Crushed Lungs, Strained Joints & a Swollen Heart from Carrying Extra Weight

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“Crushed Lungs, Strained Joints and a Swollen Heart – the Extraordinary Scans that Reveal What Being Fat Does to You”

We all like to focus on how we will “look” once we’ve lost those extra pounds, but these are pretty jaw dropping photos of what happens on the inside when we carry extra weight. It’s a bit frightening when you read the article we’ve republished by Victoria Lambert, but meant to be motivating. One of these bodies will most likely last longer, which one would you rather be? It’s time for a change!

“Carrying extra pounds may not look attractive from the outside, but it’s been difficult to understand precisely the havoc it wreaks on your insides – until now. Here, in a pair of astonishing pictures, we can see exactly what being overweight does to the organs, bones and muscles. These images of two women were taken by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRIRI) scanner and reveal in horrifying detail the obesity effect. The woman on the left weighs just over 250 poinds, the one on the right just under 120 pounds. Their muscles (shown in red), bones (white), organs (black) and fat (yellow) are all clearly defined.
body scanbody scan

Spot the difference: The obese woman on the left has fat around her organs (shown by the yellow areas) and an enlarged heart which can have dire consequences on her health. As well as the fat sitting just under the skin (the fat you can pinch), these images reveal the fat inside the body wrapped around the organs.

To explain the impact of those extra pounds, we talked to Professor Jimmy Bell from Imperial College, London (the man who developed MRIRI to show body fat), and orthopaedic surgeon Mike Hayton and consultant radiologist Waqar Bhatti, both of Alexandra Hospital, Cheadle, Manchester. Their comments make for alarming reading – for men as well as women. But the good news, says Professor Bell, is that you can change this picture through diet and exercise. These images provide a compelling incentive.


‘Excess fat here would cause pressure on the nerves and may contribute to headaches and neck pains.’ An American study of more than 143,000 people found that chronic daily headaches are more common among the obese. ‘The yellow patches on either side of the neck of the woman on the left also quite clearly show that a thick layer of subcutaneous fat is building up,’ says consultant radiologist Dr Bhatti. ‘This will compress the airways and lead to snoring.’

Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for sleep apnoea, a condition that occurs when tissues in the upper airways come too close to each other, temporarily blocking breathing. It can lead to memory difficulties, low energy, shortness of breath, leg swelling and high blood pressure. Long term, it can contribute to stroke, hypertension and even sudden-death syndrome.


Although both women appear to have similar-sized lungs, the larger one’s weight will be making breathing much more
difficult for her.
That’s because ‘any fat in the abdomen will push up into the lungs when the person lies flat’, says Dr Bhatti. ‘This will cause breathlessness even when lying down.’ The more difficult breathing becomes, the harder it is to get enough oxygen circulating in the bloodstream. This can lead to lack of energy, impaired immune system and even high blood pressure, as the body tries to compensate. This is because lungs are not solid structures and can be compressed. ‘Fat doesn’t bulge inwards, it bulges outwards,’ explains Professor Bell. ‘That’s why we all end up with bellies.’


‘Being obese means the hip joints have to carry a lot of extra weight, so they wear out sooner, causing arthritis where there is susceptibility,’ says Mr Hayton. Obese patients who need hip replacements will find the operation more physically stressful.

Moreover, surgeons may be less happy to operate. One American study found obese people have a significantly higher risk
of post-operative complications, such as heart attack, wound infection and urinary tract infections.
The same study found that morbidly obese patients (those more than 100lb over their ideal weight) were nearly twice as likely to die as a result.
Poor posture and unhealthy gait are more common in obese people, further predisposing joints to osteoarthritis, says
Arthritis Research UK.
The larger woman shown here is apple-shaped, meaning she’s carrying fat around the organs. However even if you’re the supposedly ‘healthier’ pear-shaped, excess weight still puts you at high risk of osteoarthritis and varicose veins, warns Mr Hayton. Varicose veins occur because the fat makes it more difficult for blood to pump back up the body and, as a result, blood valves may be damaged.


‘Excess fat is more worrying when it’s found around the organs, where it’s known as visceral fat. This can be toxic and poison you from within,’ says Professor Bell. Visceral fat is not an inert lump of lard, but actually pumps out chemicals and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Professor Jimmy Bell also points out that in the larger woman’s scan, her heart (which looks like a large red and black teardrop, suspended between the lungs) has clearly enlarged, the muscle increasing in response to the added strain her weight is placing on her body.

