The importance of maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is integral to optimal health. In addition to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure, it can also reduce the risk of many different cancers.
When you consider that two thirds of Australian adults are now overweight or obese, the need to act is clear.
“If you address this early on, we’ll be able to help prevent all these chronic diseases,” Bluff Road Medical Centre’s resident weight loss expert Dr Ananya Murthy said. “It’s a big step up from just treating the chronic condition. The key is to act before irreversible disease processes occur in the body”.
In this article, Dr Murthy shares some insight into weight management and why we need to remove the stigma around this topic.
How much of weight loss is exercise vs diet?
Weight gain is a complex process about which we are still learning. There is a great deal of research going on in this space. Obesity is certainly not a “choice”, neither is it a simple equation of eat and exercise to lose weight.
There is a complex interplay of bio-psycho-social mechanisms. The end result is energy imbalance. Generally speaking, calorie restriction/diet creates an energy deficit and plays a bigger role in weight loss than exercise.
How often should you exercise?
Any movement is better than no movement. Staying active is essential for physical and emotional wellbeing.
All adults are recommended to undertake at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercises per week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, swimming, golf, cycling, tennis, etc. It is important to include muscle strengthening exercises like push ups, squats, lifting weights on at least 2 days a week.
However, when it comes to exercise for weight loss, the recommendations are for higher levels of physical activity.
What are contributing factors that lead to weight gain?
Many patients have been complaining of weight gain during covid lockdowns. Comfort eating as well as increased alcohol intake seems to have contributed to it. A lot of people turned to alcohol to cope with the stresses of the pandemic.
Working from home and having a more sedentary lifestyle was a major factor. In the office, you’re more likely to get out of your chair and have a chat to colleagues, but at home, there’s not as much incidental activity, while at the same time having easy access to snacks/ comfort foods.
There were also other factors contributing to weight gain such as increased stress levels and poor sleep.
What’s the best approach to weight management?
We need to take a holistic approach when it comes to weight loss. It’s not a simple equation of eat less, exercise more and lose weight.
You need to manage stress, sleep, social environment and other external influences. When you can address most of these factors you’ll have better results and are more likely to sustain them.
When to see a doctor about weight loss?
If you have noticed excess weight gain and it’s impacting your wellbeing, talk to your doctor. You may be suffering from weight-related issues such as joint pains, fatigue, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart conditions, low mood or negative body image.
I encourage people to always talk to their doctor before embarking on a weight loss journey because there may be more than one reason for your weight gain. Freely available information is often overwhelming and confusing. Your doctor will be able to provide you with evidence based advice and guide you in the right way.
How can a doctor help?
Your doctor will perform a comprehensive medical and psychosocial assessment to determine the reasons for your weight gain and how weight gain is affecting your health.
Since the reasons for weight gain are plenty, your doctor can assist you with diet and exercise plans, prescribe appropriate weight loss medications and offer psychology services.
At Bluff Road Medical Centre, we also have a body composition analyser which provides a breakdown of fat ,muscle and fluid composition in the body. It’s the visceral fat around the organs that puts people at a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks and the like.
Medical weight loss management is focussed on helping people lose the “bad fat” such as visceral fat rather than the “good” weight, like your muscle weight.
We can also suggest other tools to monitor your weight management, such as apps to track calorie intake and exercise. Most importantly, doctors can assist you in sustaining weight loss because the body has a strong predisposition to regain the lost weight.
What about weight loss medications?
Medications are playing a significant role in obesity management nowadays.
The hope is that in the future, weight loss medications can be used as a long-term solution to a complex problem, similar to what we use for blood pressure or diabetes management.
While weight loss surgery is indicated for some, we know that it comes with its own set of complications and challenges.
Why we need to open up the conversation about weight loss
People living with obesity often do not get the care they need because of the misconceptions, myths and stigma it carries in society. It is important to open up the conversation to break these barriers, provide evidence-based information, improve understanding and offer the necessary help that people need.
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About Dr Ananya Murthy
Dr Murthy is a General Practitioner with a special interest in chronic disease management, including diabetes and obesity management. She is a SCOPE (Strategic Centre for Obesity Professional Education) certified doctor – the only internationally recognised certificate in obesity management awarded by the World Obesity Federation.
Dr Murthy has completed one year mentorship under some of Australia’s leading experts in the field and is continually upskilling in this area of medicine.