When it comes to getting healthy, weight loss is listed as the most common goal among women. And while it’s true that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important, it’s not the only thing that matters. If you’re looking to make real changes to your health, here are a few other things to consider as well.
Being “skinny fat”
Being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fit. In the last few years, health researchers have begun using the term skinny fat to describe people who aren’t overweight and appear to be healthy but who have a fat percentage too high for their weight. This extra fat can put them at risk for the same health problems that people who are overweight face, like diabetes, stroke and heart disease. If you’re worried you could fall into this category, talk to your doctor about body fat testing.
Having a high waist-to-hip ratio
In combination with your body mass index (BMI), this ratio has been shown to correlate strongly with health risks, especially those related to heart disease. If you carry most of your fat around your waist versus your hips, then you’re at a greater risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. And your risk climbs higher with a waist size larger than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men. You can measure your waist by placing a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones, after exhaling.
While many women who smoke fear gaining weight if they quit, the health consequences of smoking are much higher. You’re at higher risks for diseases like heart disease and lung cancer, which most of us already know. But smoking also decreases your bone density, putting you at greater risk for osteoporosis. And it raises your likelihood of other health problems like rheumatoid arthritis and cataracts. (Check out our story in this issue for more ways tobacco affects women’s health.)
Eating unhealthy food
Maybe your unhealthy eating habits aren’t causing you to gain weight, but poor nutrition can lead to other issues, from a lack of energy and hair loss to higher cholesterol levels and an increased cancer risk.
Just as poor nutrition causes a variety of health problems, so does being sedentary. In fact, inactivity is the top cause of most chronic diseases. Besides helping to keep your weight in control, exercise can also give you energy, lower stress and help you sleep better. It can also help improve your hormone levels and how your immune system functions to fight off illness and disease. And remember that even if you exercise – but spend most of your day sitting – you are still at risk. Look for ways to move during the day, such as taking the stairs or using a standing desk.
The good news is that if weight loss is one of your health goals, then making improvements in other areas – like eating better and exercising regularly – can have a positive impact on both your weight and your overall, long-term health. Cheers to you as you make strides toward better health!
A little healthy motivation never hurts
Check out our Healthy Living Motivation Pinterest board for inspirational quotes, motivational tips and empowering messages to help you stay on track.
- American Council on Exercise – acefitness.org
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – nhlbi.nih.gov
- American Heart Association – heart.org
- American Cancer Society – cancer.org