Making a commitment to achieve a healthy weight is one of the best health decisions you can make. Studies have shown health benefits start to occur at about a 5 percent reduction of initial body weight.1 For someone starting at 200 pounds, that means benefits could be seen with losing just 10 pounds! So let’s look at some specific benefits achievable with even modest weight loss:
HEART: Research has shown that a 5-10 percent loss of body weight can result in meaningful reductions in heart disease risk. One study of overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes found this amount of weight loss could lower blood pressure by as much as 5 mm Hg (systolic and diastolic). Blood lipids also improved along with a 5-point increase in HDL cholesterol levels and a drop in triglycerides of as much as 40 mg/dL.2
BLOOD SUGAR: Many measures of blood sugar control improve with weight loss. In the same study just mentioned, a measurement of long-term blood sugar control called hemoglobin A1C dropped as much as a half point (normal is under 6.5).2 Insulin resistance also improves with modest weight loss, which helps with blood sugar control.2
INFLAMMATION: Fat cells produce inflammatory molecules called cytokines, and a 10 percent drop in body fat reduces levels of these substances. Losing those extra pounds has wide-ranging effects throughout your body as inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases.3
JOINTS: Every pound of weight lost reduces the stress on your knees by four times. So lose 10 pounds and take 40 pounds of stress off your knees, hips, and ankle joints.
How to get there
Weight loss in the 5-10 percent range can be achieved through changes to the diet, increased physical activity, and behavioral changes, especially using self-monitoring techniques to track calories and physical activity. Start with reducing calories to aim for a 1-2 pound weight loss per week. This is a safe and sustainable goal. For most women, that means eating about 1200-1500 calories a day; for men, about 1500-1800 calories per day. The use of meal replacements (shakes or bars) has been shown to help improve weight loss outcomes.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: For good health you should shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity most days, and resistance exercise (weight lifting) twice a week. “Moderate intensity” for many people means brisk walking or something comparable; you should be able to talk but not sing during the activity. Check with your doctor if you have any reasons to be concerned about physical activity.
DIET: Focus on filling your plate with colorful veggies—branch out and try new vegetable recipes! Protein is also important, especially lean protein choices like tofu or grilled chicken breast. A higher protein intake plus exercise helps maintain muscle as you lose body fat; retaining muscle supports your metabolism. Typically, some muscle is lost when people lose weight. However, in a recent study that combined meal replacements with aerobic and resistance exercise, the subjects actually gained muscle while losing weight.4
Key takeaways for you
Keep in mind you are doing more than changing your appearance—you are building your health! And studies suggest that for as long as people maintain most of their weight loss, the benefits last too.5
Think in terms of permanent change, not just a quick fix. Take your time, and make changes you think you will be able to stick with.
Many people find it helpful to track progress. Look for an app that allows you to track what you eat and drink—even doing this for a week can be incredible for awareness and accountability. Measuring can also be helpful as inch loss is a good measure of fat loss. Weigh in about once a week. Log your “winning streaks” of days in a row that you get your brisk walk or gym visit in. As your new habits become more permanent, so will your results be more lasting. Enjoy the journey to a new healthier you!
1Alamuddin N, Bakizada Z, and Wadden TA. 2016. Management of Obesity. J Clin Oncol 34(35): 4295-4305. 2Wing RR, Lang W, Wadden TA, et al. Benefits of modest weight loss in improving cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jul;34(7):1481-6. PMID: 21593294. 3Ho TP, Zhao X, Courville AB, et al. Effects of a 12-Month Moderate Weight Loss Intervention on Insulin Sensitivity and Inflammation Status in Nondiabetic Overweight and Obese Subjects. Horm Metab Res. 2014 Jun 30. PMID: 24977656. 4Westcott W, Colligan A, Puhala, K, Lannutti K, La Rosa Loud R, Vallier S. Exercise and Nutrition Effects on Body Composition and Blood Measures in Overweight Adults. JEPonline 2017;20(1):200-220. 5de las Fuentes L, Waggoner AD, Mohammed BS, et al. Effect of moderate diet-induced weight loss and weight regain on cardiovascular structure and function. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009 Dec 15;54(25):2376-81. PMID: 20082927.