Obesity (Weight Loss) (cont.)

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What can be done about obesity?

All too often, obesity prompts a strenuous diet in the hopes of reaching the "ideal body weight." Some amount of weight loss may be accomplished, but the lost weight usually quickly returns. Most people who lose weight regain the weight within five years. It is clear that a more effective, long-lasting treatment for obesity must be found.

We need to learn more about the causes of obesity, and then we need to change the ways we treat it. When obesity is accepted as a chronic disease, it will be treated like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The treatment of obesity cannot be a short-term "fix" but has to be an ongoing lifelong process.

Obesity treatment must acknowledge that even modest weight loss can be beneficial. For example, a modest weight loss of 5%-10% of the initial weight, and long-term maintenance of that weight loss can bring significant health gains, including

  • lowered blood pressure;
  • reduced blood levels of cholesterol;
  • reduced risk of type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes (In the Nurses Health Study, women who lost 5 kilograms [11 pounds] of weight reduced their risk of diabetes by 50% or more.);
  • decreased chance of stroke;
  • decreased complications of heart disease;
  • decreased overall mortality.

It is not necessary to achieve an "ideal weight" to derive health benefits from obesity treatment. Instead, the goal of treatment should be to reach and hold to a "healthier weight." The emphasis of treatment should be to commit to the process of lifelong healthy living, including eating more wisely and increasing physical activity.

In sum, the goal in dealing with obesity is to achieve and maintain a "healthier weight."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2015

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