Before I start on the specific health risks of excessive body fat I want to tell you a story about my own health, to show you that whoever you may be, gaining body fat may not be your fault, and that if you take action today you can reverse the situation and be healthy again. I recommend reading this in depth article on weight loss and nutrition, or if you’re ready for more support you can learn about weight loss coaching.
My Weight Loss Story
In 2005 my body weight went from 73kg to 96kg in just a few months. My body fat percentage increased from 7% when I was racing triathlons competitively, to 30% by 2006. I went from a 30-32inch waist to a 36inch waist and had to buy a whole load of new trousers.
My ability and inclination to run was hit hard because it was such a challenge being 23kg’s heavier than I was used to but also because I hated the way I looked.
I went from being confident in my sport and running with groups at the club to wanting to run on my own, at night when no one would see me and where I could go at my own pace. My mental strength dropped and my energy and enthusiasm dwindled in all aspects of my life.
I would consider that I was suffering a kind of depression because of my lifestyle and physical changes – all as a result of gaining weight.
So Why Did I Gain Weight?
Since 1999 I have been competitive in triathlon and because of all the training involved I was able to eat a lot. I was not necessarily eating the right things, but certainly lots of calories. Like most triathletes my diet consisted of carbohydrates in the form of pasta, bread and sugary drinks. Although not all healthy foods, my body composition was good because of the activity I was doing.
However over a period of about 2 weeks I had an in-growing hair on my shin. It went septic and before I knew it I had septicaemia through my body. Doctors prescribed me drugs after drugs for months on end to kick this bug, but it literally took 6 months before I was ok again.
In this time, my activity levels dropped significantly and so did my calorie needs. However my appetite remained as a matter of habitual and emotional eating because I was feeling a bit down. And so my body fat percentage rocketed.
I know how easy it is to put weight on, but actually it is quite easy to regain your health too. Effective weight loss is achievable through proper nutrition and exercise. If that means exercise from home or the gym, it doesn’t really matter, but if you are wondering how to lose weight get in touch!
Health Risks Of Being Over Weight
Well if you liked the description of my weight gain experiences in 2005-2006 then I guess nothing is wrong with being over weight. But if you don’t want to experience similar health risks I recommend keeping your body fat levels healthy. Of particular concern is the storage of body fat around the stomach. Stomach fat or abdominal fat further increases health risk.
The Risk Of Excessive Body Fat
Below is a list suggested by McArdle, Katch and Katch, however this is not exhaustive to say the least.
- Impaired cardiac function
- Left ventricular dysfunction
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Increased insulin resistance
- Type II diabetes
- Renal disease
- Sleep apnea
- Mechanical ventilatory constraints – particularly when active
- Pulmonary disease due to added effort to move the chest wall
- Problems receiving anaesthetics during surgery
- Degenerative joint disease
- Cancer – endometrial, breast, prostate, colon
- Abnormal plasma lipid
- Abnormal lipoprotein levels
- Menstrual irregularities
- Gallbladder disease
- Enormous psychological burden and social stigmatisation and discrimination
So What Is Over Fat Exactly?
Criteria for being over weight varies depending on how you measure it. For some bazaar reason health professionals in the UK use an arbitrary measure called BMI to look at our health parameters. However this has no consideration for your body composition.
Circumferential measurements are useful, in particular waist measurements, and a ratio between your waist to you hip circumferences. This ratio has very close correlations with the above risk factors.
The ideal however is to have your body fat measurement taken. This can be done effectively and un-intrusively with a bioelectrical impedance body fat scale, where you hold a metal hand grip and stand on a metal plate. Electrical currents are then passed through you (it is safe except if you have heart pace maker) and a percentage body fat is measured.
For athletes and lean individuals it is better to use skin fold callipers to assess body composition. Using callipers gives you an accurate measure although it is more intrusive than bioelectrical impedance devices.
Standard For Over Fatness
Men: above 20%
Women: above 30%
Scouce McArdle, Katch and Katch 2007
I hope you find this useful. Please find below some recommended next steps:
- Read this essential nutrition article
- Learn about the why you didn’t reach your weight loss goal
- Get started with this nutrition and fitness guide
- Get your kitchen rescue pack here and start eating well
- Learn more about weight loss coaching online