When it comes to weight loss, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Obesity research shows that there are noticeable physical and mental health benefits of weight loss after shedding as little as 5% of your weight.
Dieters often embark on a harrowing quest to shed every excess pound in order to improve their physical appearance, energy levels, and confidence. Others strive to achieve an ideal weight range prescribed by their physicians in order to reduce comorbidity risk factors associated with obesity, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, when it comes to weight loss, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Reaching a magic number is not the linchpin of a successful weight loss program. Obesity research, conducted the by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), shows that there are noticeable physical and mental health benefits of weight loss after shedding as little as 5% of your weight.
Obesity has long been correlated with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NDDM), or the deadly Type 2 Diabetes, in which the pancreas produces insulin but cannot use it properly. When insulin resistance occurs, sugar pools in your blood as it cannot your reach your cells. Fortunately, even moderate weight loss has been shown to increase carbohydrate tolerance, improving insulin resistance and reducing excess blood glucose. In one study, weight loss of between 10-20% not only improved glycemic control but maintained it even 1-3 years later, even when some weight was gained after the initial loss.
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure that can progress with high-sodium diets. Weight loss of as little as 10% has been shown to reduce arterial pressure in significantly overweight adults. While skeptical investigators initially thought this blood pressure reduction was associated not with the weight loss itself but with the reduced sodium intake that naturally occurs on a low-calorie diet, evidence indicates that the effect of weight loss on blood pressure is independent of caloric restriction, and that the health benefits of weight loss lead to positive changes in blood volume and cardiac output.
If you visit your doctor for yearly visits, two acronyms are readily available in your medical vernacular: HDL and LDL, or “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” respectively. Weight loss of as little as 5 to 10% has been shown to improve both total cholesterol and the LDL:HDL ratio that can determine your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. One study showed that losing as little as 10.3 pounds, or 5.8% of initial weight, reduced total cholesterol by 16%, LDL-C by 12%, and raised HDL-C by 18%. These benefits were shown to last for over a year.
Because obesity can negatively shape one’s self-esteem, it can have far-reaching psychological implications that lead to conditions like depression and eating disorders. However, individuals can lighten their weight and their spirits after even moderate weight loss. In a weight loss study of women classified as obese and either binge eaters or non-binge eaters, binge eaters began as measurably more depressed than their non-binge-eating counterparts or the normal weight control group. After a 12-week diet, the women lost an average of 17.3% of their body weight. The binge-eaters expressed a considerable improvement in their depressive symptoms after weight loss.
Sleep apnea is a chronic disease that leads to shallow breathing that can disrupt sleep and cause daytime fatigue. Being moderately overweight can increase your risk of developing sleep apnea tenfold, according to Finnish researchers. However, in their study of 57 moderately obese individuals with mild sleep apnea, those who lost at least 5% of their body weight not only saw a marked improvement in sleep apnea, but they observed an 80% reduction in the progression of their sleep apnea symptoms when compared with those who did not lose any weight.
With the clinical and laboratory evidence overwhelmingly showing marked improvements to physical and mental health after even moderate weight loss success, would-be weight losers can be quite literally heartened that they can maintain realistic weight loss expectations and still experience the dramatic health benefits of weight loss.