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Is diet more important? Or exercise? Or both? There are many indicators of health, and weight is just one of them. That said, weight loss is a popular goal for many people trying to lose weight and improve their health.

Excess weight can take a toll on your body, especially your heart. The good news is that there are steps you can take to get healthier — and even losing a little body weight can start you on the right path.

This week on Wellness Wednesday, Gisele Wertheim Aymes spoke to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Florencia Halperin. Dr. Halperin is from Form Health, an app using doctors and registered dieticians who assist in creating your own personalized weight loss path, to be with you each step of the way along your weight loss journey.

Why lose weight?

If you’re extremely obese, losing weight can mean fewer chances of getting diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes. In fact, research shows losing as little as 5% of your body weight can improve your health in many ways.

Dr. Halperin adds “A small modest amount of weight loss can really improve people’s health and really go a long way toward prevention”.

There are many reasons why some people have difficulty losing weight. Usually, obesity results from inherited, physiological and environmental factors, combined with diet, physical activity, and exercise choices.

liposuction results after 3 weeks | longevity liveHow much of your weight depends on your genes?

Your weight depends on the number of calories you consume, how many of those calories you store, and how many you burn up. But each of these factors is influenced by a combination of genes and environment. Both can affect your physiology (such as how fast you burn calories) as well as your behavior (the types of foods you choose to eat, for instance). The interplay between all these factors begins at the moment of your conception and continues throughout your life.

“It’s very complex. So the reasons why someone gains weight or lives at a higher weight than another person are not fully understood, but we do know a lot about it, and it’s very complex. Sure there are biological factors and genes that your parents gave you, we definitely see that weight. Access weight tracks in families. We’ve recently seen research on how you can calculate based on different gene files that people have.”

Environmental causes of obesity

Genetic factors are the forces inside you that help you gain weight and stay overweight; environmental factors are the outside forces that contribute to these problems. They encompass anything in our environment that makes us more likely to eat too much or exercise too little. Taken together, experts think that environmental factors are the driving force for the causes of obesity and its dramatic rise.

Florencia Halperin MD

Florencia Halperin MD

Environmental influences come into play very early, even before you’re born. Researchers sometimes call these in-utero exposures “fetal programming.” Babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to become overweight than those whose mothers didn’t smoke. The same is true for babies born to mothers who have diabetes. Researchers believe these conditions may somehow alter the growing baby’s metabolism in ways that show up later in life.

“Within the same individual, there are many life phases. We’ve seen women go through menopause. Some feel like they have gained, and their weight is redistributed, so they get more weight in the middle. Women after childbirth often have difficulties losing the weight they gained during pregnancy and don’t go back to where they started. If you have a couple of pregnancies, then you end up at a higher weight. So many life scenarios get in the way.”

How to Get Healthier

If you’re extremely obese, taking action to lose weight and improve your health may seem overwhelming. You may have had trouble losing weight or maintaining your weight loss, been diagnosed with medical issues, and endured the social stigma of obesity.

“The only treatments that work are those that people can do and are sustainable for them. We think about how we make someone live a healthy lifestyle. Make healthy choices, and we can talk a lot more about this. That’s how we make a success. How can we make a plan for them and how it is something they can hold on to for the rest of their lives.”

obesityHow your metabolism works when losing weight

Your metabolism is the process through which your body converts the food you eat into energy. Metabolism varies from person to person. Scientists don’t know everything about why that is. But they do know that part of that variation has to do with the composition of fat versus muscle in your body. It also varies by gender — men have faster metabolisms because they have more muscle.

Hormones in your brain conspire to make you hungrier when you lose weight.

Your hormones change in ways that alter your appetite. While a lot of different hormones are involved in hunger, one of them is leptin, which is released by fat cells and basically tells your brain when to eat and when to stop eating. As you lose weight, your leptin levels drop.

“So when you do a crash diet, when you lose weight for a few months and your body is driving up your hunger hormones and slowing your metabolism. It becomes much harder to lose weight and once you stop this nutrition plan, you’ll go back to eating how you were eating before and the weight is going to go back on”.

Treatment Options

Talk to your doctor about the health benefits and the risks of treatment options for extreme obesity:

  1. Change your diet. You may be referred to a dietician who can help you with a plan. To lose weight, you have to reduce the number of calories you consume. Start tracking everything you eat. “Many things can work, some things do work scientifically and clearly better than others. There isn’t one diet that is hands down the best. But there are many diets that have been shown very clearly and very good studies on how to lose weight. So then the next step is we would have to find the right fit for the right person. The reality is, different people, respond in different ways. We can’t do genetic testing to decide which one your body is going to respond best to. But we can try different things and learn through testing. Of all the options, this one seems to work best for you because you seem to lose a bit of weight and do find it easier, so you can do it, day to day.”
  2. Consider adding physical activity, reaching a minimum of 10% weight-loss goal. “Physical activity is a very critical factor in keeping the weight off. You do all this work to lose weight, and you want to keep it off, and scientifically it clearly shows that the more exercises you do, the better you are going to be able to maintain those losses over time”.
  3. Medication. Some people can benefit from medication to help with weight loss due to extreme obesity. Keep in mind that medication can be expensive and have side effects.                

Get Help

Although some people can modify their lifestyle and lose weight on their own, many need extra help. A social support system can help encourage your progress and keep you on track. This is one of the reasons the Form Health app was developed.

So we developed an app where all the care happens. When someone joins in to transform their health, what they get is a health physician, medical team, a registered dietitian, and access to our app which gives you the ability to text with your team between visits. This is important because it provides such for people going through lifestyle changes, and we give people support on how to draft their food, draft their exercises and visits.”


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Thapelo Mowela

Thapelo Mowela

Thapelo Mowela is a freelance writer and content producer with a passion for people and their stories. She began her career at the SABC  as one of the producers for a news show. Her job entails, producing , coming up with content and scripting for the news anchors, organizing guest, shooting inserts, voicing inserts and editing. She also gained experience in radio, when she worked as a content producer at Touch HD online. She currently writes fitness and lifestyle columns for a few newspapers. She fell in love with fitness and wants to share with other, ways to better their lifestyles.  In her spare time she’s hiking, travelling, or reading .


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