One of the most comment questions that family physicians are asked by their patients, is, “How do I lose weight?” Many North Americans struggle with their weight – with as many as 2/3rds being considered overweight, and 1/3rd being considered obese. As for what causes obesity, there are several different causes (and often a combination), such as certain behaviours (i.e. lack of physical activity and poor eating habits) and even genetics. There are even certain medications that can contribute to obesity. The good news is, if you’re willing to make the necessary changes and break some bad habits that you might be making, you’ll not only be able to lose weight, but continue to maintain a healthy weight.

Risks of Being Overweight or Obese

When it comes to being overweight or obese, there are many risks that can develop as a result – some of which can even be fatal. These include an increased risk of suffering from or developing the following:

• Heart attack
• Stroke
• Diabetes
• Hypertension
• Cancer

Benefits of Losing Weight

When you lose weight, the risks significantly decrease. By choosing to lose weight, you’re already headed in the right direction. In addition to decreasing the aforementioned risks, losing weight can also improve mobility, decrease joint pain, and may even decrease the risk or improve symptoms of sleep apnea. You may also notice other lifestyle benefits, including having a more active social life, improved energy levels, a decrease in stress and anxiety, improved sex life, and improved body image. In other words, weight loss can significantly improve your overall quality of life.

Where Does Food Fit In?

There are tremendous health benefits to exercise, including weight loss, and getting regular physical activity is something we should all ensure we’re doing on a regular basis to achieve optimal health. However, when it comes to weight loss, diet is responsible for as much as 70% of the formula. You’ve likely heard the phrase “You are what you eat” – and it’s somewhat true. Diet plays a major role with weight – more specifically, the things that you shouldn’t be eating. For example, if you have a diet that is high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar, then you’re going to gain weight; but if your diet consists of healthier foods, such as fruit and vegetables, protein, nuts and seeds, you’ll not only find yourself feeling healthier because you’re giving your body the important nutrients it needs, but you’ll also find that you will start to lose weight. Knowing the types of foods you should eat vs. what to avoid is important. Once you’ve figured this out, you can then move into phase two, which is reducing consumption, and phase three, which is intermittent fasting – a type of eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and periods of eating. One common method of intermittent fasting (once done by ancient hunter gatherers) that people will use is 16-hour fasts once or twice per week. You can learn more about intermittent fasting here.

You should also try to rid the word “diet” from your vocabulary – or at least your perception of it, as it’s a word that is decreasing in popularity due to the negative effects often associated with it. This is because many diets are considered “yo-yo diets” and aren’t typically designed to be followed on a long-term basis. What you want to do is make sure that the changes you make with the foods you eat are permanent and sustainable so that you don’t fall into that yo-yo pattern of losing/gaining/losing/gaining weight – which can actually wind up being detrimental to your health.