On Being Overweight

By Ray Fosterrlf@mt-rushmore.net


Obesity is a big problem in America; give us some reasons for this:

Tell us more about the relation between weight and heart disease.

In 1990, the U.S. Government revised women’s weight guidelines. This appeared to support the idea that a modest weight gain in middle age was acceptable.

However, a subsequent study analyzed weight data on over 110,000 female registered nurses over a 14-year period. The Harvard researchers found that any weight gain after 18 years old increased the risk of heart disease. Even among those who were within the new guidelines for normal weight, the more weight they gained, the more they increased their heart disease risk.

There was about a 20 percent increase in risk for the smallest weight gain but nearly four times the chance of heart attack for the largest weight gainers who were still within the normal weight guidelines.

The research article concluded that a weight gain after 18 years of age is a strong predictor of heart disease. It expressed concerns that current U.S. weight guidelines were falsely reassuring a large proportion of people who are within the current guidelines but have avoidable risk factors for heart disease.

Although we have known for years that obesity alone is a risk for heart disease, this study shows that even "nicely filled out" people may have a significant risk for heart disease compared with their thinner nonsmoking counterparts. However, obese women are free from increased risk if they do not have high blood pressure, elevated lipids, or diabetes. Only one-third of women fall in this category.Losing weight on a diet program is very distressing. Losing it and then gaining it back again may cause some to avoid even trying.

When weight loss is accomplished in a rapid fashion with loss of more than 2 pounds per week, the habits may not be established well and perhaps the self-image does not keep pace with what is happening to the body. This may be part of the reason for this seesaw of weight change. Also many view weight loss through a diet program in a negative way, almost as a punishment. When the punishment is removed, weight gain often follows.

There are other important aspects of weight gain with standard programs. One of these is that one of the ways that our body lets us know we have eaten enough food is when our stomach is stretched a full. This occurs when there is a large volume of food in the stomach. If we eat food that is concentrated in calories, then we eat more calories for the same amount of stretch of the stomach. While our body also senses high fat diet to feel satisfied, if we use the low calorie food then we will almost always do better on a weight loss program. By eating unrefined fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains the calories go down dramatically. For example, we might eat 10 times or more the weight of potatoes as potato chips. This is partly due to the higher concentration of calories in the fat used to process the chips, and partly due to the water that is associated with the whole potatoes. Snack foods are typically concentrated in calories.

Another possible cause of the up-and-down weight problem associated with dieting may be calorie counting. Eating is an enjoyable event as it should be. Turning a pleasant social occasion into an accounting task may remove some of the enjoyment of eating. While individuals may tolerate this for a while, eventually they may tire of this task and stop counting.

With eating of unrefined fruits, whole grains, and vegetables; there is not the need to measure quantities and count calories. This is related to the design of our bodies. They work best on the fuel that we are designed to eat.

Is it O.K. to use artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are not as helpful as we might expect. In Proof Positive be Neil Nedley, M.D. we find that studies on this have been done. Let's look at low calorie soft drinks: Do they really work?

Research says "no." In fact, those who drink the most diet drinks have the most problems with their weight. And it seems to be more than just a situation where heavier people are choosing lower calorie items.

One study of over 75,000 women ages 50 to 69 found that users of artificial sweeteners were significantly more likely than non-users to gain weight over time.

In another study, 30 volunteers drank four diet sodas daily for two weeks. Surprisingly, these diet soda users ate more food and gained more weight than when they were free to drink regular sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Researcher Michael Tordoff reported that artificial sweeteners increase the appetite. "We found that hunger increases after drinking just a liter of aspartame sweetened soda," he said. Simply put, artificial sweeteners just seem to increase the desire for the real sweeteners. In our country, an average of over 20 pounds of artificial sweeteners are consumed per person per year, but despite this increase in consumption of artificial sweeteners, actual sugar consumption continues to rise.

Of course exercise is involved in maintaining normal weight can you give us some advice to help in accomplishing this?

Many studies reveal that television watching and obesity in children are directly related: the more TV a child watches, the heavier he or she tends to be. In addition to causing poorer food choices, University of Tennessee researchers helped to clarify some other reasons for this relationship. They studied the effect of television viewing on 31 children between 8 and 12 years old. Fifteen of the children were obese and sixteen were normal in weight. Each child’s metabolic rate was measured both during television viewing and when at rest doing nothing.

