Obesity and Weight Gain in Women: Health Risks and Consequences

Obesity and Weight Gain in Women: Health Risks and Consequences

Wellness

According to the CDC, 40.4% of US women are obese. Why do some women struggle so much with weight?

The CDC also shows that a staggering 70.2% of US adults are either overweight or obese. There are lots of causes and explanations for this. For example, many Americans lead a sedentary lifestyle and have a diet that largely consists of fast food and processed food. Weight gain is a huge problem in America.

But, what is it specifically about women that makes weight such a challenge, and what are the potential consequences for carrying that extra weight?

  • Excess weight has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers.
  • It also increases physical pain, especially on the joints, and is even a common cause of infertility.
  • Many overweight and obese individuals also experience high cholesterol, high blood pressure and are at a higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Obesity also leads to chronic inflammation in the body, which has been shown to lead to many other chronic conditions. 

Also Read: PCOS: 5 Tips to Make Weight Loss Easier

How did the weight get there?

Poor diet, emotional overeating, and lack of exercise are most cited for the reason. But what about the other factors that rarely get discussed, and what can we do about them?

Let’s break them down:

  • Starvation Mode: If someone trying to lose weight restricts calories too much, the body will go into “starvation mode” where it latches onto fat instead of letting it go. This is because the body thinks it is starving and is storing as many calories as it can for survival. While some caloric cut-backs is probably a good idea for weight loss, make sure to work with a practitioner for individualized caloric goals. Otherwise, it is possible to unknowingly restrict too much. This is especially true of women in the childbearing age range (puberty through age 45). Restricting too many calories can stop a menstrual cycle and disrupt the hormonal rhythm. The human body is smart and does not want the menstrual cycle to stop, so it will try as hard as it can to hold on to that weight, making weight loss quite challenging. Women trying to conceive should especially be mindful of their individual caloric needs and work with a health practitioner.
  • Stress: Everyone feels daily stress to some extent. Women, in particular, tend to take on many roles in today’s society, such as wife, mother, professional, and caretaker, which can be overwhelming when tacked onto normal daily stressors. Eliminating stress isn’t actually an attainable goal. However, delegating tasks, when possible, can be a great start toward self-care, and focussing on strategies to manage stress is a much better use of time than trying to stop stress from happening. Things like breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and journaling are just a few examples.
  • Traumas: Past traumas can cause both emotional and physical distress. There is a high correlation between past traumatic experiences and obesity. Working through traumas can be difficult, so it is important to work with someone who is credentialed and trained to help.
  • Medication Side Effects: Certain medications can have weight gain or difficultly losing weight as a side effect. Talking to your physician is the best first step because there may be a different medication you can try. If you can’t change your medication, consider working with a Naturopathic Doctor for advice on ways to mitigate the side effects of necessary medication. 

Also Read: Foods to Avoid with PCOS (and What to Eat Instead)

  • Poor Sleep: Obesity is commonly associated with poor sleep due to sleep apnea. Poor sleep contributes to obesity, and obesity contributes to poor sleep! It may feel like a vicious circle, but sleep apnea can be managed by certain medical devices. Once the sleep is regulated with these devices, and the quality has improved, it can significantly help with further weight loss.
  • Toxins: This may be the most overlooked factor in obesity. Certain toxins can create inflammation, which can lead to further weight gain and negative effects on the body as a whole. The best ways to reduce daily toxin exposures are to breathe clean air (consider an air purifier if indoor air quality is poor), drink clean filtered water, and eat organic food as much as possible to reduce pesticides. 

Yes, we can all point fingers at the lack of exercise and high consumption of oily, fried, chemical-ridden foods out there. But there is way more to the story! If we don’t acknowledge that obesity is a disease, we would be perpetuating the impression that obese women are lazy – which is simply untrue.

Let’s show some compassion for each other and ourselves, and together we can overcome the obstacles in front of us, find the hidden culprits of weight issues, and finally regain our health.

Latest posts by Dr. Jessica Christie (see all)