Morbidly obese in your 20s--lower life expectancy?

I have a sort-of-co-worker who’s 22 and weighs about 300 lbs at 6’0". He’s come down from about 350 in the past 8 months and over all is doing very well with his weight loss. He doesn’t eat particularly healthy now, but eats small portions and seems to actually eat vegetables at lunch these days. He says that he’s slowly developing better habits as he loses weight, and is confident that he’ll be able to eat a healthy and balanced diet down the road.

The other day he was talking to me about why he overeats and just really opened up to me, which was actually surprising and very enlightening. He’s been overweight since puberty and really started to gain weight after high school, going from 230 to 350 over the 4 years since then. He then kind of became sullen and mentioned that he doesn’t think he has a chance at living as long as others who grew up with a normal BMI. I tried to encourage him by saying that he can live just as long as anyone else since he’s losing the weight in his early 20s and not waiting another decade or two.

Problem is, I don’t know if that’s correct or not. It seems to me that someone who loses the weight relatively young like that wouldn’t run into the heart problems and health risks associated with a lifetime of obesity. Am I correct?

He should see a doctor for proper medical advice and on how to make a life change so he can lose weight safely.

I haven’t read anything absolute either way.

Morbid obesity has a really bad habit of showing up with artheriosclerosis, which simply does not get better unless you go on a very strict Dean Ornish type diet. However, if there’s one point during an adult’s lifetime when losing the weight will do the most good, it’ll be in the twenties.

Your friend may have some factors on his side that even things out. How long did his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents live? Is there a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease? Diabetes?

I’m reading more and more about connections between obesity and inflammation. Obesity causes inflammation when adipose tissue releases cytokines. Inflammation can exacerbate obesity. Inflammation plays a leading role in plaque formation in the arteries, depression, and other major health problems.

I guess the bottom line is that your friend stands a chance of living just as long as people who’ve never been obese, if he loses the weight, keeps an eye on his health, and takes preventive measures for illnesses he’s predisposed to. If he doesn’t lose the weight, he’s going to lose a minimum of five to ten years off his lifespan, and the quality of his life will be much lower.

(And please tell him that I throw him kisses and cheers and roses for having lost 50 pounds. Go him!)

You have to look at this like smoking or getting a suntan.

Being overweight stresses the heart and will cause problems. But these aren’t going to show up for the average Joe for years. This is why young people smoke and get suntans, because when you’re 20, it seems inconceivable you’ll ever be 40.

And that’s when the problems usually start. If you are otherwise healthy, even if you’re obese the problems don’t show up immediately.

Though we all like to think it was that last box of ice cream bars that made us fat, no one gets fat overnight, and you aren’t going to get thin again overnight. And no one wants to be fat. I mean no one says (with the exception of Bart Simpson) “I’m want to grow up to be fat.”

It’s something that happens and sort of sneaks up on you, while your busy living your life.

Eventually a person does look in the mirror and sees a fat person and starts to panic, thinking “OH my God, how did this happen.” Then they start feeling they can’t ever get the weight off and they eat more, it’s a vicious cycle.

And like with smoking it’s hard to scare someone into losing weight, 'cause they won’t see the real problems till later.

In my experience a person isn’t going to lose the weight till they are darn good and ready too. You have to have a reason or at least a reason to hope you will be able to pull it off.

Some people get stuck in the “I just can’t lose weight.” Which is a lie of course, if I stick you in a room and lock you away and feed you bread and water for a month, you’re gonna lose between 1/3 and 1/2 your body weight. You WILL lose it. Of course it’s not healthy to do so and you’ll just gain it back.

All you can do is encourage your friend to seek others who lost weight so he can see it’s not hopeless.

I think that is basically the answer to all questions of motivation and “will power”. They entirely revolve around those two factors, the strength of your desire to do something and your belief that you can.

I’m going to have to disagree, don’t ask.