Metabolic rate of children ages 8 to 12 during television viewing was significantly lower than when the children were at rest doing nothing.

Lower metabolism combined with the high fat snacks eaten during the hours in front of the TV places children at high risk for obesity.

Kids watch 26 hours of TV weekly on the average.

Childhood obesity now affects 1 out of 4 kids.

So watching TV appears, for children, to be even worse than doing nothing!

Exercise such as walking or other exercises should be done for about 30 minutes at least 5 to 6 days per week. This exercising may not only burn up calories during the exercise period, but may increase the metabolic rate so that more calories are consumed even outside of this exercise period.

What is a reasonable weight loss program?

1. No snacks. Drink only water between meals.

2. Eat a good breakfast and a moderate lunch. Eliminate the evening meal. If something "must" be eaten in the evening, whole fruit is all that is allowable.

3. Eliminate or at least greatly reduce refined sugar and free fats or fatty foods in the diet, while emphasizing foods high in fiber.

4. Daily moderate exercise for approximately 45 minutes a day.

5. Do not eat closer than 3 hours to bedtime. 5 Hours is more desirable.

Why do I need to keep my food away from bedtime?

Weight loss is only one reason for doing this.

Years ago Dr. Charles Cupp proposed that weight gain is the result of inappropriate timing of food intake in relation to the evening sleep time. Cupp instructed hundreds of patients on his approach to weight control.

Overweight patients were instructed to change their meal pattern from a heavy meal and snacks in the evening to a heavy morning meal, a moderate lunch, and a light supper.

They were to eat their last meal ideally at noon but by no means later than 3:00 p.m., and they were instructed not to go to sleep for at least eight and a half hours after the last intake of food.

Of significance, they were not asked to change their food choices nor the amount of calories they ate. Researchers in the Department of Nutrition at Tulane University’s School of Public Health analyzed the records of 595 of Cupp’s overweight patients.

Some results of their study include:

  1. Those who ate only breakfast averaged 10 pounds of weight loss a month
  2. Those who ate breakfast, lunch and snacks averaged 5 to 6 pounds a month.
  3. Those who lost from 20 to 30 pounds showed an increase in hemoglobin level.
  4. Blood sugar levels of diabetic patients who lost 30 pounds or more were normalized.

This evidence and numerous other studies indicate that eating breakfast regularly should be part of any serious weight reduction program. Note that some additional benefits accrued from eating breakfast: improved blood hemoglobin level, reduced blood sugar, and improved thyroid function.

A second important reason to keep the food away from bedtime is that acid can be damaging to the esophagus, above the stomach. When acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus, it can cause a variety of problems from a little bit of burning sensation-heartburn to more serious problems. Asthma can sometimes be related to this. Even cancer of the esophagus may sometimes be related to this problem. But this reflux or backup of acid is very treatable in many people with this problem. Not eating for 3 to 5 hours or more before bed is one of the important ways to treat this condition.

What can I do if I feel very weak between meals, when I know that I should not snack?

It may be surprising to some people that feeling fatigued between meals may often be improved quite impressively by simply drinking water. Drinking 2 to 3 quarts of water per day on a normal day, and more when doing a lot of sweating is very helpful. Water helps to allow our blood vessels to be able to open more widely with the greater liquid capacity in the body. When we become dehydrated, some of the blood vessels may start tightening down and reducing their ability to carry large amounts of blood to needy tissues compared to when they were wider at the same blood pressure.Does stress affect obesity?

People have many ways to deal with stress. Some might be unkind to another person, some might become immersed in their jobs, and some might eat more to handle stress.

One important aspect of overcoming these problems is learning the beauty of forgiveness. Many things relate to stress in the life. And bearing hostility toward another person may be closely related to stresses that we experience. By allowing ourselves the release of forgiving that person, we free ourselves to live in a constructive way rather than a destructive way.

This is one very important aspect where spiritual things fit in. As we recognize the love that God has for each of us, we are better enabled to love others. This love translates into being kind to our friends, and it also allows us to forgive those who have hurt us. This ability to forgive and to treat others better frees us individually to treat ourselves better. This sense of wholeness will decrease the drive to cover our negative emotions with unhealthful behaviors including overeating.

How can I stay on a program once I have started?

