The devastating health impact of excess weight.

What springs to mind when you think of a weight loss clinic? I spent the last two weeks in Vancouver working in various weight management settings. Let me be clear that these are NOT clinics that individuals seek out to “get shredded/cleansed/detoxed/restrictive” or anything else you’ve seen marketed in this multibillion dollar industry. These are legitimate, ethically practiced and publicly funded MEDICAL clinics with expert physicians in obesity medicine who deal with the complex diseases that can manifest as a result of excess weight. In addition to promoting lifestyle behaviours and dietary education, these patients also receive medication management and even bariatric surgery

Why is it important to keep excess weight off? 
Because you want to live longer. Until I worked in bariatric medicine, a younger version of myself emphasized body composition and beauty as a reason to eat healthily and exercise regularly. Throughout clinical practice, I have encountered a multitude of more important and practical reasons to do so. Check out these shocking stats from research in obesity: 

As your body mass index (BMI)* increases, your life expectancy and number of healthy life years decreases: 

Compared to young  women and men with a normal BMI:
The predicted lifespan is 5-8 years less with obesity 
The number of healthy years is 14-19 years less with obesity

Obesity can also result in the following medical conditions: 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – >17x increased risk
  • Type 2 diabetes – 5-8x increased risk
  • Depression – 5x increased risk
  • Osteoarthritis – 2-3x increased risk
  • Heart disease – 2-3x increased risk
  • High blood pressure – 2x increased risk
  • High cholesterol – 1.3x increased risk
Let’s reflect on how jaw dropping those figures are. 14-19 years less of living well? 17x the risk of developing sleep apnea? About 5x the risk of developing diabetes or depression? Wow.

In the pursuit of healthy weight, place value in longevity, functionality and prevention of debilitating disease, rather than purely aesthetic outcome. Let’s look beyond the mirror and do what we can to live well.

In good health,
Dr. Sandy
*Bonus* The down low on the BMI:
*The Body Mass Index is a measure that we use to classify one’s weight using their weight and height.
Normal BMI (18-24)
Overweight (25-29)
Obese (>30)
In all honesty, it’s not a great tool because it assumes that the weight is related to fat mass, and doesn’t necessarily account for muscle mass. Thus, by definition, the BMI of a short body builder could technically be considered morbidly obese. However, it’s currently the standard amongst most physicians whether we like it or not. When using it, it’s important to consider the person’s fat distribution – more in the central abdomen and waist indicates worrisome fat deposited on the organs which puts you at risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Abdominal obesity is what I commonly encounter, and it is the most dangerous.