When to Diet

Written by Leslie Goldman, MPH | Published on November 4, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on November 4, 2014

When It’s Time to Lose Weight

You can’t play catch with your child because you get too winded. You wake up in the middle of the night choking due to sleep apnea. You want to be able to shop for clothes in mainstream stores. There are hundreds of reasons to lose weight. Even so, whether due to fear of failure or simple comfort, many people don’t even try. So, when is it time to step out of denial and lose weight for good?

Medical Reasons to Lose Weight

Being diagnosed with a weight-related medical condition such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol offers a more persuasive argument for losing weight now. In general, the heavier you are, the more likely you are to experience health problems. Your risk increases even further with a family history of certain chronic conditions like diabetes, or if you tend to gain weight around your abdomen. According to Intermountain Clinics, “apple” shapes are naturally more predisposed to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes than “pear” shapes, carrying weight in the hips and rear end.

Your doctor can often provide the initial motivation for weight loss. Whether it comes through a frightening diagnosis or the possibility of one down the road, many people leave the doctor’s office with a commitment to lose weight.

Lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are completely preventable. When your doctor tells you these diseases are life threatening unless you make a change, it can be a real wake-up call.

Even a modest weight loss can dramatically decrease your risk of disease. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight lost annually over a period of 10 years was linked with a 33 percent lower risk of diabetes. Similar findings have been reported when looking at weight loss and a reduced risk of heart disease.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, in addition to diabetes and heart disease, weight loss can decrease the symptoms of arthritis. It can even reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, when weight loss occurs after menopause.

Personal Reasons to Lose Weight

If disease prevention and a longer life aren’t reasons enough, many people first attempt weight loss for personal reasons. These too can provide significant motivation. However, if a special event or short-term goal is your motivation, you will want to ensure you also have long-term goals to help ensure you keep the weight off and maintain the benefits of a healthier weight. Personal motivations can include:

  • lack of energy
  • low self-esteem
  • poor body image
  • upcoming special events
  • feeling uncomfortable in your own skin or your tight clothing
  • depression
  • desire to physically keep up with your children
  • desire to look and feel more attractive

Are You Ready?

Whatever your motivation, your success will hinge on how ready you are to commit to the challenge. You’ll know you’re ready when you can answer “yes” to all of the following statements:

  • I am ready to make a lifelong commitment to eating healthy foods and exercising on most days of the week.
  • I have set a realistic weight-loss goal and understand that when it comes to successful, long-term weight loss, slow and steady (one to two pounds per week) wins the race.
  • I have addressed the underlying emotional issues behind why I overeat.
  • I don’t suffer from anorexia or bulimia.
  • I have identified the distractions in my life that threaten to derail my efforts (my career, my interpersonal relationships, and my finances) and have developed ways to deal with them.
  • I have built a solid support system, including friends and family members, a therapist or nutritionist, a nearby weight-loss center, or an online group.
  • I recognize that plateaus happen, and I am committed to working through them.

Losing weight requires commitment and dedication — not just to dropping a few pounds, but to making lasting lifestyle changes. Your motivations should be solid, not fleeting. Sure, your jeans will fit better, but improved confidence and better health are reasons that will propel you further in your weight-loss journey. 

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Show Sources

  • Eliassen, A., Colditz, G., Rosner, B., Willett, W., & Harkinson, S. (2006, July 12). Adult weight change and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association, 296(2), 193-201. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16835425
  • Esnick, H., Valsania, P., Halter, J., & Lin, X. (2000, August). Relation of weight gain and weight loss on subsequent diabetes risk in overweight adults. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 54(8), 596-602. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1731720/
  • Harris, T., Ballard-Barbasch, R., Madans, J., Makuc, D., & Feldman, J. (1993). Overweight, weight loss, and risk of coronary heart disease in older women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 137(12), 1318-1327. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/137/12/1318.abstract

Health tips. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/medicalgroup/clinics/physicianclinics/live-well-salt-lake/resources/Pages/tips.aspx

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