QUESTION: Doc, I am losing hope and can’t understand why I can’t lose weight. I started to focus on losing weight almost five months ago.
The change in my lifestyle was dramatic as I watched my diet and joined the gym. I attended group sessions for boot camp, toning classes as well as kickboxing and hip hop classes three times a week.
None of this made a difference.
I am 34 years old, have a good job as an accountant and a sound education.
My sense of self-worth has decreased because of my physical appearance and I fear that it is crippling me socially. People judge on outward appearances and lose interest if you are overweight.
My life is hectic at work and since breaking up with my boyfriend more than a year ago I have met nobody worth dating.
I constantly feel large and swollen, bloated and low in energy. My clothes are all too small and I refuse to buy new clothing until I reach my target weight.
Last week I became dizzy at work and almost passed out when going to the bathroom – I eat breakfast every day and couldn’t figure out why this happened.
During my check-up two days later I was told I have high blood pressure and must lose weight while starting on new medication to control my blood pressure.
I feel that my health is threatened by a new diagnosis of hypertension – this scared me because my mother died after suffering a stroke. She was paralysed on her right side and struggled to talk and even swallow properly. She died within two months of the stroke and I was told she developed a lung infection which was the final blow.
I don’t want to follow in those footsteps, especially if I can do something about it. Is high blood pressure hereditary, and what are my chances of suffering a stroke too?
Could it be that all this is due to stress and being overworked?
My pet hate is to take pills every day and I hope I can lose weight so I can get off medication if possible.
Please advise me on how to move forward and what other options I have.
I have read your column for six months and appreciate the honesty you bring into the answers.
ANSWER: This is a sincere account of your frustration. Your life phase in itself is a challenging but exciting one. I always stop the consultation in private practice and ask my patients: “When last were you truly happy?”
The response is often an overwhelming rush of tears and emotion. Asking the question makes people stop and ponder – focus on themselves without interruption for a minute or two.
The conversation eventually leads to what makes you happy and why those elements are absent from your life. The revelation can be liberating and ownership of this lies central to many health and wellness issues.
I noticed how busy you are and the social and family stressors that you carry are by no means small.
The human body is designed for survival and can deal with stress by compensating, to a point. The physiological response to this can have long-term health side-effects. Cortisol and adrenalin are released during chronic stress and have a pronounced effect on metabolism and weight management. The thyroid gland is an important regulator of metabolic rate.
My advice is that you get a full physical examination and a baseline investigation of where you are right now in terms of blood sugar, cholesterol and thyroid hormones.
Your eating plan must be scrutinised by a professional dietician and your training programme should be designed according to your needs and lifestyle.
Getting a clean bill of health before embarking on a radical lifestyle change is a good idea.
Set boundaries to reduce stress levels
Stress comes in many shapes and sizes – it doesn’t discriminate between race, gender or social standing. Everybody possesses different abilities when it comes to coping with stress.
There are several stress coping mechanisms that you can learn to bring into your everyday routine. These include breathing techniques, quality of sleep, exercise and diet – the keys to stress reduction.
Life skills, like effective time management, communication and goal-centred living, remain crucial in overcoming stress.
Mild stress can be useful to kickstart action and provide the initial energy for tough tasks.
Chronic stress can have detrimental physical and emotional outcomes, even paralyse your ability and lead to underachieving.
An inability to cope with stress steals potential, and robs talented people of their potential.
Planning ahead and setting boundaries are invaluable keys to becoming a winner.
Stress is a treatable condition – not a life sentence. - Cape Argus
* Dr Darren Green, a trusted figure in the field of media medicine, is a University of Stellenbosch graduate who adds innovative spark to health and wellness issues.
He features on 567CapeTalk, and is a regular guest on SABC3 and the Expresso show. Dr Green works as an emergency medical practitioner at a leading Cape Town hospital and completed four years of training as a registrar in the specialisation of neurology.
If you’ve got medical problems, contact the doctor at email@example.com, 021 930 0655 or Twitter @drdarrengreen. Catch him in Cape Town on 567 CapeTalk, most Fridays at 1.30pm