I’ve been overweight since I was fourteen. Believe me, through the years, I’ve had all the motivation and will power in the world. I never lost any significant weight until this past year. What changed? I was formally diagnosed with ADD and given medication for it, and my GP recognized that my weight had impaired my body’s ability to respond to insulin. He prescribed an insulin resensitizer. I’m down 45 pounds at last weigh-in, and I have no more “willpower” than I did ten or twenty years ago.

I have a technician who is 27 years old, 5’ 10", and weighs 360 lbs. His belly looks like it’s about ready to burst. Literally. He said his weight has already caused him health problems.

A couple times over the past month he has asked me for advice on how to lose weight. (I used to be fat. But I’ve permanently kept it off for over 10 years.) I gave him some advice, but it’s apparent he’s completely incapable of eating better and eating less. He is addicted to eating.

Being obese is a metal problem, not a physical one. A person who is obese needs psychological help, which I cannot provide.

Losing substantial weight and keeping it off is pretty unusual so it’s difficult to study these sorts of things.

Also, there is a huge missing variable problem – an obese person who loses weight and keeps it off is very likely to be someone who pays a lot of attention to exercising regularly and eating healthy portions of healthy foods. So even if you did study it epidemologically, you might find that people like Crafter Man end up leading longer, healthier lives than people of equal weight who were never fat.

Anyway, there are studies indicating that modest weight loss can have significant positive health effects. For example, here.

This suggests that much of the health risk associated with obesity is the result of ongoing overconsumption of unhealthy food.

So my best guess is that being fat is a bit like smoking – if you successfully quit smoking for 10 to 20 years, your health risks drop to a point pretty close to that of people who never smoked. My educated guess is that obesity is the same way – if you lose the weight and keep it off long enough, you will end up almost as healthy as if you had never been obese. And possibly even more healthy than an always-thin person who didn’t pay much attention to his diet.

This is total BS and wrong in so many ways. Did you not read the post above yours describing insulin resistance and it’s affect on weight control? Still your reaction is typical; you used to have a weight problem, got it under control and are now an “expert”; all other people are wussies.

I’ve been through many weight loss cycles, lost over 300 pounds total over the years and nothing, no amount of diet and exercise really worked until I started addressing the insulin resistance that I inherited from both sides of my family. I know you probably believe that you are helping fatties face up to their life choices but give me a break and let someone with medical expertise provide answers here.

This is 3 year old thread. Can zombies get fat?

Lol, I was about to make a joke about fat zombies myself. Sorry for reviving the thread after all these years.

I wonder if Crater_Man has kept the weight off? :smiley:

Actually, there are studies that show that most of the risk with being overweight and even morbidly obese is from having poor health habits like poor diet and lack of exercise, and not directly from the excess fat itself. So when studies show that even a small amount of weight loss has large health benefits, I often think they are assuming it’s the 5 or 10% weight loss that produces the benefit, rather than looking at it another way and seeing that the benefit came from changing to healthier habits, regardless of the weight loss.

This study (link to abstract, with free full text PDF available) found that overweight and even obese people who have healthy habits have the same mortality rate as “normal weight” people.

Page 13 of the PDF has a chart showing the hazard ratio for mortality for normal vs. overweight vs. obese people who have 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 healthy habits (fruit and vegetable intake, don’t use tobacco, regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption). It shows that: [ul][li]People with 0 healthy habits are at higher risk, and within the group with 0 habits those who are obese have a much higher risk than those with a lower BMI[*]With 2, 3, or 4 habits there is virtually no difference in mortality risk between people with normal BMI and those who are obese.[/ul][/li]
From the conclusion of the study:


My response to the OP would be:

While weight loss is a great goal, he should probably be more concerned with sustaining his healthy eating habits and also other healthy behaviours (exercise, don’t smoke, moderate consumption of alcohol). The weight loss he gets is a bonus - his success should be measured by how he keeps up his healthy habits, rather than basing success on amount of weight lost. Too many people start eating healthier and exercising and then give up when they don’t lose much weight or when they regain weight they lost. Pursuing healthy behaviours for their own sake is much more likely to have long-term health and mortality benefits.

