Ultimate Weight Management Programs
Weight Management Overview
The term weight management can encompass a wide range of issues, from eating disorders to overweight and obesity. With eating disorders addressed elsewhere on this site, this section will focus on overweight and obesity among adults.
First, it is important to understand that, as they are used here, the terms overweight and obese are neither subjective nor judgmental terms. From a medical perspective, an adult is considered to be overweight when his or her body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or above.
It’s hardly a secret that the United States has an obesity problem. In fact, it’s not an overstatement to observe that this nation is in the midst of an overweight and obesity epidemic. Consider the following statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Between 1960 and 1980, the adult obesity rate in the United States was about 15 percent.
- Between 1980 and 2008, the obesity rate more than doubled (reaching 34 percent).
- Today, only one state (Colorado, 19.4 percent) has an adult obesity rate below 20 percent.
- Eight states have obesity rates above 30 percent, with Mississippi (33.8 percent) having the highest adult obesity rate in the United States
- More than 32 of men in the United States are obese.
- Among adult women, the obesity rate is 35.5 percent.
- Approximately 73 million U.S. adults are obese.
The obesity crisis in the United States has had significant impact in terms of both health and finance.
Overweight and obesity have been associated with a wide range of health problems, including (but not limited to), hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancers. Experts with Stanford Hospital and Clinics estimate that overweight and obesity are responsible for 300,000 premature deaths every year, and the CDC has identified obesity as the top health risk in the United States.
The Stanford experts also estimate that Americans spend $150 billion annually on obesity-related health issues.
Causes of Overweight and Obesity
At its simplest, weight management problems such as overweight and obesity are a matter of taking in more calories than are expended (or, in other words, eating too much and exercising too little). And in many cases, adults who are overweight or obese have adopted relatedly sedentary lifestyles while eating high-fat diets.
However, given the epidemic levels of overweight and obesity in the United States, the problem isn’t always quite as simple as this. Sociologists, doctors, and other experts have put forth a number of theories regarding the dramatic rise in overweight and obesity over the past three decades.
In some cases, overweight or obesity is the result of genetic issues such as abnormal physiology or a hormone problem. Also on the biological front, body metabolism — the process by which the body fuels continued growth — may be impaired or impacted in a way that makes it difficult for a person to maintain a healthy weight .
Health issues that can lead to overweight and obesity include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and Cushings Syndrome.
External factors also contribute to overweight and obesity. For example, studies have indicated that individuals who live in impoverished areas may be more prone to becoming overweight or obese.
This connection between poor neighborhoods and overweight or obesity occurs on two fronts:
- Poorer neighborhoods are less “walkable” — meaning that it is more difficult for individuals in these areas to get regular exercise.
- Poverty-stricken areas are less likely to be served by larger grocery stores (which have better selection of healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables). Residents who do the majority of their shopping at convenience stores are more likely to purchase high-fat foods and other less healthy items.
Other issues that can lead to overweight and obesity include the taking of certain medications and the presence of depression or an inability to process stress and pressure in a productive manner. Many people use food as a way to elevate their mood or de-stress themselves, a practice which can quickly result in overweight or obesity.
Symptoms of Overweight and Obesity
As indicated elsewhere in this section, overweight and obesity are medical terms that correlate to specific body mass index (BMI) scores. Adults with a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 are classified as overweight, while those whose BMI is 30 or larger are considered to be obese.
“Normal weight” is defined as a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9, while a BMI of 18.4 and below is considered “underweight.” (These classifications are for adults only. Determining whether a child or teen is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese involves determining where the young person’s BMI falls on a percentile chart.
BMI is calculated according to the following formula: (Weight in lbs. x 703) / (height in inches) squared
Using metric measurements, BMI is calculated as follows: Weight in kb / (height in meters) squared
For those who prefer not to perform these calculations themselves, a number of online BMI calculators are available. Most online BMI calculators simply require you to input your height and weight, and the software does the rest.
Thought not necessarily symptoms of being overweight or obese, the following health conditions have been associated with overweight and obesity. As rates of overweight and obesity have risen in the United States, many of the following conditions have also become more common:
- Type 2 Diabetes (Type 2 Diabetes was formerly known as “adult-onset diabetes.” The name change is due to the fact that more children are being diagnosed with this condition — a development that many attribute to rising rates of childhood obesity)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers (including cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, gallbladder and prostate)
- Respiratory problems (including sleep apnea)
- Liver and gallbladder disease
- Gynecological problems
- Osteoarthritis (a problem affecting joint cartilage and bone)
Treatment For Weight Management
Treatment for overweight and obese individuals will vary depending upon the causes of the weight management problems; the age, gender, and weight of the overweight or obese client; and the presence of any health problems that may have led to or been exacerbated by the overweight or obesity.
For cases where the overweight or obesity is the result of a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, or a combination of the two, treatment often involves nutrition education and a medically appropriate exercise plan. (Because overweight or obese individuals may be at increased risk for health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, and respiratory problems, it is important that they get the advice and approval of a healthcare professional before beginning an exercise regimen.)
For individuals whose overweight or obesity may have resulted from an emotional condition or mental health disorder (for example, those who suffer from binge eating disorder, or who have fallen into the habit of “emotional eating” as a way of coping with stress), therapy and counseling may be necessary in order to reprogram the client’s food-related attitudes and behaviors.
In cases where counseling or therapy is called for, options may include any or all of the following:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- 12-Step support for weight management
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Expressive arts therapy
- Recreation therapy
Of course, if the overweight or obese individual has also been struggling with any physical health problems, these issues must be addressed as part of the person’s overall health plan.
In some cases, losing weight may diminish a related health problem (for example, hypertension and joint pain may be lessened as one moves toward a healthy weight). In other situations, addressing a related medical condition such as an improperly functioning thyroid gland may lead to significant improvements in weight.
Regardless of the degree to which a person is overweight or obese, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider or weight management expert to ensure that one’s efforts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight are done in a safe and sustainable manner.