## Obesity

**Obesity**

Spring is here. The excesses of the winter holidays are forgotten, as are the New Year's resolutions. But are you the weight you want to be? If you are like most people, the answer is no. "Obesity is an epidemic in the US," the headlines scream. But how do you know if you are ok - just big boned - a few pounds overweight, or a lot overweight?

Medicine has a way of defining the range of normal healthy weights, underweight, overweight and obesity. The BMI, Body Mass Index, calculates the relationship between your height and weight. If your BMI is 19 - 25, you are the correct weight for your height; below 18.5, you are underweight. If your BMI is 25 - 29, you are overweight; if over 30, you are obese. (Note: these norms are different for children, and very muscular people can have a BMI over 25 and still be a healthy weight).

So how do you calculate your BMI? The metric formula is height2/weight. For those of you for whom math was not a strong point, and/or don't know your height and weight in meters and kilograms, get a calculator:

1. For your weight in kg: divide pounds by 2.2 -- Example: 150 lb ÷ 2.2 = 68 kg

2. For your height in meters: multiply height in inches x 2.54 and divide by 100

Example: height 5ft 3 in = 63 in x 2.54 = 160 cm = 1.60 meters

3. Square your height: Example: 1.6 x 1.6 = 2.56.

4. Divide your weight (#1) by your squared height (#3): 68 ÷ 2.56 = 26.6 (BMI)

The woman in our example has a BMI of 26.6, and therefore is slightly overweight. How much would she have to lose to be in the normal range? Move the formula around to see: BMI x height2 = weight. She wants a BMI of 25, and her height will not change, so: 25 x 2.56 = 64kg. In other words, if she looses 4 kg, about 10 pounds, she will be a healthy, normal weight.

Does this math equation just make things more confusing? I hope not. I hope you can use the information to help you obtain and maintain the weight you would like. It is important. A person who is obese has double the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and cancer of the breast, uterus, ovary, prostate and colon. For every 10 pounds we are overweight, we increase our risk of getting these terrible diseases.

If you are seriously overweight, I am NOT advocating going on a diet. A person with a weight problem has lost and gained hundreds of pounds over her or his lifetime. Diets are a billion dollar industry because they don't work for the vast majority of people. And they are unhealthy. The dieter usually regains the lost weight very quickly, and the yo-yo weight and sense of deprivation are depressing. Healthy eaters have desserts and wine and other treats, and you can too.

Obesity has become an epidemic because people eat too much at every meal and between meals. The size of the portions on our plates has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and our weights have followed.

Eating healthy, satisfying meals is a skill. The choice of foods, the portion size, the seasoning are all-important, and the knowledge is not simple to obtain. You may hire a dietician or research the library or the web to learn how to prepare meals that keep you satisfied while slowly losing weight. Most important is to learn how to eat smaller portions of good tasting food. Keep your goals obtainable and reasonable. If you set a goal of losing 1 pound a week (2 kg a month), you will have lost more than 50 pounds by next Valentine's Day, and you will have learned how to eat to stay healthy.

If you have any questions or comments or if there is a topic you would like me to write about, please let me know through the email address on the contact page.

Maquita Schwarz (a.k.a. Dr. Guild)