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Health and weight (young people)

The physical benefits of losing weight

"If you don’t have your health it’s very hard to have anything else, or appreciate anything else so to speak. If you’re ill it doesn’t really matter how much money you’ve got because you won’t appreciate it because you’re ill".
 
There are definite health benefits that overweight or obese people can gain from losing some weight, for example, reducing the chance of developing certain diseases. For most obese or overweight people health benefits can come with losing the first 5*-10% of weight.
 
Feeling ‘better’

The physical and health rewards of losing weight were described as ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, ‘unbelievable’ by some young people. Changes young people noticed since losing weight included:
 
  • • Having more energy
  • • Sleeping better and waking up feeling rested and in a good mood
  • • Having fewer aches and pains
  • • Improved ability to move and get around
  • • Finding it easier to breathe
  • • Improved immune system (ability to fight off illness)
 

Alex has noticed that everyday activities are easier and, because she sleeps better at night, she wakes up feeling more energetic and positive.

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Age at interview: 14
Sex: Female
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You said that it’s really helped your health generally and your fitness and things. And I mean do you think that it’s important to be healthy?
 
Yes. Because like everyday tasks like going upstairs and just like going for a walk, taking the dog out, like things like that just seem a lot easier and don’t seem like a chore any more. It just seems like, say if my dad says, “Will you just go and get me this from my room?” “I’ll just say, “Yes,” whereas before I used to think, “Oh, I don’t want to run upstairs.” But just everyday things really have just come a lot easier and things like that. And just like, you just like, you just think, in a morning like when I used to wake up I used to think, “Oh, I’m tired. I don’t want to get up and go to school.” But now I think, now I’m just like up and awake and want to go to school all the time, and it’s just good fun.
 
So what kind of things did you want to change?
 
I wanted to be like more active and just lead a healthier life and things like that.
 
And what do you mean by a healthier life?
 
To be more ac-, to like join in more exercise and go out on more walks and things like that.
 
And were you not doing things like that before then?
 
No. I used, I like, I trampoline. And I go, still go once a week, but I’m thinking it’s not enough. So I like joined clubs after school and they set up programmes before school. So it helped quite a lot.
 
So what sort of things do you do then?
 
I cheerlead.
 
Wow.
 
Trampoline, basketball, dance, just ordinary things. But like if you keep them going like every week, you benefit from it.
 
How do you benefit?
 
You just feel better in yourself. Like you feel like you can do more things. Like before, getting to the top of the school by the stairs used to be like a st-, well, not a struggle, but I used to feel, “Oh, I’m out of breath.” But now you just think, I just think, “Oh, I’m, it’s fine. I can get up to the top of the stairs.” And just ordinary like daily life things have become a lot easier. 
 

Since her gastric bypass surgery, Gemma has lost five stone and is amazed at the positive impact it's had on her life

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Sex: Female
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Like I said before there is so much more plus sides to it then, then if you think of before I mean a really big plus side for me is I’m more energetic. And movement...
 
[Laughs] Movement has just become so much, more I mean like now, I, when I go out, a typical day for me now is like I get up go to college, from college I’ll be running up and down stairs, well walking up and down stairs should I say. And we do that so many times like there’s me and these two mates of mine, my mate she is a big lass, so I feel like I fit in. And we go out, we go on buses, we go up to Tesco, walk about supermarket, we, you just generally having a laugh and then we walked it up to Tesco the other day and that were like about a twenty five minute walk. Now for me to do that were just, it were weird but you’ve got so much more energy you think, well for my size you should I really be able to do this? And sometimes I can walk as fast as my sister. Well she can walk, and it’s just really, really weird. And like clothes, I got, well from [my friend], her mother knows someone who had gastric bypass done, now so I didn’t have to buy any clothes she gave me absolutely loads, so that really, really helps me and like this, this coat that I actually have on, wouldn’t even go to there on me. And now it fastens, but it’s tight, but it’s, you know, it’s just amazing to see how in fourteen weeks how it can just put so much in, good impact on someone’s life. But I mean it’s not like that for everybody else. Well might be like that for some but not for everybody, but it has made one big difference for me. 
 
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Becca has experienced 'awesome' benefits since starting to lose weight.

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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I started losing weight November last year so it has been a good two or three months now and like the benefits of it have been just awesome really [laughs] just like, you know, I have felt so much better in myself and I have felt, you know, that, like because I am on a thing where I get weighed every week and it, like on a, it’s, it’s, I don’t like to call it a diet but it is like healthy eating, and it does help me stay on track, so if I go and get weighed and I have lost weight you, you think, you have got the next week thinking ‘I want to do that again’ because that kind of rush that you get from knowing that you have done something good to your body by losing weight, I mean obviously like I need to lose weight but for me knowing that I have lost weight is a good thing and, you know, so, yeah it is, I think it is important to be healthy because I, like when I wasn’t healthy, I mean I am not, you know, completely healthy now but you do you are like, you are just so like lethargic and you just got, and it is just, you know, now I am a lot brighter, I’m a lot, you know, my health, I haven’t, I would get the flu and I would have it like six months maybe just, you know, because my immune system could not fight it?

