy choices in order to get healthy. Your weight may or may not change as a result, but your health can.
Making Healthy Choices
Part of the reason that focusing on weight can be unhealthy is that many of the common practices for losing weight are unhealthy. They include calorie restriction and over-exercise. But research consistently links those activities with increased stress in the body. And increased stress means worse health, not better.
Also, when people focus on losing weight, they aren’t making sustainable lifestyle choices. If you have a target weight, you may do whatever it takes to reach that target weight. But after that, have you set yourself up for long term health? Probably not.
So again, to achieve health, make healthy and sustainable choices. Here are the top things you can do to support your health and achieve your ideal, healthy weight, whether that weight falls into the approved BMI range or not.
- Prioritize sleep. Research shows that men who sleep less than 7 hours a night are at a much higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. They are also more likely to gain body fat. So one of the most powerful things you can do to protect your health and maintain your ideal, healthy weight is to sleep enough every night.
- Get regular sunlight. Study after study shows that regular sunlight exposure protects health in lots of ways. It increases the quality of sleep, for one thing. But it also is connected with reduced cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.
- Walk more often. Walking is one of the very best forms of exercise you can do. It is far better than running, cycling, weight lifting, or just about anything else. The reason is that it is gentle and that it can reduce stress in the body rather than create it. Walking is associated with good health all the way around. Incorporate more walking by taking more breaks during the day and walking. Every step counts.
- Cut out “vegetable” oils such as soy, corn, canola, and safflower. Oils that are high in polyunsaturated omega 6 fats are associated with inflammation and fat gain. Choose natural, traditional fats such as real butter or coconut oil.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Certainly you cannot live off of fruits and vegetables alone. But as part of a well-rounded diet that contains plenty of high quality protein and healthy fats is healthier with higher levels of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and potassium, all of which are strongly associated with good health. They help to improve cardiovascular health, improve blood sugar control, reduce hypertension, and reduce inflammation.
Do these things and you’ll attain health. Don’t worry about weight. Stay focused on health, and you’ll get the last laugh.