For many people, the thought of losing a significant amount of weight to achieve their ideal body weight can seem overwhelming. Losing weight is not easy and getting started is often the hardest part. You can often sabotage yourself before you even start your weight loss journey by setting goals that may seem out of reach. A good approach is to start with a 5-10% weight loss goal as it is something that is realistic and will be easier for you to accomplish. Studies have shown that many obesity-related conditions improve with losing just 5% of your weight, which means you will get healthier losing even a small amount. For example, someone who weighs 200 pounds can see health benefits with a weight reduction of just 10 pounds.
Here are some health conditions and the benefits of a 5-10% weight loss:
Raising HDL “good” cholesterol
A 5-10 % weight loss can raise HDL cholesterol by 5 points. This may not seem like a lot but raising HDL by a few points can result in a reduced risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol of more than 40 mg/dl for men and more than 50 mg/dl for women is protective against heart disease.
Lowering Triglyceride levels
Triglycerides are fat-like particles in our blood and when elevated they put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. A normal level should be below 150 mg/dl, while anything above 200 mg/dl is considered high. Losing 5-10% of your body weight is shown to lower triglycerides by 40mg/dl which is another preventive factor against heart disease. Having an active lifestyle and eating a healthy diet, low in added sugar and alcohol can further reduce triglyceride levels.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Extra body weight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. This extra weight makes your blood push harder against your artery walls making your heart have to work harder. You can lower both your systolic and diastolic numbers (the two numbers that are measured for blood pressure indicating the pressure in your arteries when your heart is working and resting) by about 5 points if you lose 5% from that number on the scale. Cut your salt and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy, and you may lower it even more.
Reducing Insulin Resistance
Obesity can lead to insulin resistance which causes high levels of insulin in the blood. elevated insulin causes an increase in fat tissue especially in the waist area. Carrying excessive weight in the waist area also puts you at risk of heart disease. Modest weight-loss was found to significantly decrease insulin levels and help with shedding excess fat tissue in the abdomen.
Preventing or Controlling Type 2 Diabetes
Being overweight increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss can help to prevent or delay it. In addition to weight loss, including moderate exercise in your lifestyle can also help. Losing 5% of your weight plus thirty minutes, 5 days a week of moderate exercise can lower your diabetes risk. If you already have diabetes, losing weight can help you lower the amount of medication you need to take, it can help keep blood sugar under control, and can decrease your risk of developing other health problems caused by diabetes.
Decreasing risk of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder commonly diagnosed when you are overweight, and you snore or gasp for air during sleep. Sleep apnea can cause many health problems, especially for your heart and causes fatigue and sleepiness during the day. It has been shown that a 5-10% weight-loss may improve sleep apnea which can help you achieve a restful sleep and in turn improve your overall health.
Fat cells, especially those around the belly, produce a large number of substances that result in inflammation in blood vessels. This inflammation can result in plaques and clots that may cause strokes and heart attacks. When weight-loss achieves a level of 10%, the levels of inflammatory substances circulating in the blood drop significantly and therefore the risk of vascular damage is reduced.
Improving your mood
Weight loss, even in small amounts, can help you not only improve your health but can also help improve your mood. Often times, eating healthier, exercising, getting better sleep, and shedding a few pounds will make you feel better about yourself and help improve your mood, leading to happier days.
How to get started?
First, determine your 5% weight loss goal:
Take the first 2 numbers of your current weight and divide by 2.
Example: If you weigh 198 pounds, divide 19 by 2 to get your 5% weight loss goal:
19 / 2 = 9.5 pounds
Second, set a goal of 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week.
Following a healthy diet and including exercise in your lifestyle is a good place to start. A healthy meal plan starts with making half of your plate fruits and vegetables and limiting your protein to lean and unprocessed choices, such as: meats trimmed of fat, poultry and seafood that is baked or grilled, beans, nuts, and seeds. Choose low fat dairy foods and replace refined grains like white bread and white rice with whole grains like multigrain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Practice portion control and mindful eating. As for exercise, aim to move every day. You should be getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Having support to work on these goals can be beneficial, consider working with a registered dietitian to help you on your weight loss journey. Once you begin your journey, reassess your goals each step of the way. When you lose 5% and can see and feel some of these health benefits, decide what your next goal will be. If you have more weight to lose or want to continue to achieve the health benefits from weight reduction, set your next 5% goal. Chipping away at weight loss by setting realistic goals will have many benefits and help build your confidence, proving to yourself that this is something you can do to improve your health!