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Is Your Excess Weight a Health Risk?


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    Oh, the weight conversation! Because of the fatphobia of society, including doctors, many people are shamed for their weight instead of being met with a compassionate and honest conversation. 

    When it comes to making decisions about your weight and your health, you deserve a more nuanced approach than, “Your BMI is too high; you need to eat less,” or, on the other end of the spectrum, “Your weight has nothing to do with your health.” 

    So what’s the full story? Let’s break down how to tell if your weight is actually a health risk for you and, if so, what you can do about it. 

    The Answer Is Subjective  

    Because weight—and the decision to lose weight—is so deeply personal, ultimately, you are the one who needs to determine how much risk you are willing to assume when it comes to carrying excess weight. 

    Overwhelmingly, the scientific evidence links obesity to health issues down the road, which we’ll unpack below. 

    But not everyone is at the same level of health risk, and not every single person with excess weight is dealing with a disease. Some people might actually decide they’re okay with carrying excess weight, and the rest of us need to respect that. 

    For example, for those who have struggled with disordered eating and put on weight during recovery, it often is overall safer to live with excess weight and potentially assume other health risks for the sake of their mental well-being and quality of life.

    So with all that said, let’s unpack the health risks associated with excess weight so you can make an informed decision for you

    What Is Excess Weight, Exactly? 

    Doctors use body mass index (BMI) as a starting point to determine excess weight. There is a lot of controversy around BMI, but for purposes of this conversation, here’s a good rule of thumb: BMIs over 30, combined with large midsections, indicate increased future risk for a variety of illnesses. 

    You can use our BMI calculator here to find your BMI. 

    Health Problems Linked to Obesity 

    Not everyone with obesity will have another condition, and not everyone with one of these conditions is obese. It’s important to be aware that every person’s health journey is unique—and this information should be used to help you make decisions about your own health, not place judgment on others.  

    With that said, these are the diseases that clinical research has linked to obesity. 


    The latest study on this topic has revealed that being overweight or obese leads to a greater risk of developing up to 18 different types of cancer, including: 

    • Leukemia 
    • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
    • Head and neck 
    • Bladder 
    • Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
    • Breast cancer in women who have gone through menopause 
    • Colon and rectum cancer 
    • Uterus 
    • Gallbladder 
    • Upper stomach
    • Kidney
    • Liver 
    • Ovaries
    • Pancreas 
    • Thyroid
    • Meningioma (a type of brain cancer)
    • Multiple myeloma 


    Research suggests a physiological link between obesity and depression. The cycle of both depression and obesity can be hard to break, but patients deserve access to medical care for both conditions rather than the stigma associated with them. 


    Hormonal imbalances like PCOS are linked with insulin resistance, which often is the root cause of weight gain. Unfortunately, excess adipose tissue also contributes to hormonal imbalance, furthering issues with ovulation and menstrual function. 

    Although it’s unclear if excess weight is the cause of infertility, research shows that ovulatory dysfunction and menstrual irregularity problems are much more common in overweight and obese patients. 

    Type 2 Diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels, is strongly associated with obesity. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes significantly increases with excess body weight, particularly abdominal obesity. The correlation is so strong that more than 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. 

    Joint Pain

    Joint pain is another condition linked to obesity, especially in the weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. The added strain on joints due to excess body weight can accelerate the wear and tear of cartilage and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.


    Obesity has also been identified as a significant risk factor for dementia. Studies have shown that midlife obesity is associated with an increased risk of dementia later in life. The exact mechanisms connecting obesity and dementia are not entirely understood, but factors like vascular damage, inflammation, and insulin resistance likely contribute to the association. 

    Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by repeated breathing interruptions during sleep, is closely linked to obesity. Research has indicated that excess fat around the neck and throat can cause airway obstruction, leading to sleep apnea.

    Heart Disease

    Heart disease is a well-established consequence of obesity. The American Heart Association states that obesity is associated with numerous risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance. Research has consistently demonstrated that obesity increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.

    Overall Mortality 

    Finally, obesity is linked to overall mortality. Several large-scale studies have found a direct relationship between excess body weight and an increased risk of premature death. 

    What To Do Next 

    Take Your Labs

    You need more information than weight alone to determine health risks. Getting a health panel done can help you understand how healthy you are, regardless of weight. You can have your doctor take your labs—or you can do them at home with our Weight Biology Kit, which can tell you how metabolically healthy you are.  

    Consider GLP-1 Medications 

    For those who conclude that their excess weight is putting them at risk, GLP-1 medications are a medical breakthrough that can help not only manage weight but also improve other conditions like cardiovascular health and sleep apnea. You can download our complete guide to FDA-Approved Weight Loss Medication here to learn more about the medications available. 

    If you want more dedicated medical help to reach your healthiest weight, you can apply to work with our founder, Dr. Alexandra Sowa, as part of our Virtual Weight Clinic here!  


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