Even small changes can make a difference in your health
More than a third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States in 2008 was $147 million. On average, the medical cost for people who are obese is around $1,500 higher than those of normal weight.
One of the most common medical conditions that results from obesity is type 2 diabetes. The impact of obesity on type 2 diabetes — along with steps you can take to help control your weight — follow.
THE CHALLENGE OF LOSING WEIGHT
One of the complaints healthcare providers hear frequently from their patients is that they have difficulty losing weight. They may have tried multiple diets, which initially resulted in rapid weight loss but, over time, these patients report that they either stopped losing weight or — worse — started regaining it, often weighing more than they did originally.
The human body is designed to protect you from times of starvation, not from times of being overfed. You may lose a lot of weight in the beginning of a particular diet prior to your body realizing that it is in a state of starvation. However, once your body senses that food has become scarce, multiple metabolic processes (including slowing down metabolism, burning alternate sources of fuel, etc.) kick in to protect you from losing too much weight.
Once this happens, you won’t lose as much weight as you did at first. Eventually, your metabolism begins to slow down so much that a larger percentage of calories you consume begins to be stored instead of burnt. In addition, it’s natural for anyone to tire of the rigors required of strict dieting. Once you inevitably begin to eat foods not pertaining to the specific diet anymore, your body (now in a state of slower metabolism) will burn less of the food off and store more of it in the form of fat than before you begin the diet. So you weigh more than you did before.
TRY MOVING MORE
This is where exercise comes in. Although during times of eating less your metabolism slows down, exercising is a way to force the body to keep its metabolism high. By continuing to exercise, you will both burn calories and build muscle. Muscle is more metabolically “expensive” than fat. So even when you are not exercising, the additional muscle will be burning energy at a higher rate than fat. Your body will burn calories even when you aren’t exercising and, the more muscle you have, the more energy you will burn even when you aren’t exercising.
National experts recommend exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If possible, this should be 30 consecutive minutes of exercise. However, any exercise more than what you are doing now is good for you. It is always best to consult your provider before starting any exercise routine.
In order to lose one pound of fat, 3,500 calories need to be burned. This may seem like a lot, but over the period of a week it’s only about 500 calories a day. Also, these 500 calories do not need to be consumed only in the form of exercise. For example, if you are able to reduce 300 calories a day in your diet and burn 200 calories a day with exercise, you’ve reached 500 calories right there!
Keeping a food journal to record what you eat and sharing it with your provider may be helpful. Cutting back on or eliminating what you see in writing that is not necessary (granola bars, chips, pastries, etc.) might assist you in cutting out 500 calories a day.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STICKING WITH A PLAN
Another big reason that some diets often fail to provide meaningful, long-term weight loss is that they are so difficult to adhere to. If you love anything — sugar, say — and are on a diet that prohibits you from eating any type of sugar, you may become miserable and just stop trying.
Since we all like to enjoy our favorite foods, it is hard to eliminate them entirely. The best diet for you is one that you realistically think you could adhere to over time. In addition, small and subtle changes are usually sufficient to result in safe and realistic weight loss. For example, slightly reducing the amount of food you consume at each meal can make a drastic difference in the number of calories ingested in a day. Generally speaking, a healthy plate of food consists of about half vegetables, one quarter starch and one quarter protein. Consider replacing calorie-laden snacks with healthy items.
THE IMPACT OF OVEREATING ON DIABETES
There are two factors that contribute to the development of diabetes in those who are obese. First, overeating results in the pancreas (the organ responsible for secreting insulin and maintaining normal blood sugar) over time becoming “burnt out.” If the pancreas is under constant stress as a result of overeating, it begins to secrete less insulin. This results in higher blood sugar. Even before that happens, the body stops responding as well to the insulin that is made by the pancreas. When insulin is secreted, a long series of processes are supposed to happen that result in blood sugar being reduced. However, if insulin levels are always consistently high, these processes do not respond as well. This results in decreased sensitivity to insulin, and even more insulin must be produced by the pancreas to bring blood sugar back down to normal — which, again, eventually leads to burnout from the pancreas.
THE GOAL OF DIET AND EXERCISE
The goal of diet and exercise in both the prevention and management of diabetes is to assist in reducing the stress on the pancreas to control blood sugar levels. During exercise, muscles require extra energy and attain this energy via sugar in the bloodstream. So exercising helps you to lower blood sugar levels. Sustained exercise, over time, results in weight loss, which also reduces the amount of insulin required by the pancreas to bring blood sugar levels down.