One of the main reasons I decided to lose weight and eat better was to improve my health overall -- it hasn't been about looking better. After two-and-a-half months, I know I'm healthier, and the experts say by taking off some weight -- 25 pounds so far! -- I've reduced the risk that I'll develop serious health conditions down the road.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of all American adults are obese. That's defined as having a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30, which is determined based on your weight and height. People with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight. Here's a helpful BMI calculator to figure out yours. When I started this project, my BMI was 36, firmly in the obese range. Now, it's 32.4, bringing me closer to being just overweight rather than obese -- a move in the right direction. My body fat percentage has also dropped more than four percentage points.
There are countless studies on how being overweight or obese dramatically increases your risk factors for diseases. Here are just a few that I'm paying special attention to.
Cancer: My mother has survived breast cancer twice, and both my aunt and grandmother had cancer, so it's something I've been concerned about. Obesity has been linked to increased rates of several types of cancer -- especially breast, ovarian, and other gynecologic cancers, along with prostate and colon cancer. The National Cancer Institute says:
A projection of the future health and economic burden of obesity in 2030 estimated that continuation of existing trends in obesity will lead to about 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the United States by 2030. This analysis also found that if every adult reduced their BMI by 1 percent, which would be equivalent to a weight loss of roughly 1 kg (or 2.2 lbs) for an adult of average weight, this would prevent the increase in the number of cancer cases and actually result in the avoidance of about 100,000 new cases of cancer.
Type 2 Diabetes: When you combine my weight with my sugar addiction, I'm lucky that I haven't developed diabetes already. The Obesity Society claims that nearly 90 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. "Being overweight puts added pressure on the body's ability to properly control blood sugar using insulin and therefore makes it much more likely for you to develop diabetes," the research and advocacy group says. Weight loss and being physically active can greatly reduce the risk of a highly preventable condition.
Mental health issues: Depression is something I've struggled with most of my life, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001 -- with new medication causing me to gain 100 pounds over the next year. Psychiatrists say it goes both ways: Being obese can contribute to depression and other mental health disorders, and fighting mental illness can make someone more likely to gain weight and physically inactive. Mental health is also a key component of eating disorders -- everything from anorexia and bulimia to binge eating. Exercising and eating healthier certainly has made me feel better -- and I'm not the only one. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) points out:
Exercise can help to treat certain medical illnesses and stop them from getting worse.
By improving one’s general physical health, an individual is at less risk of developing mental illness.
Scientists have shown that regular aerobic exercise can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Exercise helps to improve energy, concentration and sleep, all of which are important for people living with mental illness.
Infertility: It's possible that my soon-to-be-husband and I will want to have a baby within the next few years, and if so, I'll want to be as healthy as possible. I'm already pushing 40, and age can decrease fertility -- as can being overweight. A Dutch study of more than 3,000 couples a few years ago found that women with a BMI of 35 or higher were 26 percent less likely to get pregnant on their own than women in the normal or overweight range. With a BMI or 40 or more, their chance of getting pregnant dropped 43 percent. Since I can't add more time to my biological clock, my weight is something I can fix.
Losing weight can't solve everything, but it's a good place to start.
Starting Stats (as of Jan. 29)
Weight: 209.5 pounds
Body Mass Index (BMI): 36
Chest: 48 inches
Waist: 41 inches
Hips: 48.5 inches
Current Stats (as of April 15)
Weight: 185.5 (25 pounds)
BMI: 31.7 (down 4.3 points)
Chest: 43 inches (five inches lost)
Waist: 37.25 (3.75 inches smaller)
Hips: 42.13 (down more than six inches)
Amanda Art is Metro’s social media manager. Over the next few months, track her weight loss progress as she readies for her May 3 wedding. Follow Amanda on Twitter at @NYNewsgirl.