It has been well established that obesity is related to a variety of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Because of this, the national weight management guidelines advise that all obese individuals lose at least 5%-10% of their body weight in order to improve health outcomes. Though it is believed that weight loss is beneficial for all obese individuals, evidence from a recent review conducted at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University suggests that weight loss might not be in the best interest for everyone, and that there are some groups of obese individuals that are not adversely affected by being overweight or for whom weight loss might not result in improved health outcomes.
The groups that are being referred to are the elderly obese individuals that are metabolically healthy or highly fit, those with established CVD or T2D, and weight cyclers. For the elderly, having a higher fat mass is associated with higher bone mineral density, decreased risk for osteoporosis, reduced risk of serious injury from a fall and a lower risk of bone fracture. Also, the relationship between obesity and the risk for CVD and T2D is stronger among younger adults than older adults.
Metabolically healthy obese individuals do not have insulin resistance, are not hypertensive, do not have an unfavorable lipid profile nor do they have as much visceral fat as other obese individuals. Thus, weight loss does not necessarily improve their health outcomes. Similarly, obese individuals who are fit and have good cardiorespiratory health have higher HDL levels, lower triglycerides, a decreased prevalence of metabolic syndrome and a lower risk of CVD. There has also been evidence suggesting weight loss in those with established CVD and T2D may be detrimental to longevity.
Only 20% of all obese individuals trying to lose weight are able to maintain weight loss after 1 year, which means many overweight people are constantly weight cycling. Weight cycling, defined as a cycle of losing and gaining weight, comes with many negative side effects such as low self-esteem and higher prevalence of binge eating. The low success rate for weight loss in obese individuals pose the question of whether the benefits of weight loss outweigh the negative outcomes related to weight cycling.
I’ve been discussing for some time now that it’s important to stop focusing on the number….that is the number on the scale, the number you weigh, and the number of pounds you lose or gain a week.
Instead, focus on honoring your body by listening to your inner signals as your guide to eating and your guide to food choices. You will see that as you take the emphasis off dieting and “needing to lose weight”, you will feel better physically as you naturally begin to eat foods that are lighter and healthier and you begin to move your body in a kind way that feels great.
The end result…improved health and gradual weight loss without the food worry and guilt that’s associated with failing at diets.
For more information on how you can honor your body in this manner, click here.