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Some people fall into the category of “metabolically healthy obesity” and show no signs of obesity-related problems. You can be quite heavy and not have diabetes or high blood pressure. But the comforting idea that your current good health means you can rest easy has been contradicted by new research.

Losing only 5 percent of your current body weight yields amazing results

Presented this month at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal, the study drew on data from 3.5 million British citizens. The metabolically healthy obese had double the risk of heart failure, a 50 percent higher risk of heart disease and a seven percent increased risk of stroke and other cerebrovascular disease, compared to people of normal weight.  When the researchers excluded cigarette smokers, the metabolically healthy obese also had an 11 percent higher risk of peripheral vascular disease, which typically causes pain in the legs.

How to Tell if You’re Obese

Are you obese? If your weight is 20 percent higher than it should be, which would give you a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, the answer is officially yes. You can check your BMI online. BMI can exaggerate your risk if you happen to be especially muscular.

Another rule of thumb: keep your waist measurement less than half your height. That may be the better measure, according to a December, 2010 review in Nutrition Research Reviews of 78 studies that examined how BMI and the waist to height ratio compared when predicting diabetes and heart disease. I also recommend that you ask an exercise physiologist at a local fitness center to measure your body fat.

Remember that having a normal BMI doesn’t mean you’re safe from heart disease—you can be thin and not fit.

Finding a Fitness Plan

However you measure yourself, don’t settle for living with extra fat. Being bulky doesn’t feel good and is often a sign that you are stressed-out. Make sure you know how to relax and are eating healthily. Ornish offers delicious easy-to-prepare recipes and menus. (See Ornish Kitchen Sample Menu).

You’ll feel much better if you work out. Be sure your fitness plan includes both cardio and strength training. The combination gives by far the best results, researchers concluded in a 12-week study reported in August, 2012 in BMC Public Health. The team divided 97 middle-aged obese or overweight volunteers into three groups. They all worked out for 30 minutes five days a week. But one group only did aerobics, another spent the time on muscle-building, and the third did 15 minutes of each. The group on the combination routine lost more pounds overall as well as total fat and belly fat, and also had done more to strengthen their hearts.

Any weight you lose improves your health. Don’t throw up your hands because you’re not prepared to diet your way into a “normal” BMI. There’s no point in dropping lots of pounds and gaining them back immediately. Aim to lose smaller amounts of weight. According to research reported in April, 2016 in Cell Metabolism, losing only 5 percent of your current body weight yields amazing results.

Cut out foods that you suspect are associated with your weight gain. Most of us have some bad habits we don’t have to ponder to identify. It might be late-night snacking or middle-of-the-night binging. It might be missing out on sleep and working too hard. It might be skipping exercise. Your goal is to change those habits for a lifetime.

When people try to change a bad habit, or adopt a new one, they often fail after a couple of weeks. The typical reasons run like this:

  • “It’s not the right time to start a big project.” It’s never the right time, for some of us. Start small. Do a squat standing beside your desk every day at lunch.
  • “I’m too overwhelmed. I can’t focus on anything new.” Do that squat. Consider it a moment to clear your head.
  • “I tried to do that and I failed so why try again?” Again, reduce the pressure. Do that squat. Do two pushups. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Taking care of your health is a vote for a happy future, tomorrow, next week and in the years ahead. It often doesn’t take long before losing fat makes you feel significantly better. You’ll enjoy your workouts more once you’re a bit slimmer and can feel your stronger muscles working. And I promise you—a fun workout is a steady gift of well-being, shining spots in your week.

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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