How does obesity affect your health?

We’ve all been there at least once. Pulling on an old pair of jeans, struggling to get them past your thighs. Lying flat on the bed, desperately sucking it all in so you can squeeze them on. You can stand up – but you’re as stiff as a board, can’t breathe and you’re battling tears.

Is there anything that deflates your confidence more than not being able to fit into YOUR OWN clothes? We’ll wait.

And it’s not just your ego that cops a punch to the face. Excess weight is much more serious than not looking the way society says you should. In fact, you have our blessing to go ahead and actively ignore societal expectations. Nobody puts baby in a corner. But here’s something you can’t ignore: being overweight or obese affects your body in ways you can’t see in a mirror.

Obesity and your physical health.

Being fat does not define you. You are so much more than a number on a scale. BUT. Carrying extra kilos can cut your life short. Researchers have found that moderate obesity reduces life expectancy by about 3 years and severe obesity can shorten a person’s life by 10 years. This 10-year loss is equal to the effects of lifelong smoking. 

Even being alive can be difficult, though. Because the more weight you carry, the higher your risk of developing:

·         Type 2 diabetes. Obesity creates resistance to insulin – the hormone that controls blood sugar. Blood sugar levels go up and diabetes follows. This used to just happen in adults, but these days it occurs in children too.

·         Cancer. Overweight and obese women have a higher risk of breast, colon, gallbladder, and uterus cancers. Men who are overweight and obese have a higher risk of colon and prostate cancers.

·         Heart disease. Hardening of the arteries happens 10 times more often in obese people than in people who are not. Coronary heart disease (build-up of plaque in the heart’s arteries) is also more common. Narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the heart and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Obesity and your mental health.

There is absolutely no doubt that obesity and depression are linked. That’s true for adults and teenagers. The two feed off each other, causing a vicious cycle.

·         Obesity causes depression. Studies have shown that obese people are roughly 25% more likely to experience a mood disorder, like depression, when compared to those who are not obese. Depression doesn’t seem to be carried in the genes of obese people – it’s more that – as we mentioned above – the extra weight whacks your confidence around. This causes poor self-image and low self-esteem, which are known to be strongly associated with depression.

·         Depression causes obesity. A US study found that teenagers who were borderline obese and depressed went on to become substantially obese the following year. Researchers have also found that low levels of serotonin in depressed people causes them to binge eat. They do this to try to ‘fix’ their depressive symptoms and end up gaining weight.   

Losing weight. It’s complicated.

For some people, losing weight is a matter of burning more calories than they consume – which is hard enough. For others, this doesn’t work. Because for many people, overeating – for one reason or another – is a serious addiction. We’ve just outlined how obesity is linked to mental illness, but, many medical professionals believe that obesity actually IS a mental illness. This means that even though 35% of Aussies are overweight and 28% are obese, each person’s weight loss journey will be different.

One thing is true for everyone, though: to lose weight you’ve got to address all areas of your health – mind, heart, sleep and physical activity. Maybe it’s time to put your personal weight loss plan in place? It’s not easy, but there’s help if you know where to look.