Frightening Body Fat Facts

Need a little push to stay active and eat well over the busy holiday season? Read on

Justin Renninger

Staying at — or continuing to get closer to — a healthy weight is hardest at the holidays. But remembering why it’s so important as those holiday party invitations start to pile up may help you avoid a five- to 10-pound gain by January 1st.

Here, a little healthy holiday inspiration in the form of some very frightening facts about body fat.

•  Right now, some 60 percent of American adults are overweight, and about 25 percent are obese—which puts them at serious risk for many different diseases.  In fact, the problems related to obesity make it the second leading preventable cause of death after smoking. Making a lifelong goal to stay outside of this group may help you make it to the gym despite your hectic holiday schedule.

•   Too much body fat shortens and lessens the quality of your life: For both women and men, being overweight increases the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea, some cancers, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder disease.  If you’re obese, you face all the above risks plus a higher risk of dying at a relatively young age.

•    Women in midlife need to be even more careful of picking up extra calories over the holidays. For women, ages 40 – 60 is the most difficult time in a woman’s life to maintain normal weight for a number of reasons, such as slowed metabolism, hormonal changes, less physical activity and higher stress levels. In fact, some 65 percent of women between the ages of 45 and 54 are either overweight or obese.  Women gain, on average, 5 pounds from perimenopause through menopause, and many put on much more.  In women, excess body fat can lead to all of the health problems above, as well as hormone imbalances that contribute to cancer risk.

•    Men, keep this in mind: The more weight a man gains from age 25 on, the shorter his expected life span.  In case that isn’t enough to get your attention guys, excess fat in men can cause a conversion of precious midlife testosterone into estrogen, which can lead to decreased libido, poor muscle tone, slower healing time from injuries, diminished vitality, and so on.  Lastly, the diseases brought on by excess weight, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, are exactly the same ones that can cause erectile dysfunction in men.

•    You want to avoid Santa’s belly. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous fat.  While excess weight is unhealthy no matter where it is, carrying weight around your middle is the most harmful because deep abdominal fat is a biologically active organ. It secretes inflammatory chemicals that contribute to a buildup of hard plaque in the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.  Fat around the waist and abdomen is especially associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, early onset of heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

•    Stress can make you chubby.  Stress perpetuates a tense, anxious mood that often gets self-medicated with sweet, starchy foods and alcohol.  This intensifies the metabolic changes from stress that cause fat to accumulate around the midsection and that can further deplete your body of sex hormones. So making time to hit the gym or do a few minutes of yoga each day during the season could go a long way to helping you avoid excess weight gain this season.

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Dr. Monti is Director of the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the author of “The Great Life Makeover”. Read more about him here.