9 Awesome Things That Happen When You Lose Weight
Sure, we’re all aware of the risks from carrying extra pounds of fat -- like a greater probability of developing diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers -- but let’s focus on the positive, shall we? There are a number of benefits to losing weight, some of which get less attention but are no less important to keep in mind when you commit to slimming down. Here are nine benefits you might not have realized you can reap by shedding the pounds.
1. Pain-Free Knees
Knee pain is one of the most common sources of chronic pain, and, according to a survey from the American Osteopathic Association, it’s something one in two Americans deal with constantly. While not as common, obesity is up there. The correlation? According to a study presented by the Radiological Society of North America, obese people who lose a lot of weight can significantly slow the degeneration of knee cartilage. Substantial weight loss also reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Bottom line: Lose weight, save your knees.
2. Amped-Up Sex Drive
Obesity is linked with lower testosterone levels (which affect sexual readiness). Men with a five-point increase in body mass index or who put on 30 extra pounds have testosterone levels comparable to men a decade older, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. In fact, the common decrease in testosterone seen in older men is not due to age but actually to increased body weight -- but it can be reversed with weight loss. And women who lose weight report improved arousal, orgasm, lubrication and sexual satisfaction.
3. Big, Healthy Brains
Visceral fat -- the abdominal fat that surrounds your internal organs -- contains cells that release inflammation-causing chemicals, which can cause memory loss and, eventually, brain damage. According to a report in the Annals of Neurology, the greater the amount of visceral fat, the smaller the brain -- and smaller brain volume is associated with poor cognitive function on testing and a greater risk of dementia. Plus, the effect is lasting. A recent study in Neurology found that people who had lower physical capacity in middle age had smaller brains 20 years later.
4. Better Sleep
When you are overweight, extra tissue thickens your windpipe wall, narrowing your airway and potentially causing sleep apnea. If you have severe sleep apnea, you can be woken up hundreds of times a night, resulting in a poor night’s sleep and fatigue during the day. Losing as few as 10 pounds can widen your windpipe, helping you sleep through the night and reducing your risk for developing this condition.
5. Save Money
Invest in that gym membership -- it’ll be worth it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who is obese has annual medical costs $1,429 higher than someone of a normal weight. At the same time, eating fresh, whole foods can be more expensive than fast food and packaged food. But with medical costs consistently rising, there are plenty of cost-saving measures you can take to counteract what you may be spending at the grocery store, such as like making large meals that you can freeze and lowering food waste.
6. Happier Outlook
It’s a vicious cycle: Obesity can lead to depression, leading to antidepressant drugs, which then lead to more weight gain. Poor diet can also contribute to mood swings, to which anyone coming down from a sugar binge can attest. But losing even just a little weight helps balance out your hormones, providing you with a supply of serotonin to lift your mood. That being said, if you have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, no amount of weight loss may affect your mood; you may want to seek treatment from a professional therapist or psychiatrist.
7. Increased Fertility
The risks of obesity include infertility and increased risk of miscarriage for women (not to mention lower sperm count for men). Losing weight can increase your chances of getting pregnant by nearly 30 percent. And breast-feeding (milk production) is easier too!
8. Fewer Allergy and Asthma Symptoms
Being overweight contributes to worsened allergies and asthma because added weight burdens the adrenal glands, which are involved in managing these conditions. Obese adults with asthma are almost five times more likely than non-obese asthmatics to be hospitalized due to asthma. Research shows that obese people with asthma who lose weight may experience an improvement in their asthma symptoms.
9. Glowing Skin
A healthier diet intended to help you lose weight will have other positive effects on your body -- not the least of which will be on your skin. Fresh fruits and vegetables, a mainstay for anyone aiming to get fit, are full of vitamins A and C, which enhance your skin and eyes. Other whole foods like avocados and almonds and other nuts provide vitamin E and fatty acids that keep the skin moisturized.
What Do YOU Think?
Are there any more benefits to losing weight that we should add to this list?
Matt Schneiderman is a longtime New Yorker now based in San Francisco. His writings have appeared in various print and online publications including Runner's World, Popular Science, Maxim and Cosmopolitan.