But now, you know, I have become better at if I, if I have become, I did become ill in December just with the flu like everyone had, and it, like I did have it maybe a month or maybe two actually but, you know, I, I didn’t necessarily feel like crap every single day whereas before I would, you know, it was easier to fight it I think so yeah, yeah I think it is, it is important, very important because it has made such a difference to me and I think, you know, yeah I really do think it is important. 

Reducing the risk of disease

Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes are less likely to develop if an obese person loses 10% of their weight. Weight loss can also help if a person already has high blood pressure or Types 2 diabetes type 2 as a result of their weight. If a person is taking medication for these problems and loses weight, they should consult their doctor as they may need a smaller dose. Weight loss in overweight or obese people will also reduce the likelihood of having heart disease, stroke, or obesity-related cancers all of which can be life-threatening. For links to more information see our resources section.
 
Those who were at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes had been told by their doctors that their blood sugar levels had much improved and that their risk of developing the condition had reduced since losing weight. Those with asthma had noticed a significant improvement in their condition and had either no need to take much medication or their asthma was simply no longer a medical issue.
 

Emily is happy that her risk of developing diabetes has reduced since she lost weight.

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Sex: Female
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I feel really happy because, you know, I know that my risks of getting things like diabetes and heart problems has gone way down to what it would’ve been if I’d carried on. I think I was in something like category four, for diabetes when I started, and I’m now in something like category 2 or 3, something like that.
 
So it’s gone right down. So, so it’s less likely for me to get things like that now so that’s, I’m really happy about that.
 
And I’m quite happy with the way I look as well. 
 
 

Since losing four stone Emma no longer suffers from asthma.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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And when you were having the problems with your weight, I mean did you have any worries about your health?
 
I had, I did have asthma. Yeah, I did have asthma quite bad.
 
But, I did grow out of it when like I started looking at my weight and things, I grew out of it.
 
So was that connected to your weight then?
 
I don’t know. I don’t know what it were connected to, but I did, when I started losing weight, I grew out of it, so it probably will have been connected to my weight yeah.
 
And did that used to, did the asthma used to cause you any problems?
 
I used to struggle with quite a lot of things, yeah. ‘Cos of theasthma. 
 

Alex no longer needs her inhaler and in PE Health and Fitness tests she performs much better than...

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Age at interview: 14
Sex: Female
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You were saying you also have asthma?
 
It’s, because, I think it’s because more exercise and things. And because I’ve lost the weight, it’s made my asthma better. And like at school in PE we do like health and fitness. And like before I used to, like the bleep test, I used to get like 4s and things like that.
 
What’s that sorry?
 
That’s the bleep test. And it’s like, you have a room and it’s measured out and you have to run from one wall to another before the beep. And then it ge-, the beep gets quicker, so you have to run quicker. And it, there’s like ten beeps in a level, and so like I used to get to like level 4. So that’s like forty times. But now I’m like, we did one last week and I got up to level 7, like level 7, so.
 
Wow.
 
It’s like improved my health as, a lot. And like I don’t, need my inhaler like. I used to have to take it everywhere because I thought, if I’m walking or anything. But now I don’t really need it that much. Because I just think, “No, I’m all right. I don’t need it.”
 
That’s good.
 
So that’s helped a lot. 
Talking with the young people, it was clear that health, rather than weight was a priority for them. The two most important reasons given for losing weight were:

• To improve health
• To improve chances of living a long and healthier life
Most young people understood the relationship between diet, exercise and well-being (see also Healthy eating).
 

Edward thinks a healthy diet is important for reducing the risk of getting serious conditions such as diabetes.

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Sex: Male
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And do you think it’s important to be healthy?
 
Very important. Very important. If you don’t have your health it’s very hard to have anything else, or appreciate anything else so to speak. If you’re ill it doesn’t really matter how much money you’ve got because you won’t appreciate it because you’re ill. [Um], you know a typical example is the sort of “Fresher’s Flu” which nearly Uni student will get, once you have it, it’s horrible and you can’t really learn that much because you just feel like crap. That’s pretty much an example of how being ill will affect your life. So by being healthy you can really avoid a lot of the consequences, and when I used to do a lot of voluntary work in say hospices or mental health care homes, you realise that diet is, I don’t want to be a reductionist and say it’s responsible for everything, but by having a healthy diet you really, really do reduce your chances of a lot of diseases to very, very, very small numbers, so that’s why it’s a very important thing I think. 
 

