Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It also plays a role in enhancing your overall quality of life and promoting longevity. Weight management can also be extremely complicated as everyone has different body sizes, types, and unique health journeys.
When tracking your weight, your doctor will usually use a screening tool called Body Mass Index (BMI) that calculates a person’s weight in relation to their height.
Here’s how BMI is typically categorized:
While BMI on its own doesn’t consider factors such as muscle mass, body composition, or distribution of fat, it does give a starting point to assess someone’s general weight-related health. Note: BMI alone does not diagnose the health of a person.
While the science is not clear on how weight directly impacts our health, we do know that being overweight or obese is associated with higher risk of several chronic health conditions.
Cardiovascular Issues: Excess weight may lead to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks.
Diabetes: Obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes
Joint problems: Carrying excess weight puts stress on joints, increasing the risk of conditions like osteoarthritis.
Mental health: Weight-related stigma and self-esteem issues can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Cancer: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.
While genetics can contribute to higher weight, environmental and lifestyle factors often play a more significant role.
Common factors contributing to obesity may include:
Diet: Consuming high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, frequent snacking, and excessive portion sizes can lead to weight gain.
Physical inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle without exercise can contribute to weight gain and muscle loss.
Emotional eating: Many people turn to food as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or depression.
Lack of sleep: Poor sleep patterns can disrupt hormones responsible for hunger and appetite regulation, potentially leading to overeating.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid disorders, can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
There’s an old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” While a bit overplayed, starting your weight management journey requires a similar mindset. Focus on making small changes and developing sustainable healthy habits that will help improve your overall health, in addition to managing your weight.
We’ll go over all of these more in depth in the weeks to come, but here are some initial steps you can take.
Set realistic goals and manage expectations: Focus on achievable goals rather than striving for rapid weight loss. Small, consistent changes make a significant difference over time.
Balanced diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Physical activity: Start with easier exercise or movement, gradually increasing intensity and duration. Find activities you enjoy to stay motivated.
Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, your healthcare team, or a Brook Health Coach for guidance and support. Weight management can be challenging, and a strong support system can make a big difference.
Manage stress: Pay attention to your emotional well-being. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga to manage emotional eating triggers.
Prioritize sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Poor sleep can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, making it harder to make healthy food choices and manage your weight.
In some cases, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you find yourself struggling despite your best efforts, it’s time to reach out to your doctor. They can discuss potential medications that may assist in weight management and which ones might work best for you.
It’s important to understand that weight loss medications are typically prescribed under medical supervision and should be used as part of a broader approach that includes diet, exercise, and behavioral changes. This is to ensure that weight loss is maintained once the medication is discontinued.
Weight loss medications typically fall under three categories.
Appetite Suppressants: These medications work by reducing appetite and increasing the feeling of fullness, making it easier to control calorie intake. They are generally prescribed for short-term use and are recommended for individuals with obesity or those who struggle with overeating.
Common appetite suppressants include:
Fat Absorption Inhibitors: These medications interfere with the body’s ability to absorb dietary fat, which reduces overall calorie intake.
GLP-1 Agonists (Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Agonists): GLP-1 agonists are a class of medications that were originally used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but are also now used for weight management. These drugs work by mimicking the action of glucagon-like peptide-1, a hormone that increases feelings of fullness (satiety), reduces appetite, and slows stomach emptying.
Common GLP-1 agonists include:
Before considering any weight loss medication, it’s very important to have a discussion with your doctor. They will assess your overall health, discuss potential risks and benefits, and help you make an informed decision tailored to your specific needs and goals.
Remember, weight management is a highly individualized process, and the approach that works best for you may differ from someone else’s. Regardless of the path you choose, the key is to prioritize your health and well-being while respecting your unique emotional journey towards a healthier you.
I don’t know where to start or what changes to make?
Starting a weight loss journey can be overwhelming. Fortunately you are in the right place! It is always best to set realistic goals and choose lifestyle changes that are doable for you right now. Your Brook coach can support you by answering your questions and help you get started. Your doctor is also a great resource for this as well. The key is to start somewhere, you can adjust as you go along.
Why should I track my weight?
Regularly tracking your weight can be very helpful to monitor your progress. It might be frustrating at first if you feel like you aren’t losing very much weight or are fluctuating a lot, but over time you should be able to see a general trend. This can help keep you motivated that your lifestyle changes are working or let you know that you need to make some more adjustments before seeing results.
Why am I gaining weight when I’m eating healthier and exercising more?!
Don’t worry, this is very common! There may be a couple of reasons why you see weight gain when you’re making healthier food choices and starting a new exercise regimen.
Sometimes, there might be some initial weight gain as your body adjusts to a new exercise routine. It is most like your body retaining some water and it should get better over time.
If you’re eating healthier foods, double check portion sizes for your meals and snacks, especially for some of the more calorie dense foods like nuts and seeds. You may accidentally be consuming some extra calories, leading to weight gain. You can always reach out to a Brook Health Coach for more support!
as of September 2023. Kelsea is a Registered Dietitian with her Masters degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University.
Always be sure to reach out to your healthcare team when making changes to your diet or lifestyle. There are certain conditions and medications that need to be considered.