Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health. People who are overweight have an increased risk of osteoarthritis, especially in weight-bearing joints like the knees. Being overweight also increases your risk of developing certain diseases like type two diabetes.
Many people are not aware that maintaining a healthy weight may also reduce the risk of developing some types of cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), studies have shown that there is a link between being overweight or obese and developing certain cancers, including:
More research is needed to fully understand the link between being overweight and having an increased risk of developing cancer. It's important to understand that while being overweight does not "guarantee" that you will develop cancer, being a healthy weight does seem to reduce your risk.
One possible reason for the link between cancer and obesity is that some people who are obese have chronic inflammation. The NCI states that this inflammation may lead to DNA changes in the body that can lead to the development of cancer over time. Also, an increased amount of fat tissue can result in higher than normal levels of estrogen. Excess amounts of estrogen have been linked to endometrial, breast, and ovarian cancers.
What is a healthy weight?
Your Body Mass Index, or BMI, assesses whether you are at a healthy weight for your height. There are separate methods to calculate BMIs for adults and children and teens. According to the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) guidelines, "If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the normal or Healthy Weight range."
Your BMI is just one way to assess your overall health. Your doctor may recommend other tests or screenings for you. He or she can help you determine what a healthy weight is for you.
Weight Loss Tips: Myths versus Facts
Unfortunately, many myths about weight loss exist. In an effort to lose weight, many people look for a quick fix. They may turn to the latest fad diet or craze in the hopes of achieving a healthy weight.
On their website, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) offers some sound weight loss advice. The organization also debunks some of the current myths surrounding diet and weight loss.
Myth: Foods like bread, rice, and pasta will make you gain weight. They should be avoided if you want to lose weight.
Fact: Grains aren't necessarily fattening, but whole grains are a healthier option. Opt for foods like whole-wheat bread and brown rice as much as possible.
Myth: A gluten-free diet will help you lose weight.
Fact: For some people, a gluten-free diet provides relief from gluten sensitivities. Some conditions, such as celiac disease, require that people avoid foods with gluten in them. However, going gluten-free is not a weight loss diet. You should always talk with your doctor if you have digestive issues. You should also be leary of any diet that eliminates an entire food group because you could be missing out on important vitamins and nutrients.
Myth: Eating fats make you fat.
Fact: Not all fats are the same. Avocados, olives, and nuts contain healthy fats that your body needs in moderate amounts. Saturated fats, found in meat and some dairy products, are the fats that you should be limiting. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that less than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fats.
Myth: Going vegetarian will make you lose weight.
Fact: Eating a vegetarian diet will only make you lose weight if you reduce your total number of calories each day. Just cutting out meat won't have the same effect. Eating a healthy, well balanced vegetarian diet may have other health benefits, like lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Myth: Eating after a certain time makes you gain weight.
Fact: What you eat is more important than when you eat. At night, people may be more likely to reach for snack foods like chips, ice cream, or soda. Eating at night causes weight gain only if it results in a calorie surplus for the day. If you tend to be hungry before bed, work a healthy bedtime snack into your daily calorie count. Choose nutrient dense foods like raw vegetables with hummus or an apple with nut butter.
While a fad diet may result in some weight loss, it's often short-lived. A diet that requires you to give up an entire food group or severely reduces your caloric intake (such as the keto diet) is not sustainable. When people become frustrated and abandon these types of diets, they typically gain the weight back.
Why is maintaining a healthy weight difficult?
The NIDDK offers this straightforward weight loss advice:
"To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in through food and beverages."
However, for many people, this is easier said than done. According to the CDC, almost 40% of all adults in the U.S. are overweight. Being overweight is a complex issue, often with many causes.
To understand healthy eating, it's helpful to understand the difference between a portion size and a serving size. A serving size is a standardized amount of food. For example, 1/2 cup of cooked rice is considered one serving. For packaged foods, the serving sizes are found on the nutrition label.
Portion sizes, the amount of food that is on the plate, have become much larger over the last several decades, especially in restaurants. One possible reason more people are obese today is that more Americans are dining out than in the past. Today, a meal in a restaurant is often large enough to be two serving sizes.
How many calories you should eat each day depends on several factors:
- Whether you are male or female (For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may require additional calories.)
- Your age
- Whether your activity level is sedentary, moderately active, or active
Losing Weight, the Right Way
If you are concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor before starting a weight loss program, especially if you are a cancer survivor. If you are located near a Compass Oncology location in the Portland-Vancouver area, we provide oncology nutritional services with a registered dietitian. You can learn more on our Oncology Nutritional Services webpage.
Every individual has their own unique needs and lifestyle factors. Your doctor may have specific suggestions or guidelines for you. While it can be difficult, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Your weight is one risk factor for cancer and other diseases that is within your control.