May is Women’s Health Month and serves as a reminder for women of all ages to make their health a priority. Among the health challenges many women face is obesity. Women are more likely than men to have obesity and extreme obesity, and this risk increases for minority and low-income women, with more than 40 percent of women who live below the poverty level having obesity. Similarly, Hispanic and African American women are twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to Caucasian women.
Unsurprisingly, women try a greater variety of weight loss programs and, in a given year, more than half of the female population of the United States makes an attempt at weight loss. Although losing weight is difficult for both men and women, women often maintain greater responsibility for balancing family and work obligations, which can impact and limit their options for exercise and healthy food choices.
In addition, women traditionally are the primary caregivers in families, not only for children but also for aging or ill parents and other family members. This takes away from the amount of time and effort they can spend on their own health and well-being. Women also are more often tasked with grocery shopping, so limited local options for healthy food or concerns about crime or their safety may prevent them from traveling to beyond their neighborhood or leaving their home after dark. Safety concerns may also prevent them from engaging in any exercise outside the home.
Research suggests that there is no specific diet to help women lose and maintain weight. As such, other factors such as individual motivation, convenience and the ability to incorporate a weight loss program into an already busy schedule often dictate a selected approach. For women with obesity, a Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD), such as Robard’s medically-supervised New Direction Advanced or Numetra, checks all the boxes. In addition to the flexibility and convenience of pre-packaged and easy-to-prepare meals, the medical benefits that accompany weight loss can be seen quickly with even a small weight loss of five percent.
Reduction in hypertension, serum lipid levels and triglyceride levels, combined with improvement to glucose levels and insulin levels offer not only physical benefits, but also are associated with improved self-esteem and feelings of well-being. Importantly, people who have lost weight using a VLCD also have indicated a greater tolerance for exercise, which is another critical step in adopting a lifestyle intervention.
Throughout this month we will focus on the impact of obesity on different women’s health issues related to obesity, including fertility, pregnancy, cancer and menopause. Next week we will look at the risk of, and misperceptions about obesity and osteoporosis.