Obesity: More than just a number on the scale

Obesity: More than just a number on the scale

Recently, a female patient in her thirties was seen by her MD for a well visit. Much to her surprise, her weight fell into the “obese” category, based on a calculation of her height and weight to obtain her body mass index (commonly referred to as BMI).  

Body mass index is a calculation of an individual’s weight compared to their height and is used as an indicator of whether or not an individual is overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define class 1 obesity as having a BMI between 30-34.9, class 2 obesity is a BMI between 35-39.9 and class 3 obesity is having a BMI of 40 or greater. Class 3 obesity is often referred to as “severe obesity” or more commonly referred to as “morbid obesity”.

The young woman did not expect to hear that her current BMI placed her in the category as being obese, nor did she realize that obesity alone increases her risk for developing many serious diseases. This is why her MD recommended losing weight.

According to the CDC, obesity increases the risk for as many as 40 different diseases and health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and even certain types of cancers. For females, obesity can be a contributing factor to polycystic ovarian disease and fertility problems. The prevalence of obesity is high, around 39.8% of the population according to the CDC, and the numbers continue to rise.  

There are many contributing factors to obesity, including genetic predisposition and certain disease processes. There are also factors that can be changed, that play a large role in obesity such as behavior and lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy body weight is much more than just being comfortable in your own skin, it’s about being healthy, and preventing many disease processes in order to achieve a better quality of life.  

Many can identify with being too heavy, constantly struggle with weight and don’t know where to start again. It is good to know that seemingly small changes in health and lifestyle behaviors can produce big results! When it comes to losing weight and maintaining weight-loss long-term, think of it as running a marathon versus a sprint. Slow and steady wins the race!

A few small changes can be made immediately, including ditching high calorie sodas and consuming water or zero-calorie beverages instead. Replace snacks of candy bars and cookies with healthier options such as fruit, nuts or greek yogurt. Lastly, add in a few more steps during the day! Every little bit counts—park further away at the grocery store, take the stairs at work, or go for a daily stroll in your neighborhood.

Evidence supports nutrition and activity changes are better maintained when documenting diet and exercise daily in diary trackers such as Sparkpeople.com, MyFitnessPal.com, FatSecret.com and others.

If you are at the stage of readiness to embark on drastic weight loss (25 pounds or more), there are options available including medically managed weight loss programs such as Optifast® and also weight loss surgery. Weight loss surgery is being recognized more and more as organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have started to advocate for losing weight with this method.

Weight loss surgery is not cosmetic, but is a tool to improve and/or resolve health problems that are related to obesity. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about losing weight, you can go to www.lenoirwellness.org to find out what your current BMI is, and to find more information about programs and services that are offered close to home.


Megan Daniels, BSN, RN, CBN | Bariatric Coordinator, UNC Lenoir Health Care

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