Shedding the Pounds - Permanently

Overweight in America
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 60 percent of American adults are overweight (have a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 to 29.9) and about one-fourth are obese (a BMI of 30 or higher). Excess weight increases the risk of developing one or more serious medical problems, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, gout, osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer, low back pain, and obstructive sleep apnea. Researchers estimate about 300,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical complications associated with obesity. The more excess weight, the greater the risk of death. Excess weight also increases the risk of disability and is an important factor for functional decline in the elderly.

On the other hand, a weight loss of just five to ten percent can significantly reduce the risk for many obesity-related health problems. Losing weight can lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol levels. For people with type 2 diabetes, weight loss can greatly improve blood sugar levels and decrease or eliminate the need for medications to control glucose.

Shedding the Pounds - Permanently
Research indicates as many as 44 percent of women and 29 percent of men are trying to lose weight at any given time. Often, those who are initially successful find they eventually gain the weight back. And for many, weight loss attempts are unfruitful. The problem is that people tend to look toward a specific weight goal. And once the ideal weight is reached, patients go back to their old lifestyle – and gain back the pounds.

Overweight patients with chronic medical conditions may need medical supervision to learn about proper food choices and safe, appropriate exercise regimens. In a physician-directed clinical weight loss program, patients may initially be offered commercially prepared formulas that replace most or all of the usual food intake. The nutritionally balanced supplement, designed to be mixed with water or a low-calorie beverage, provides roughly 800 calories a day. Use of a nutritional supplement strictly controls caloric intake and typically promotes rapid weight loss. During the closely supervised treatment, health care supervisors monitor the patient's health and medications (this is especially important because those with some medical conditions often need less medication as they lose weight).

When patients begin to lose weight, they feel better about themselves and become more motivated to exercise and make further lifestyle changes. However, experts warn sustained weight loss can only be accomplished through a permanent change in behavior – by consistently eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise to balance caloric intake. Sometimes that's a slow learning process.

For general information on obesity and weight loss:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Obesity Education Initiative,
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Weight-Control Information Network, 1 WIN Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3665,
Office of the Surgeon General,