Wise Words on Weight and Health

Understanding why we gain weight, the pitfalls of doing so and how to safely lose weight and maintain a sensible lifestyle.

| August/September 2004

Adding a few pounds here and there during adulthood seems innocuous enough. It has its own catchy moniker — middle-age spread — and was once considered a sign of prosperity and success. It also seems to be an inevitable part of aging, affecting most Americans. In reality, adult weight gain is neither inevitable, nor innocuous. In many cultures, gaining weight during adulthood just isn’t the norm.

Gaining more than a few pounds after your early 20s can nudge you down the path to chronic disease, and the more weight you gain, the harder the push will be. In two large, long-term Harvard studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, middle-aged men and women who had gained 11 to 22 pounds after age 20 were up to three times more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and gallstones as their counterparts who gained 5 pounds or less.

Weight Gain Can Lead to Chronic Disease 

Three related aspects of weight — how much you weigh in relation to your height, your waist size and how much weight you gain after your early 20s — increase your risk for:

• a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease
• high blood pressure, high choles- terol and diabetes
• post-menopausal breast cancer and cancer of the endometrium, colon or kidney
• snoring and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
• adult-onset asthma
• arthritis, infertility and gallstones

Weight sits like a spider at the center of an intricate, tangled web of health and disease. It isn’t a new idea, it isn’t sexy, and it certainly won’t land me a spot as the next fad diet guru on Oprah, but next to whether you smoke, the number that stares up at you from the bathroom scale is the most important measure of your future health.

What is a Healthy Weight? 

Use this calculator provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find your “body mass index” or BMI, which adjusts for the fact that taller people tend to weigh more than shorter people.

Charla Shamhart
11/19/2012 8:19:51 PM

HOW"S THAT ADVICE WORKING FOR YOU? Same tired old advice as the American Heart Association and Edible Oil Industry parrots. "Just eat lots of polyunsaturated vegetable oils and stay away from those nasty animal fats and you will be all better.' Does the US have higher or lower incidence of heart problems since this advice began being given? In the 1920s most doctors had NEVER SEEN heart disease like clogged arteries. This was when most people art SATURATED animal fats and/or COCONUT oil. The Weston A. Price Foundation has lots of information about which traditional diets provide the healthiest outcomes and it is NOT the high grain diets- whole or refined. Phytates in grains, especially WHOLE grains prevent mineral absorption leading to tooth decay. I was vegetarian for12 years and almost died. My mineral absorption went OFF THE NEGATIVE side of the chart. And, like many vegetarians I know, I was overweight...on ALL whole grains and beans, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and lots of fruits and vegetables and while getting exercise. Grass fed animal protein assists the body in BURNING fat and when proper grazing practices are used, actually helps restore the fertility of the soil as shown by Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. Rethink this same-old, same-old politically correct advice given by this writer.

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