Yep. :slight_smile:

Hogwash. If you are claiming you were not able to lose weight regardless of the amount of diet and exercise, then you are claiming your body does not obey the laws of physics.

From a strictly physical perspective, anyone can lose weight, regardless of any disease (real or imaginary) they have. The only question is whether or not their brain can control their body to eat less. This is why, IMO, obesity is a mental problem, not a physical problem.


Would you mind sharing exactly what you have done to address insulin resistance and exactly what the effect was in terms how fat you were?

Crafter_Man: The evidence linking (massive) obesity to organic/physical causes, as opposed to psychological ones, is huge and consistent. If you insist I will find you a link but to anyone involved in the field, the question was asked and answered long ago: massive obesity is almost never due strictly to “psychological causes”. It is rooted in the interplay among genetics, hormones, metabolism, etc. (which includes their effect on behaviour, mind you, but that has a very, very different implication than saying obesity is primarily a psychological problem).

In terms of weight loss and caloric restriction leading to health benefits, some of the most convincing evidence has accrued in the last few years with studies showing the beneficial effect of gastric reduction surgery on things like the later incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and a decline in mortality.

By making informed dietary decisions based upon advice and medications from my doctor. Not by simply eating less and exercising more because that could have done more damage than good.

For a diabetic you need to pay attention to a foods carb content and glycemic index. Eat smaller meals spaced out evenly throughout the day so that your sugar levels don’t get too elevated. I started out by taking Mediforin to combat insulin resistance; this gave me the ability to get up and take that walk; eventually I started working out in the water (aerobic kickboxing) and learned how to swim as those are excellent exercises that burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, don’t stress your joints and that I find enjoyable.

To say that you only need to diet and exercise is an over simplification if you are fighting an incurable disease. Medication played a key role in helping me start to have the energy to exercise and break the typical diabetic cycle of weight lost and weight gain. I have gotten to the point were I have been off of the medication for four years with no wild weight swings as normally happened in the past. This would not have been possible with assistance of my doctor and the medicine. As Dr. Karl Gauss stated below, it’s an interplay genetics, hormones, metabolism that needs to be taken into account, not just psychology and willpower. I’ve lost weight by willpower alone but keeping it off required more than willpower; that’s the problem I have with Crafter_Mans statement, it belittles the medical aspect.

Thank you for answering my question. Would you mind sharing the details of how much weight you lost and when you did it?

Up thru college I weighed a pretty consistent 165 lbs at 5’8"; chubby, but not fat; walked everywhere and ate and drank as I pleased. Six years later I ballooned up to 265 pounds due to lack of exercise and excessive drinking so I did what I saw other people like me doing; eating right and walking everyday at lunch and got myself back down to 172 lbs. Eight years later I was back up to 285 pounds. Did the same thing, walked everyday and counted calories; went back down to 168 lbs. In between these two massive losses I took off 20-30 pounds quite a few times; it was a consistent battle; you don’t lose 100 pounds without will power.

Twelve years later I was back up to 225 ponds and said the hell with this and went and saw the Doctor who diagnosed me as type 2 diabetic. He put me on Mediforin and had me talk with a nutritionist about diabetes and it’s affect on your ability to lose and maintain weight loss. It’s a classic type 2 diabetes scenario, weight loss and gain cycles.

The first key for me was being diagnosed a diabetic; before that I was eating mostly low fat, low calorie and ignoring where those calories came from because it was all about calories and not about substance. Now I tend to eat whole foods and watch the carbs; processed food have too much salt in them and make me balloon up no matter what the calories are. I also do exercises that I actually like doing and don’t care if people think that water aerobics is for old women only; it can be very intense if you treat it intensely. I have weighed a consistent 185-192 pounds now for the past four and I am in much better shape than when I weighed 168 pounds. I keep a daily log of my blood sugar levels, exercise and now no wild weight swings.

If you suspect a medical problem your best bet is to talk to your doctor and not take blind generic advice from people on the internet.