Magazines are full of amazing stories of people losing half their body weight, and of course for people who are extremely overweight, sometimes that is necessary. But did you know that losing just 10% of your body weight could make a huge difference to your health?
How much is 10%, though? Well, if you weigh 11 st, that's 15 lbs - or just over a stone. If you weigh 10 st, that's 14 lbs - exactly a stone. Of course if you're a sylph-like 8 st, you almost certainly shouldn't be trying to lose weight: this is only for those who genuinely are overweight. But if you are overweight, losing 10% is not only manageable but beneficial.
Here are five powerful reasons to lose 10%:
1. It will help you live longer. Losing between 5% and 10% of your body weight can bring about a significant improvement to your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes
2. It will help your knees. Excess weight can put stress on your knee joints, but losing between 5% and 10% of your body weight will take the pressure off your joints and help them to move more easily
3. It will improve your sleep. If you're overweight, the fat around your neck can obstruct your airways as you sleep, and sleep apnoea, which causes people to stop breathing for short periods throughout the night, has been linked to obesity. In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, obese adults diagnosed with sleep apnoea who lost an average of 24 lbs experienced fewer pauses in breathing, and 14% found their sleep apnoea completely cured
4. You'll have more energy. People carrying excess weight often complain of feeling tired and lethargic, as carrying around excess weight takes its toll on the body. Many people who lose even a modest amount of weight report improved energy levels almost immediately
5. You'll have better bladder control. People don't like to talk about it, but the truth is that urinary incontinence is often linked to obesity. In a Brown University study, women who lost between five and 10% of their body weight significantly reduced their number of urinary incontinence episodes.
If you're in any doubt about whether you should lose weight, how much you should lose and how to go about doing it safely, speak to your GP.
Patricia Carswell is a freelance journalist and award-winning blogger specialising in health and fitness. She has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, Times Online, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, Metro and a wide variety of national magazines and websites. She blogs at www.sportyoverforty.com and www.girlontheriver.com and has a particular interest in fitness for the over-40s.