Along with helping you fit into your favorite size, losing weight has powerful health pay-offs.
All that upside might have you psyched, but resist the urge to drop pounds quickly. Studies show that losing only 1 to 2 pounds a week is the best way to keep weight off. A slow pace also encourages healthy eating patterns and exercise, as opposed to a crash diet that depletes your system.
First, though, be sure that losing weight is sensible for you.
A decent place to start is finding your Body Mass Index: Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 703. Then divide that number by your height (in inches), and divide again by your height. A BMI over 25 is a marker for being “overweight” (above 30 is “obese”).
Getting down to a “normal” BMI would be great. But just a slight drop in weight can still do wonders (even if you’re still in the “obese” range), improving blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obese people whose weight lowered by just 5% had better metabolic function in many tissues, including fat, liver and muscle, according to a 2016 study. They saw even more benefits after their weight dropped another 10% to 15%. The study was done on people who didn’t smoke or have diabetes, weighed about 235 pounds and had a BMI of 38.
Here are 5 science-backed reasons shedding pounds helps your health:
1. You’re less likely to get heart disease.
Excessive weight means excessive work for your cardiovascular system. Drop toward a healthy weight, and your blood pressure will lower, helping your ticker. Plus, your triglyceride levels are likely to dip, while your helpful HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels rise, according to the American Heart Association.
2. You’re less likely to get type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, is associated with obesity and lack of physical activity. It also can lead to cardiovascular disease, so there’s a double benefit for this one.
3. You’re less likely to get dementia.
Several studies, including an analysis from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in 2008, show that a high BMI (beyond the “normal” range) translates to more risk of developing dementia. This could be due to increased inflammation and higher hormone levels. Those and other factors related to weighing too much, including high cholesterol and a predisposition to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, could affect brain structure connected to dementia, according to a 2018 study.
4. You’ll sleep more soundly and breathe more easily.
Extra pounds often lead to snoring and can lead to sleep apnea. A 2009 study split obese people with type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea into two groups. Group one lost an average of 24 pounds, while group two lost only about one pound. More than three times as many participants in the first group had “complete remission” of their sleep apnea compared with the second group. They also had “about half the instances of severe sleep apnea” as the second group, which “saw significant worsening of their sleep apnea,” according to Temple University.
5. Your joints will be healthier and feel better.
The heavier you are, the more your knees, hips and ankles pay for it. You’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis from stressing those joints too much, eventually wearing down the cartilage that surrounds them. The force on your knees is about 1.5 times your body weight when you’re on flat ground, 2-3 times when you go up and down stairs and 4-5 times when you squat, according to Harvard Medical School. It doesn’t end there. You’re also more likely to get osteoarthritis in other joints because of general inflammation that comes with excess pounds.
Mitra Malek is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and a hard-news reporter.