There are several ways to reinforce good habits:

    1. The most important is to remember where the strength that we have comes from. Pray often and this will allow God to give you strength to continue and to move forward. Draw your emotional strength from the joy that you have in showing kindness to others (even those who are not kind to you) and from the God who continues to give you the ability to do this.
    2. Keeping a food diary, not of food quantities but of the types of food eaten during the day may be helpful to reinforce good habits. In this journal you may also list how many minutes you exercised and how much water you have drunk that day. Allow room in each day's entry to grade the way that you feel. Consider a scoring system such as 1 to 10 where 1 is feeling poorly and 10 is feeling very good. You may find that as time passes your own self-rating will improve as you treat your body more healthfully.
    3. If you can join with a friend, spouse or even a group of people who have similar interests in health, then you may increase your ease of staying with the program. Perhaps another individual that you join with has a different health goal than you do; this is O.K. since healthful habits have a beneficial impact on multiple diseases and conditions.
    4. Make a commitment to yourself to stay with your new program for at least 10 days so that you may start to experience the feeling of health that this new lifestyle gives. Hopefully this introduction will whet your appetite for more experience with healthful living.
    5. Do not view your new choices as temporary "diet" measures but as a new way to live.

What about medications such as phentermine or Mau Juang?

I discourage use of these potentially harmful medications for weight loss. These types of medications make us feel edgy and stressed in a similar way that caffeine or a rush of adrenaline would do. But we are not treating the problem, but merely placing another faulty cover over the problem.

Other ways to try to avoid addressing the problem such as fat substitute or sugar substitute also move away from the original design by our Maker.Can surgery improve my weight problem?

Some people have used weight loss surgery such as stomach stapling or intestinal bypass to try to treat the problem. This may give a result of some weight loss; but these procedures are associated with risk, and following a lifestyle like we have discussed would, I feel, usually be far desirable. 

Is there a problem with eating too much of the plant foods?

Actually risk for almost all diseases improves with this type of diet. If a person really chooses to cling tightly to a plant-only eating program, then it might be a good idea to take a little bit of vitamin B12 as a supplement beginning 3 to 6 months after making this change. But protein, calcium, fatty acids, and many other chemicals important to the body are well supplied by eating plant-based food.

Can you summarize the ways to lose weight for us again?

1. No snacks. Drink only water between meals.

2. Eat a good breakfast and a moderate lunch. Eliminate the evening meal. If something "must" be eaten in the evening, whole fruit is all that is allowable.

3. Eliminate or at least greatly reduce refined sugar and free fats or fatty foods in the diet, while emphasizing foods high in fiber. It is a good idea to almost completely eliminate oil and animal products from the diet.

4. Daily moderate exercise for approximately 45 minutes a day.

5. Do not eat closer than 3 hours to bedtime. 5 Hours is more desirable. 




Refined food use: fats and simple sugars in particular; inexpensive access to food; sedentary lifestyle.

What are some of the problems related to obesity?


Some problems include: diabetes/insulin resistance, heart disease, joint degeneration in weight bearing joints, and high blood pressure. Also the cause of the obesity may include a high fat diet that may be related to certain cancers such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

The arthritis problem at first appears obvious: increased load on the joint causes faster wear on the joint. This may be true, but there appears to be more to this issue just wear and tear on joints. Research suggests that overweight women have a higher risk of even developing rheumatoid arthritis. Women in the upper 25 percent of weight for height had a 40 percent increased risk of coming down with rheumatoid arthritis. Some researchers speculate that this linkage has to do with sex hormone levels.

Sleep apnea is another problem where an individual who often snores loudly will stop breathing sometimes for 30 to 60 seconds or more. This not only disrupts the sleep when it occurs frequently, but it also can be dangerous. Weight gain is often closely associated with this disease, and weight loss can often improve this problem. However, if your spouse or you have this problem, I recommend that you see a competent physician about this and also lose weight.

What about high blood pressure, can medications be stopped if I lose weight?


For individuals who are overweight, starting a weight loss program can lower the blood pressure. The blood pressure will usually drop as much as a low salt diet will drop it. Optimum weight does not need to be reached for a drop in blood pressure to occur. Just initiating a weight loss program and shedding about 5 pounds will bring the blood pressure down substantially in most cases. Your weight loss, combined with a low salt diet and a regular exercise program can often bring down the blood pressure enough that your doctor would recommend your stopping the blood pressure medications.

Breast Cancer is a big concern to some women, how does obesity affect this risk?