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Losing the Last 10 Pounds

Losing the Last 10 Pounds

Feature Article


The Last 10 Pounds
An Article by Atkins Center writer Sheila Buff.

Here's a very simple equation: Losing excess weight equals feeling better. How much better? In most cases, a lot. Many health problems markedly improve when you slim down.

But do you have to get down to your goal weight for the health benefits to kick in? Absolutely not. Many studies have shown that if you're overweight, losing just 10 percent of your excess weight can lead to real health improvements. High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a good example of how modest weight loss can improve a potentially life-threatening condition. If you're overweight, losing even a little can help you get your blood pressure under control. For every pound you lose, your systolic blood pressure (the higher number in the reading) will probably drop by about a point. Losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight could make the difference between needing blood-pressure medication and being able to take less of it, or stop taking it altogether. And improved blood pressure reduces your risk of a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease.

Modest weight loss can also be extremely helpful for overweight people with Type II diabetes. Many studies have shown that it only takes a loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of your excess weight to stop using insulin or oral medication.

The evidence for the value of modest weight loss recently got even stronger with a 2002 study of heart-disease markers in women of normal weight compared to those who are overweight. The study showed that when the overweight women lost only 10 percent of their body weight over the course of a year, their heart-disease markers fell to much better levels. In fact, their levels were very close to those of the normal-weight women.

In just about every case, losing the first 10 percent to 20 percent of your body weight also helps improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, stabilize your blood sugar and lower your blood pressure. Your new numbers still may not be where you and your doctor would like them to be, but you'll be on the way to better health.

Finally, you'll reach a point where you're feeling great, looking good and amazing your doctor with the improvement in your health; and you're still 10 or 15 pounds above your goal weight. Do you need to lose those last pounds? Not really. Even if you weigh about 10 percent above your goal weight; say, 145 pounds when you ideally should be at 130; you're now easily within the healthy range. What's far more important than struggling to lose those final few pounds is keeping off all the weight you've already lost. How do you do that? Look back with pride on what you've already accomplished and see how positively you've changed your life. Keep active, don't let those excess carbs creep back into your diet and enjoy your newfound health and energy.

Achieving a Realistic Goal...

In practical terms, what does modest weight loss mean? Let's say you're a woman who's 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. That gives you a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 33. Ideally, you should weigh 148 pounds and have a BMI of 24. Realistically, your goal weight might be somewhat higher, especially if you have a stocky build, are menopausal or must take medicine that limits your ability to lose weight. (The BMI is a useful guide to find out if you're overweight and what your goal weight should be. Use the Body Mass Index chart to check your own BMI. A BMI between 24.9 and 29.9 means you're overweight; a BMI above 30 means you're obese.)

To reach your desired weight you would have to lose 52 pounds. That's a big challenge; one so big that you might quickly get discouraged or decide not to slim down at all. But losing only 5 percent of 200 pounds means losing just 10 pounds, which will make your BMI drop from 33 to 32. Losing 10 pounds or going down one BMI level are goals you can definitely achieve and maintain, especially if you're following the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Those pounds could be gone within a month or two on Induction and during that time you'll enjoy great food without being hungry. When you've lost those first 10 pounds, you'll already be feeling better and looking better; exactly the motivation you need to get started on losing the next 10 pounds.