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How to Reverse Being "Medically Overweight"

Bariatric surgeon shares tips on weight loss and what's considered overweight.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Many people have a few extra pounds they'd like to get rid of, but when does excess weight become too much and a medical problem? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines overweight as "A person whose weight is higher than what is considered to be a normal weight for a given height is described as being overweight or having obesity," states "Nearly 1 in 3 adults (30.7%) are overweight" and "About 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 (16.1%) are overweight." While it can be challenging at times to get rid of the weight, it can be done with discipline and healthy lifestyle choices. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Jessica Cutler, M.D., Mercy Medical Center Weight Management Expert and Bariatric Surgeon who explains the health dangers of being overweight and a few tips on dropping the pounds. As always, please speak with your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What's Considered Medically Overweight

shred belly fat

Dr. Cutler says, "The generally accepted categories of body mass index (BMI) would define a person as "overweight" with a BMI between 25-30, with the category of "obesity" applied to people with BMI > 30.  It should be noted that the BMI scale has come under some controversy because there is no direct link to a person's health status – there is no switch that flips between a BMI of 24.9 and 25.1 which causes someone to suddenly become unhealthy."


Overweight Causes

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a measuring tape to prescribe a weight loss diet

Dr. Cutler explains, "There are a number of factors which contribute to a person's weight, and not all of them are well understood.  We believe weight is determined by a combination of energy intake (how much food is consumed, what that food is made of, and how eating is distributed through the day), energy output (energy spent by the body on upkeep, digestion, exercise, and hundreds of other processes), genetic influence on insulin resistance and weight gain, and perhaps other factors too."


The Dangers of Being Overweight

Young diabetic woman checking her blood sugar levels.

"In general, a higher body mass index has been associated with a number of medical problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers," Dr. Cutler tells us. 


Lose the Weight Slowly

weight loss

"Take it slowly," Dr. Cutler advises. "It is possible to lose weight very quickly through a number of diet strategies – usually involving significant calorie restriction or complete avoidance of some food groups.  The trouble here is that these diets are often not sustainable, because they are so severely restrictive that most people don't want to continue eating that way forever.  Unfortunately, once the restrictive diet stops, most people do tend to regain as much weight as they lost in the first place.  The safer strategy is to make slow, but sustainable, adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.  A goal of 1-2lbs per week is a better bet than trying to lose all of the weight quickly."


Be Honest About Your Diet Habits

drinking smoothie weight loss

"Be honest with yourself about your diet habits," Dr. Cutler states. "Spend a week making a "food journal" – keep track of not just every meal, but every bite of a snack and every sip of liquid.  Take pictures throughout the day if this is easier than writing everything down.  Then sit down and analyze – how often are you eating?  How often are you eating intentionally, because you are hungry, versus snacking because food is available?  Do you tend to reach for certain foods when you are feeling stressed, sad or bored?  Getting your body and mind on the same page can take some effort, but ultimately understanding what you eat and why you eat it is crucial to getting healthier habits.  Make small substitutions.  Try one change at a time, something realistic that you believe you can keep up, and then let those small changes accumulate."


Stop Eating So Many Processed Sugars and Carbs

Woman eating sugary junk food

Dr. Cutler shares, "Processed sugars and carbohydrates (often found in sugary drinks, packaged sweets, and "white flour" foods) contain mostly sugar without much fiber, protein or vitamins.  Fiber and protein are big contributors to keeping you full and balancing out your blood sugar.  When we remove the natural proteins and fiber found in many grains and vegetables, we remove the benefit to eating these foods.  See where in your diet you can sub in some proteins or unrefined carbs – maybe swap white rice for wild rice or lentils, or mix some chickpeas or cauliflower rice in to replace half the amount of rice you would have eaten otherwise."


Cut Back on the Sugary Drinks

Coffee and Sugar Main Picture

According to Dr. Cutler, "Many drinks bought at the store contain a large amount of added sugar. If you drink soda because you like the carbonation, try switching to flavored seltzer with a lower sugar content. If you like it for the sweetness, try flavoring water with a slice of lemon or orange (you can make a whole pitcher at a time and store it in the refrigerator for easy use later).  If you just drink it out of habit or to give yourself something to do, try drinking a large cup of water first – there's a good chance your body was just thirsty, and you may not even want the soda anymore."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather