Obesity Impacts Your Brain, and Not in a Good Way

We all know by now that being obese negatively impacts us. It’s just a fact. Even though no one likes to talk about the negative physical and social consequences of obesity, those of us who have lived as obese people know them well.

High blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides are all more common among people who are obese. Although I was in my 20’s and early 30’s during my struggle with obesity, even I was started to notice an increase in my blood pressure. My doctor often counseled me to lose weight to avoid further high blood pressure and to help prevent diabetes or impending cholesterol problems.

I ignored him.

A study that was published in the journal Neurology and reported on by a variety of news organizations such as The Atlantic found that if a person is obese and also suffers from one of these impairments I just listed, they were also more likely to experience more rapid cognitive decline when compared to other people. In people who were obese but did not have high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, or unhealthy cholesterol levels, there was no decrease in cognitive function.

The catch is this: It is the rare obese person who has absolutely no medical consequences of obesity, particularly if they have been obese for any length of time. Which means that here is another great reason to work hard on getting to and staying at a healthy weight. You may benefit your brain.

I know that looking good in clothes and feeling better about yourself is a powerful motivator for many people; however improving your health can be just as powerful. At least it was for me.

I will never forget the day that I decided to change my path. Part of my incentive for losing weight was to look better, but a larger incentive was visualizing the faces of my three small children. I honestly realized in that moment that if I continued eating like I had been for the past 10 years, I might not live long enough to see them all grow up.

Study after study has shown that obesity is dangerous. We all know that and here is yet another study that focuses on brain health, which is something we don’t often associate with obesity. The problem with these studies is simple. It’s one thing to understand in our brains that obesity can be dangerous, and yet another thing entirely to take concrete steps to reverse our course.

I’d encourage you to add this study to your list of reasons to get healthy and stay there. Don’t let it discourage you-but instead let it encourage you to take those concrete steps necessary to change your health (and life) for the better.

My question to you today is simple:

Does your health motivate you to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Diane

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  1. My health now at almost 48 does motivate me to stay in shape and at a proper weight. I don’t want to be on a bunch of medicine in my senior years.

  2. Thanks for pointing this out, Diane! I think many of us are not aware of the many ways obesity has a negative impact on our health. For me, good health is definitely one of the major motivators in keeping active and eating a healthy diet – and reminders of why I’m doing it are always welcome!
    Amy recently posted…Out for a spin, final installmentMy Profile

  3. Lose weight for health reasons? Definitely. I’ve had issues such as acid reflux, reduced libido, excessive snoring, a sore between my thighs that never went away and sore legs after walking 15 minutes. 26kg later, they’re all gone.
    John recently posted…Back in the 60’s (kilograms) and a smartphone rewardMy Profile

  4. Thank you for this blog. I had an unhealthy weekend, and this is just the reminder I need to get back on the healthy lifestyle track. Thank you, thank you!!!!

  5. I am motivated by health more than anything else. And the good news is that anyone can focus on health, no matter how much they weigh. I think the current medical/cultural emphasis on losing weight as a way to get healthy is somewhat skewed and it often has unintended consequences because for most people, “losing weight” = “dieting” and dieting tends to be a short-lived unsuccessful effort. And, I say this from personal experience, bringing up “weight” can be scary and emotional for many people. Being told, “you have to lose weight” can feel so disempowering.

    So I say focus on what you can do right now to improve you health and weight loss will be a “side-effect.” if that’s indeed, what’s needed.

    I am just a few months shy of my 50th birthday and am healthier than I have ever been in my adult life. And no medications for me! :-)
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted…Are All Bodies Morally Neutral?My Profile

  6. I have written about my beginnings to lose weight & how they were superficial things.. as I aged, it became more about health but honestly, superficial stays in there – it feels good to look good BUT the older I got, the more it was/is about health! :-)
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & YOU, the Readers – I Will be Blogging Less!My Profile

  7. Great post! The Neurology study is really interesting. I’m glad you posted about it, or I would have missed it.
    Krissy recently posted…Obesity and Hunter-GatherersMy Profile

  8. Mairi Brown says:

    Even though I was significantly over weight I had low blood pressure and a healthy cholesterol count, genetics I guess. What did motivate me however, was my knees. I have two bad knees from an old car accident and will eventually need an operation on one or both. The thought of that terrifies me and motivates me. Whenever I need to feel motivated I think of going under the knife and I suddenly find the energy to make it to my Zumba class .

  9. Yes. My lab work inspired me to lose weight this time. My HA1C was creeping slowly upwards. I work in health care and I know what type 2 diabetics go though. For me it was important to take swift , permanent action and not ever go back to the old ways of life /eating.

    Now I can save up money for vacations instead of co-pays for doctors office visitis and medications. It was important for me to completely change my diet , and yes diet, and study weight maintnence like a ninja to make it all happen. It was so worth it. Money and life wise.

    I will have my yearly blood work drawn soon. I have to maintain my weight in a healthy BMI or drop 1 BMI point or have a 35 inch waist to have a $30 / month discount on my health insurance. That’s a real bonus for me to save that amount each month. It’s worth gold in the fun times I’ll have with my daughter. Trips to the doctor or trips to fun places. Very motivating.
    Karen P recently posted…Drop the word cheat, replace it with "choice"My Profile

  10. This doesn’t surprise me, I’ve been obese fur 20 years and I know my mind is not a quick to catch on and retain info as it was when I was fit in my 20s. Definitely another reason to get this weight off once and for all.
    Patrick recently posted…Weigh-In WhappMy Profile

  11. Fear of diabetes was my starting motivation and continues to this day. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, I channel it into the choices I make each day.

  12. Of course! I’ve been able to stay very healthy and fit through a lot of effort for a long time. Unfortunately, the down side of that is I am spoiled and so I whine and complain about every little ache and pain, lol! Well, maybe not every one :-)
    Dr. J recently posted…Lab Notes: Overweight Kids More Prone to Gallstones; Women with Alzheimer’s Fare Worse Than MenMy Profile

  13. Family predisposition to obesity and related conditions was and will continue to be a motivating factor for me. That, and I cannot be the kind of mom I want to be when I’m chained down with weight and the accompanying exhaustion! I have good seasons and bad in maintaining and losing, but it’s one of those key reasons I never give up – my call to be a good steward of my body and resources is continual and there is a price to pay if I give that up.

  14. I wish I could say health was a motivating factor for me with weigh loss, but it never really bothered me since I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have an medical effects from obesity (at least not now). The thing that motivated me the most was my dream of becoming a traveler (yes professionally in the PR field). God gave me this image in my head of sitting on an airplane seat with my foot curled up underneath me. It was the final push I needed. So simple, but it was my key.

  15. I would say that I was most motivated by appearances, but as I got older I found that I enjoyed the good health that comes from eating right/exercise and that is what continues to motivate me now. I always had stomach problems as a kid and young adult, and since I’ve been eating more healthfully, I have been able to get off of a medication I was taking for reflux. I know so many people who have medical problems related to their obesity and they are in total denial of it. For me, my 57th bday is in November and I am not on a single medication, nor do I have any chronic condition I need to see a doctor for. That makes me feel proud and makes the effort worthwhile!

  16. Great post! Thanks for doing the leg work and bringing this to our attention through your blog.
    Lori recently posted…Bed Buddies, No MoreMy Profile

  17. I am motivated by the improved quality of my life. I have not had any of the medical conditions associated with obesity although I am obese. I do have the aches and pains and injuries that come from being too heavy. I can’t do all the things I want to do in a given day either because I am tired or because they are out of my reach. That is what motivates me. It works for me because I have daily reminders.

  18. At my age I am more concerned about the health and energy benefits of being fit and healthy. I have a herniated disk in my spine, so the less I weight the less I hurt. Losing weight has made a huge difference in my quality of life and my ability to do the things I want to with my kids.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Results or excusesMy Profile

  19. Thanks for pointing this study out. That image of your kids can be a powerful motivator.

  20. Yikes! I’m definitely more motivated by health now than I was before. It seems like a real thing that can actually happen when it didn’t before, if that makes sense.
    Mary (A Merry Life) recently posted…8 milesMy Profile

  21. “Does your health motivate you to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Diane”

    Finally – Yes! I decided in December 2011 to start a Blog about going from fat to fit. I thought that going public with a blog would be a great motivator because no one wants to fail publicly. Then in January 2012 a younger brother in Arizona was admitted into the hospital with chest pain. At the same time in Texas an older brother was admitted into the hospital with similar symptoms. Both my older and younger brothers are being treated now for heart disease. So yes my health motivates me to get to a healthy weight. I am also trying to be an example now for them as well as myself.
    Marc recently posted…Working out – the fountain of Youth?My Profile

  22. Yes, I want to be healthy. Yes, I want to look good in clothes. But long before I ate myself into obesity, even before I was actually overweight, I wanted to be a normal eater. Someone who can eat a normal amount of food, someone who isn’t thinking about food all the time and someone who isn’t craving junk food. My motivation is to fix the source of the problem not fix the symptoms.

    Knowing that obesity leads to cognitive decline (or other issues) may be motivating, but it’s not helpful. From cognitive behaviour therapy, I learned that anxiety triggers hunger/overeating and the pressure to lose weight because due to all the obesity related issues would certainly increase anxiety.
    Kara recently posted…So you want to become an intuitive eater…My Profile