Now that the gluttony of Christmas is over, hopefully everyone has had their fill of chocolate, hors d’oeuvres, chips, dips, alcohol and baked goods.  Christmas leads into New Year’s and what would the start of a fresh calendar year be without a resolution.  One of the top New Year’s resolutions consistently, is the desire to lose weight.  Let’s briefly discuss the basic facts about obesity.

Okay, we all have been inundated with government reports, media stories, and advertisements telling us how fat of a nation we have become.  There is no question that in the last 60 years, the general population has become heavier, including children.  Watch an old movie from the 1940’s or 1950’s and observe how thin everyone looked.  Sit down at a mall bench one Saturday afternoon and people watch.  People today are big overall.

Many diseases are linked to excess body weight and body fat such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, joint degeneration, breathing problems and even certain cancers.  Lowered self esteem, depression, fatigue and reduced sex drive (libido), can also result from weight issues.  So, losing weight is not just about looking good, it is about being and staying healthy.

What is the cause of obesity?  Well, at present, doctors and researchers do not agree on a definitive answer.  Most believe that three main factors are likely the culprits.  Firstly, a significant reduction in physical activity over the last many decades due to automation and changes in our living habits have made many of us sedentary.  We just do not need to physically move our bodies as much anymore with the advent of modern appliances, remote control gadgets and urbanization.  In fact, most now pay to exercise.

Secondly, a move from a whole food diet to a high intake of processed wheat and grains, sugar and “junk” food has taken its toll.  As a culture, we are eating too much in general and of the wrong foods.  Eating only what is pleasurable and tastes good and our “supersize” mentality is also to blame for our increased weight.

Thirdly, dysregulation and dysfunction of biological hormones and chemicals that control appetite and weight play a body fat gaining role.  Whether it is due to genetics or man made hormone disruptors, most obese people have abnormalities with body chemicals like insulin, glucose, cortisol, growth and sex hormones, thyroid hormone and weird ones like adiponectin, resistin, chemerin, leptin, gherelin, tumour necrosis factor and interleukin 6.  What is the chicken and the egg is yet to be determined.

What should you weigh?  There is no simple answer as different body types and individual preferences come into play.  But, in the old days, life insurance companies used this formula.  For the first 5 feet of height, an average person should weigh about 100 pounds.  For every inch above 5 feet, add 5-7 pounds.  Therefore, a 5’10” man should weigh between 150-170 pounds.  This is a rough calculation, but gets us “in the ballpark”.

More scientifically, the BMI or Body Mass Index, a mathematical calculation using a person’s current weight and height, gives a more accurate assessment of one’s ideal weight.  Some also use waist circumference as another indicator of weight/body fat status.  The higher the BMI and waist circumference above one’s ideal range, the more risk a person has in regards to health problems associated with their excess weight or body fat.  Below is a link that discusses how to calculate your BMI and waist circumference and how you rate and what the results mean.


In the end, most of us know if we are carrying extra weight and fat. The question is how to get it off.  My next blog will answer that question.


Dr. Garrett Swetlikoff, ND

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