Emily says that her diet when she was overweight was very bad and she is surprised not to have developed a serious illness as a result.

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Sex: Female
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Fat just causes you problems, it like blocks your arteries, and it, and it can cause diabetes, it can cause heart problems which can make you live not as long as you would as if you were healthy. So if you’re healthy it’s better. Because you live longer, you’re happier and you can do, you can like run around if you want to, and so I, and I’ve found it, I can now get to the top floor of my, of my school building with only being a little bit out of breath, which most people are anyway [laughs].
 
The health problems that you mentioned that could happen, is that something that you were worried about at all?
 
Well because that that was what was what was mentioned in the letter that I got as well, so I was worried and I mean I was quite surprised that I hadn’t had any of them already because I’d been, not been eating very healthily probably for all of my life.
 
So I was quite surprised at, I knew that you could get health problems because we’d been taught in science and in school and stuff.
 
But I was just quite shocked that I hadn’t had any, and I’m lucky as well ‘cos if you live the way that I’ve lived then [laughs].
 
So what kind of things did you use to eat before?
 
Oh I used to have things like chips, and like chicken nuggets, and I used to, we used to have like fish and chips every night, and stuff like that. I would eat things like pasta because I like pasta, rice and all that anyway, but I just wouldn’t have it with a meal if you know what I mean?
 
Like I could just eat rice on its own, because I wouldn’t like any other sauce or anything.
 
But I would mainly have things like chips and things that are like deep fat fried and [eugh], I can’t even make my brother chips anymore without making me feel ill.
 
Really, so you don’t have anything like that?
 
I don’t have anything like that; I’ve not had it for months. 
Many of the young people we spoke to didn’t link being thin with being healthy neither did they associate a big body frame with necessarily being unhealthy. For them the issue was whether their weight was related to having more muscle or fat in their body. Many young people under 15 who had been on community-based weight managing programmes are well-informed about the damaging effects of being overweight and obese. They were able to describe how fat clogs vital organs in the body with harmful health consequences.
 

Emily says it's not being thin but being healthy that counts.

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Sex: Female
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And do you think it’s important to lose weight, to be thin?
 
It’s not to be thin because you could be like, you could gain weight but it would be muscle instead of fat, ‘cos fat just causes you problems, it like blocks your arteries, and it, and it can cause diabetes, it can cause heart problems which can make you live not as long as you would as if you were healthy. So if you’re healthy it’s better. Because you live longer, you’re happier and you can do, you can like run around if you want to, and so I, and I’ve found it, I can now get to the top floor of my, of my school building with only being a little bit out of breath, which most people are anyway [laughs].
 
Do you think it’s possible to be bigger or heavier and also to be fit?
 
Well, yeah you could, ‘cos you could be like really, you could have a different build, like you could have like a really muscley build and you could weigh more than like 12 stone or something like that, but you could still be healthy on the inside.
 
So yeah, but it is possible for you to be big, but if, if you don’t do exercise and you, you know, if you know that it’s, you’re overweight you kind of got to just take action really.
 

Reg worries about what excess fat does to the body. She thinks life would be better without it.

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Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
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Do you think it's important to be thin?
 
I don't think it's very important. But I think it's quite a big, it's got a bit of importance to it.
 
Why?
 
Because when you're overweight, the fat around your organs is quite, quite serious because it can restrict your breathing. And it can get your arteries clogged and stuff like that.
 
Do you worry about things like that?
 
Well, I do worry about it. But I don't think I'm as bad as a lot of people because a lot of people are load-, really a lot bigger than me. And I'm more worried for them than I am for me because I'm not as big as people think I am.
 
Why is that important?
 
Because well it's the fat thing again, because without the fat, then you'd be able to like do stuff that you'd never think you'd be able to do. And it’d just be a lot healthier for you. And you'd be able to live your life without faults and yeah.
 
And what kind of thing would you be able to do? What kinds of things do you mean?
 
Run faster. Run distances without getting too out of breath. Doing exercises without getting too out of breath. Probably, I don't know. I'd say go out in a skirt without leggings.
 
That’s what I would say [laughs]. 
 
 

*Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans with Obesity. Faidon Magkos, Gemma Fraterrigo, Jun Yoshino, Courtney Luecking, Kyleigh Kirbach, Shannon C. Kelly, Lisa de las Fuentes, Songbing He, Adewole L. Okunade, Bruce W. Patterson, Samuel Klein. Published: February 22, 2016 Cell Metabolism. Volume 23, Issue 4, 12 April 2016, Pages 591–601

Last reviewed July 2017.
​Last updated July 2017.

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