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Health&Wellness
 
The benefits of a healthy weight
Adults hiking

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 weight loss as documented in research publications:

Heart: Research has shown that a 5 to 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 five-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 may drop as much as a half point (normal is under 6.5).2 Insulin resistance also improves with modest weight loss in people without diabetes.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% range is often achieved through changes to the diet, increased physical activity, and behavioral changes such as learning to self-monitor and how to manage situations that could result in poor diet & lifestyle choices. For this approach, you want a modest calorie restriction, one that will support about 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week. For many 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: The basic activity recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity most days, and resistance exercise 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: A higher protein intake plus exercise will help maintain muscle as you lose body fat; retaining muscle keeps your metabolism higher, in addition to making you fitter. Typically, some muscle is lost when people restrict calories to 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 quick fix. Take your time, and make changes you think you will be able to stick with.
  • Many people find it helpful to track their behaviors and results. Take pictures when you start. Note how your clothes fit. Weigh in about once a week. Log your “winning streaks” of days in a row you get your brisk walk or gym visit in. Your new habits will dictate who you become.
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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.