Pharmacy Residency (PGY1)

Ten reasons (beyond your looks) to maintain a healthy weight

Ten reasons (beyond your looks) to maintain a healthy weight

Parkland providers say it’s about saving, savoring your life

Looking your best is an ego-booster – and a great reason to shed those extra pounds you have been packing. But physicians at Parkland Health say there are even more important reasons to maintain a healthy weight that have nothing to do with your appearance.

“The health impacts of obesity are hard to overestimate,” said Uma Gunasekaran, MD, endocrinologist and executive medical director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland and associate professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “It adversely affects everything in our bodies, head to toe. Excess fat, particularly belly fat, is a risk factor for chronic diseases like diabetes that can significantly decrease the quality and the length of your life.”

“Often, obesity and depression go hand-in-hand,” said Rebecca Corona, PhD, associate director of Integrated Psychology for Population Health at Parkland. “Studies have shown that 43% of adults with depression were obese, and adults with depression are more likely to be obese than adults without depression.”

The prevalence of obesity was higher for non-Hispanic white women with depression compared with non-Hispanic white women without depression, a relationship that was not present in non-Hispanic, Black and Mexican American women, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The proportion of adults with obesity rose as the severity of depression symptoms increased.

Population data from 2022 show 22 states have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%, compared to 19 states in 2021. Just 10 years ago, no state had an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%. Texas is among the top 22 states with an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%. The CDC’s data show obesity prevalence was highest in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia, where more than 40% of adults were considered obese.

National Healthy Weight Month, observed every January, is a campaign to help Americans develop new, healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Here are some of the health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight:

  1. Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
  2. Reduces risk of diabetes
  3. Reduces risk of cancer
  4. Reduces risk of gallbladder disease, gallstones and gout
  5. Improves sleep and allows your lungs to expand fully and breathe deeply
  6. Reduces risk of sleep apnea
  7. Increases motivation to exercise and engage in physical activities
  8. Improves mood and emotional health, decreases stress-related hormones
  9. Boosts energy, improves mobility
  10. Protects against age-related diseases, including dementia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

But what is a “healthy weight” for you?

“It’s not just a number on the scale or clothing size,” said Sharon Cox, a registered dietitian who leads diabetes education classes at Parkland’s Bluitt-Flowers Health Center. “One measure of a healthy weight is Body Mass Index (BMI) which compares your height to your weight. Guidelines recommend that adults maintain a BMI between 18 and 25. BMI over 25 indicates overweight, while over 30 indicates obesity.”

Healthy weight loss is not just about a number or dieting to lose weight, then regain it, Cox emphasized. “Fad diets usually fail because they lead to yo-yo weight loss and regaining weight.” Instead, focus on creating healthy meals by filling half the plate with vegetables, a palm-size portion of lean protein, and a small portion of starchy food with whole grain, low fat dairy foods. For snacks choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and raw veggies (carrots, radishes, cucumber, jicama) for snacks instead of chips, cookies and high calorie snack foods.

Another key to maintaining healthy weight is managing your portions, Cox noted. “Taking time to measure your food after cooking is one of the little things you can do that will help you reach and maintain your healthy weight.”

Here is what Parkland experts say you can do now to ensure a healthier future:

Stay at a healthy weight – if necessary, lose 5 to 7% of your body weight

Eat well – learn to make healthier choices

Be active – do some type of moderate physical activity 150 minutes or more per week

Make water your number one drink, adding a slice of lemon or cucumber if you choose

“By making these simple lifestyle changes, millions of people can live longer and healthier lives, avoiding the very serious health complications of obesity that can include certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Gunasekaran concluded.

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