Obesity is an epidemic: as of 2016, the CDC¹ reports that approximately 40 percent of the American population is obese. This means there are more than 90 million people struggling with excess weight and the complications it brings.
The risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other life-threatening diseases increases along with your weight, making obesity a dangerous health condition. The good news is you can fight obesity by recognizing it and making changes to get healthy as soon as possible.
Early Warning Signs of Obesity
Obesity is a weight-based categorization that technically means your body mass index, or BMI, is 30 or above. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for disease and a lower quality of life in general. If your waist circumference is also high, you’re at even greater risk.
The simplest warning sign to watch for if you’re worried about obesity is a BMI between 25 and 29. This is the overweight range, so you’re on your way to obesity once you hit 25.
Most people don’t check their BMI regularly, so they’re surprised when they hear a doctor diagnose them as obese. The good news is there are some real-life warning signs of obesity that are often ignored, including:
- Tight clothing
- Difficulty with functional movement (bending, twisting, etc.)
- Reduced cardiovascular endurance
- Weight-related health complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea
If you have any of these early warning signs of obesity, now’s the time to make lifestyle changes. The longer you remain overweight, the greater your risk of suffering the health complications of obesity.
How Is Obesity Treated?
There are three lifestyle adjustments that are always used to treat obesity:
Eating a balanced diet is key in treating obesity. For some obese people, learning to eat for nutrition rather than emotional comfort is the most difficult task. Others need to learn basic rules of nutrition or cooking skills so they aren’t relying on fast food. Some people will follow a low-fat diet to combat heart disease while others will go with a high-fat diet, intermittent fasting, or other dietary programs. Ultimately, the goal is to control calorie intake while increasing the nutritional quality of your diet.
Regular exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle, but it’s particularly important when battling obesity. For most people, a well-balanced exercise program that includes cardio and strength training is best. The most effective exercise is the one you’ll stick to consistently, and the secret to consistency is to find something you enjoy.
Your activity level refers to the amount of movement incorporated into your daily life. The more sedentary your life, the more likely you are to gain weight and suffer from obesity. Finding little ways to get up and move around throughout the day can lower your risk of obesity. This will also help prevent heart disease, varicose veins, and many other health complications that come from sitting for long periods of time.
In addition to making these lifestyle changes, prescription medications are sometimes used to combat obesity. Many people struggle to keep the weight off long-term if they don’t focus on diet and exercise while taking medication.
When lifestyle alterations don’t work, or you suffer from serious health risks that require fast weight loss, you may qualify for surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic², the most common types of weight loss surgeries include:
- Gastric Bypass: You eat to fill a small pouch instead of your full stomach. This means eating small meals throughout the day to control your calorie consumption.
- Gastric Banding: A band with a balloon is wrapped around the stomach, separating a small pouch. You eat to fill only that pouch, which means consuming small meals with restricted calories. This is different from gastric bypass because you will have a port in your stomach that’s used to adjust the size of the balloon on the band.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy: Part of the stomach is removed, and the remaining stomach is shaped like a sleeve. The smaller stomach can only hold tiny amounts of food.
- Biliopancreatic Diversion: A large section of the stomach is removed, and the intestines are structurally changed to divert food away from the small intestine. This prevents your body from absorbing many of the calories consumed.
Gastric bypass is the least invasive and comes with fewer complication risks. While surgery is often considered the “easy” way to treat obesity, it comes with significant risks.
After surgery, you’ll still need to follow strict dietary and exercise guidelines to avoid complications. This leads you right back to the three lifestyle changes everyone must make to treat obesity: diet, exercise and activity level.
How Much Does Treatment Cost?
The cost of obesity treatment depends on the strategy you choose for your lifestyle and body.
Weight loss surgery can cost anywhere from $14,000 to more than $20,000 according to ObesityCoverage.com³ – and the total cost depends on the type of surgery. Medicaid will often cover the cost if the surgery is deemed medically necessary. Some private or employer-based insurance policies will cover part of the expense.
If you can’t afford or don’t want weight loss surgery but you aren’t succeeding with basic diet and exercise changes, you can try visiting a metabolism correction clinic in your area. You might also consider working with a naturopathic doctor or finding a local medical doctor who offers natural health services from the same office. These alternative weight loss centers are becoming more popular, and they can give you new ways to approach the treatment of obesity.
Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.