Print these questions and answers to discuss with your health care provider.
1. Can being overweight lead to medical problems?
Yes. Being overweight is linked to a number of health problems, including:
- Heart disease and stroke
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease and gallstones
- Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing
for a short time during sleep) and asthma
2. How do I know if I am obese?
Obesity is defined as an excess proportion of total body fat. The most
common measure of obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of
weight in relation to height. A person is considered obese when his or her BMI
is greater than 30.
3. Is any fat healthy?
A certain amount of fat in the diet is good and necessary to be
healthy. When you do eat fat, make sure it is not high in the bad (saturated)
fat, but has more of the unsaturated fat, such as fat that comes from nuts,
grains, and vegetable sources. Studies confirm that Americans have too high a
fat intake. This increases health risks, so decreasing total fat intake would be
healthy for most people.
4. What steps should I take to lose weight?
- Decide you want to permanently lose weight.
- Educate yourself.
- Have a realistic goal in mind.
- Formulate a structured treatment plan with your doctor and/or dietitian and receive proper follow-up.
- Schedule exercise.
5. What type of exercise is best?
It does not matter what type of physical activity you perform -- sports,
planned exercise, household chores, yard work, or work-related tasks -- all are beneficial.
Over the past few years, exercise advertisements have
targeted simplified exercise routines for weight reduction and maintenance. Some
exercise advertisements sell the belief that one machine will work your entire
body and give you the results you need. However, many of these machines may only
be good for one type of conditioning, such as cardiovascular; these machines
also have limitations to the type of exercise you can do and they are not good
for everyone. To determine the best type of exercise program for you, talk to
your doctor and a certified athletic trainer.
6. How much exercise should I do?
Studies show that even the most inactive people can gain significant health
benefits if they accumulate just 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day.
For the greatest overall health benefits, experts
suggest 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 3 or more times per
week plus some form of anaerobic exercise, such as muscle-strengthening activity
and stretching twice a week.
If you have been inactive for a while, you may want to
start with less strenuous activities, such as walking or swimming at a
comfortable pace. Beginning at a slow pace will allow you to become physically
fit without straining your body. Once you are in better shape, you can gradually
do more strenuous activity.
7. What is weight cycling and is it harmful?
Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight
cycling is the result of dieting, it is called "yo-yo" dieting. A weight cycle
can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large
changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle).
Some experts believe that weight cycling may be
harmful to your health and that staying at one weight is better than weight
cycling, even for those people who are obese. However, there is no convincing
evidence to support these claims. Most obesity researchers believe that obese
individuals make multiple attempts at weight loss before they are ultimately successful.
8. How do I spot a fad diet?
While there is no set approach to identifying a fad diet, many have the following characteristics:
- Recommendations that promise a quick fix
- Dire warnings of dangers from a single product or regimen
- Claims that sound too good to be true
- Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study
- Recommendations based on a single study
- Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations
- Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
- Recommendations made to help sell a product
- Recommendations based on studies published without review by other researchers
- Recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
- Eliminated one or more of the five food groups
9. What prescription medicines are used to treat obesity?
Weight loss medications are not a cure-all. The use of
weight loss medications should be combined with physical activity and improved
diet to lose and maintain weight successfully over the long term.
Weight loss medications can be considered for:
- People with a BMI greater than 30 with no obesity-related conditions
- People with a BMI of greater than 27 with two or more obesity-related conditions
Currently, most available weight-loss medications
approved by the FDA are for short-term use, meaning a few weeks or months.
Most available weight-loss medications are
"appetite-suppressant" medications. Appetite suppressants promote weight loss by
tricking the body into believing that it is not hungry or that it is full. They
decrease appetite by increasing serotonin or catecholamine -- two brain
chemicals that affect mood and appetite.
Appetite suppressants can be obtained by a doctor's
prescription or purchased over-the-counter
Another type of prescription weight loss drug is a fat
absorption inhibitor. Xenical is the only example of this type of treatment
approved for use in the U.S. Xenical works by blocking about 30% of dietary fat
from being absorbed, and is the most recently approved weight loss drug.
Meridia and Xenical are the only weight-loss
medications approved for longer-term use in significantly obese people, although
the safety and effectiveness have not been established for use beyond 1 year for
Meridia and up to 2 years for Xenical.
10. How can I prevent gaining lost weight?
Keep the following tips in mind.
- Set realistic weight loss goals, such as a 1- to 2-pound weight loss per
week. Those who lose weight slowly, by eating less and exercising more, tend
to keep their lost weight off. Even a half pound weight loss per week would
result in a 25-pound loss over one year.
- Eat fewer calories by cutting down on portions and/or decreasing the
total amount of fat you eat to 30% or less of your total daily calories.
- Do not skip meals.
- Keep low-calorie, low-fat snacks on hand, such as pretzels, raw
vegetables with low-calorie dips, or fruit. Keep in mind that
it is the total amount of calories consumed that impacts the rate of weight
loss. Fat-free foods may not be eaten as desired, as they are not calorie-free.
- Choose foods high in fiber, such as whole grain breads, cereals, pasta,
rice, fruits, and vegetables. These foods will give you more chewing
satisfaction, while the higher fiber content may make you feel more full on fewer calories.
- To ensure that you are eating healthy, keep an accurate food journal.
Write down everything you eat or drink. Be honest and accurate, otherwise
the journal is not as helpful. The food journal will help you learn about
your eating habits and help you assess the food choices you are making.
- Eat a variety of foods. Include all food groups to get all the nutrients you need.
Choosing a safe and successful weight-loss program and Weight cycling. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases. win.niddk.nih.gov. Accessed 4/12/2011.
© 1995-2011 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
Can't find the health information you’re looking for?
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/3/2011...#11209