We all know that overweight is now a serious problem. In the UK, for example, 65% of men and 56% of women are overweight or obese. And it is hard to lose weight because everywhere we look we are encouraged to consume more.
If you want to check whether you are overweight, forget the scales. All you need is a tape measure. Measure your waist at about the level of your belly button, with your tummy relaxed. Women should measure less than 80 cm, and men less than 94 cm. If you measure more than this, check out our Top Tips for losing weight.
Top tips for losing weight
Eat only when you are hungry – not because you are upset or bored.
Eat slowly – put down your knife and fork (or put your sandwich down) between mouthfuls.
Don’t do something else while you are eating (such as TV, reading). Concentrate on your food and enjoy every mouthful.
Pause in the middle of the meal to assess how truly hungry you are still. Then stop eating when you have had enough.
Use a small plate.
Get enough sleep – sleep deprivation can lead to over-eating.
Forget fad diets – it is how you eat rather than what you eat that matters.
Gradually increase the amount of exercise you take: every little helps. Maybe you could use stairs instead if the lift, walk instead of using the car, or make enough time to get off the bus one stop before your destination. Don't be embarrassed about exercising in public, read the amazing 39 stone cyclist's top tips for getting on a bike for inspiration and take the first step.
Being overweight can cause some problems that you may find embarrassing. Here are some of them.
A red rash under the breasts is a problem for many overweight women. This does not mean you are unclean. It is simply that some skin fungi thrive in warm, moist folds of skin, and of course these skin folds are deeper if you are overweight. For more information, see redness under the breasts.
Red rash in the groin occurs for similar reasons to the rash under the breasts. For more information, see jock itch.
Sweating seems to be a common problem. This may be partly because if you are overweight you have to put more effort into any movements that you make. Have a look at the sweating section for advice.
Stretch marks can occur, especially following yo-yo dieting. (Another good reason not to go on fad diets.) There are some treatments, so look at the stretch marks section.
Leaking urine when you cough or sneeze is a very common worry if you are overweight (International Journal of Obesity 2008; 32:1312–8). When we are overweight, fat accumulates inside the abdomen, as well as under the skin. The ‘pelvic floor’ muscles that support the bladder, and help to prevent leakage, cannot cope with the weight of this fat in the abdomen. For more information, look at the section on incontinence of urine.
Sexual problems seem to be more common in overweight people. If you are very overweight, actually having intercourse might be problematic and, in men, erection problems are more likely (International Journal of Impotence Research 2005; 17:391–8). A Swedish survey of overweight women found they had less satisfactory sex lives, and were more likely to try to avoid having intercourse (International Journal of Obesity 2008; 32:1312–18). This might be partly to do with feeling generally unattractive. It was also partly because they were worried about leaking urine during sex (which was more likely to happen than in women of normal weight). Another study, in Italy, reported that being overweight did not affect sexual desire, but did cause problems with becoming sexually aroused, lubrication, and orgasm (International Journal of Impotence Research 2007; 19:353–7). The good news is that if you lose some weight, your sex life should improve; this has been shown by several research studies.
Fast Facts medical handbooks are written for doctors but read by patients too.
Just 5% weight loss can have a massive effect on your health. Find out how your family doctor or practice nurse can help you to lose weight and keep it off.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn Last updated:
Wednesday, July 23rd 2014
Find out more from GP and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond about the causes of enlarged breasts in boys and men, and what you can do if they are causing you pain or discomfort, in his video on male breast enlargement.