“The most recent numbers suggest that about 33 percent of Americans are obese and 60 percent are overweight,” he says.
This means 60 percent of Americans are at risk for obesity. Obesity significantly increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension and coronary disease.
How do you know if you are overweight or obese? An individual is considered obese if his or her body mass index (BMI) is 30 or above. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 indicates a person is overweight. Click here to calculate your body mass index.
Belly fat is more than an aesthetic issue
If you tend to gain weight around your midsection, you should be vigilant about weight management. Dr. Montgomery explains that abdominal or visceral fat collects not only outside the abdominal wall, but inside as well.
“It’s very different from the fat you might have on your arms, hips or thighs,” he says. “It’s a toxic, poisonous fat.”
While people can develop visceral fat as the result of a sedentary lifestyle, the fat itself is quite active.
“Abdominal fat secretes large amounts of toxic substances,” says Dr. Montgomery. “These substances increase your blood pressure by tightening your blood vessels, cause inflammation throughout your body and make it very hard for your body to handle blood glucose.”
What your body isn’t telling you
“That’s the thing about obesity – all of these [problems] are happening under the surface,” Dr. Montgomery says. “You may not be aware of them.”
For example, you may not be able to tell that your blood sugar or cholesterol numbers are abnormal.
“We’ve got to make that clear to people,” he says. “You are at risk for all of these things if you maintain abdominal obesity.”
Weight loss can reverse chronic conditions
The silver lining? Obesity is reversible.
“What we’ve found in research is that once people get to the point where their obesity has led to diabetes, hypertension or coronary disease, all they have to do to start the process [of reversing these conditions] is lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight,” says Dr. Montgomery.
“It’s really remarkable what you find by taking the blood of someone with obesity before and after a 5 to 10 percent weight loss,” says Dr. Montgomery. “The blood clears up, the inflammatory markers go down to normal, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels normalize. We’re talking about a completely reversible process.”
While weight loss may feel overwhelming, Dr. Montgomery says small changes have a snowball effect.
“One of the most motivating things for patients with obesity is to see some success,” he explains. “Often, they don’t need a whole lot of counseling after they do some of those initial steps because they see it working for them and it turns into a good ‘vicious cycle’ for them.
“Obesity is still a serious issue in America, but it’s not too late to make a change,” says Dr. Montgomery. “It’s preventable. Even a small change can make a difference.”
So what changes can you make to drop pounds for better health?