By Christine Dominguez
Is your ultimate weight loss goal to fit back into your jeans? Or is it to look better for an upcoming wedding or party? The good news: there are several health benefits you might not have realised when shedding the kilos and losing weight - that have nothing to do with a better waistline.
Are you trying to lose weight? Read our comprehensive guide on weight loss to understand where to begin, what happens when you lose weight, and what doesn't work when it comes to dieting.
1. Better sleep
Being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnoea. This is because carrying excess weight can compromise your upper-airway respiratory system as extra fat builds up within your windpipe walls. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, studies have shown that weight loss has the potential to eliminate sleep-disordered breathing.
2. Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
Aside from having a family history of type 2 diabetes, being overweight or obese increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. According to Diabetes NSW*, obese adults are four times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while overweight adults are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight places extra stress on your body, including your body to become resistant to insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas that is needed to convert glucose into energy.
For people with diabetes, the glucose stays in the blood instead of being turned into energy, elevating blood glucose levels and in turn wreaking havoc on the body’s ability to handle carbs. Fortunately, a healthy diet and regular exercise can delay or prevent 58% of cases.
3. Increased sex drive
Think sex drive has nothing to do with weight? According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, obesity is linked with lower testosterone levels in males (which affects sex drive). So by maintaining a healthy weight, not only will you look better naked, you could also be boosting your libido, too.
4. Increased fertility
Losing weight can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
“There is good evidence to suggest that if a woman is overweight and has difficulty conceiving, losing weight can trigger conception,” says Professor Manny Noakes, Research Director for CSIRO’s Nutrition and Health Program.
“We certainly know that when overweight or obese women are on an effective weight management plan, it helps improve fertility.”
5. Better mood
Many of us know that looking good makes us feel good. Whether it’s due to physiological or psychological reasons is unclear, but what we do know is that people who lose weight report feeling empowered and more positive about themselves.
“When people lose weight they feel more in control and they also may be doing more physical activities, which in turn contribute to a better mood,” says Professor Noakes.
6. Reduced cravings
When you’re at a healthy weight, your hunger and satiety hormones are most likely running like clockwork. This is because healthy food choices - such as eating a balanced intake of protein, low GI carbs and good fats at each meal - keep you feeling satiated and less likely to give in to your indulgences.
On the other hand, poor food choices like fast-release, high GI carbs found in most breakfast cereals, bread and rice won’t trigger the satiety hormones that leave you feeling full.
7. Reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis
Carrying excess weight is a bit like carrying excess travel luggage – something is bound to give. “If you’re overweight, the more pressure you’re placing on your joints, especially the knees. Reducing weight can help alleviate the pain relating osteoarthritis,” says Professor Noakes. “There is evidence that losing weight helps to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis as it reduces the inflammation of joints.” So if you want mobile and pain-free joints, it pays to keep your weight in check.
8. Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
“When you drop the weight, your blood pressure goes down meaning your heart doesn’t have to push as hard to deliver blood around your circulatory system,” says Professor Noakes.
There are also changes that happen to your lipid profile in the blood so the elasticity of the arteries and heart rate variability tends to improve, which reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
9. Save money
While buying organic, free-range or whatever healthy foods you subscribe to, keeping trim can save you from medical costs down the track. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, health problems related to excess weight can cost the nation an estimated $56 billion per year.
While eating fresh, wholefoods can be more expensive than fast food or packaged food, there are plenty of cost-saving measures you can take to counteract what you may be spending at the grocery store, such as making batch meals to last you several days and buying foods that are seasonal.
10. Reduce your risk of cancer
“While the research is still growing in this area, there is some evidence that being overweight contributes to your risk of cancer,” says Professor Noakes. “Losing weight can help to reduce some risk of cancer as excess weight and some cancers are related. Breast and colorectal cancer in particular appear to have a relationship to weight.”