An enlarged heart will not be able to pump effectively, and at the very least will lead to shortness of breath and fatigue. An enlarged heart is a common cause of heart failure, when it cannot supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs.  At least four per cent of deaths in the UK every year are due to heart failure, according to the British Heart Foundation. The yellow rim of fat around the heart, called pericardial fat, is also linked to hardening of the arteries. Pericardial fat secretes high levels of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Constant exposure of the heart to these proteins can lead to inflammation of the coronary arteries and calcified plaque (the main cause of heart disease). An American study published in 2008 found that people with the highest levels of pericardial fat were found to be five times more likely also to have high levels of calcified coronary plaque.


‘Carrying at least twice the weight they are meant to means feet will get very sore,’ warns Mr Hayton. The Harvard Medical
School has found that being overweight places pressure on the plantar fascia – the ligament-like structure that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot, which ‘may become inflamed, causing a sharp pain at the heel when walking’.


Obesity is the single biggest cause of osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints such as knees and ankles, and an obese person is 14 times more likely to develop knee arthritis, says Arthritis UK. This is because the additional pressure wears away cartilage – the natural layer of shock absorber in our joints – leaving bone to grind against bone. Dr Ian Drysdale, of the British College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains the scale: ‘For every pound you are overweight, the momentum of running or jumping increases the pressure on the joint by up to ten times.’

Ankle joints will come under pressure, too. However, ankle replacement is a fairly rare procedure. ‘Developing a thick layer
of fat around the upper arm will put an increased load on the shoulder joint,’ says surgeon Mike Hayton.
‘As the fat builds up, it will become more difficult to lift your arm above your head – or even put your jacket on. You’ll feel less flexible.’ Then as you stop using the joint fully, the soft tissues will start to contract, dragging the ball and socket closer, causing bones to rub and leading to arthritis and pain.


The scan of the larger woman reveals not just the rolls of fat on her body, but large amounts of fat wrapped around her organs (the black patches) in her abdomen. The thinner woman on the right not only has little ‘ surface’ body fat, but her organs have minimal visceral fat. ‘The abdomen is the worst place for fat to accumulate,’ says Professor Bell. ‘Many people assume middle-aged spread is normal, but it’s not. You should accept that as you age you will be less active and need fewer calories,’ adds Mr Hayton.

This visceral fat constantly secretes chemicals and hormones in large quantities such as leptin and restitin, which are associated with changes in the metabolism and linked to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. These hormones can also disrupt the entire endocrine system and lead to other hormone imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition which affects women, causing excess hair, weight gain and infertility. Meanwhile, when fat reaches the digestive system it breaks down in the liver. As it does this, toxins are released into the bloodstream. These can seriously damage organs such as the liver, causing fatty liver disease. This can lead to inflammation, the formation of scar tissue and eventually cirrhosis. It is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

There is a mind-body connection too. Research suggests that visceral fat affects mood by increasing production of the stress hormone cortisol and reducing levels of feelgood endorphins. Visceral fat is also known to cause inflammation in the arteries and around the colon. In men, being overweight increases the risk of colon cancer by an estimated 25 per cent; being obese increases it by 50 per cent (the link is nowhere near as clear in women), according to Cancer Research UK. Extra weight will also put pressure on the pelvic floor and may cause incontinence and haemorrhoids.

Healthy Cooking with the Great Foodini!

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Are We Victims of Diet Sabotage?

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Are We Victims of Diet Sabotage?

When you’re trying to lose weight, it gets challenging when our friends and loved ones can be our greatest obstacles. Most of the time, we are surrounded by supportive, helpful people but sometimes the need to speak up for your diet success is a necessary evil.  It’s essential when those nagging comments keep lingering in your head destined to throw you off course if you’re not mindful.

Here’s a few of my “favorites” you may have heard before:

  • “You’re doing so great — you can have one little piece.”
  • “Honey, I like a little meat on my women.”

    Diet Sabotage

  • “What’s wrong … you’re wasting away!”
  • “Are you sure it’s safe to lose so much weight so fast?”
  • “It’s your birthday – one piece of cake won’t hurt”

Sometimes the comments revolve around food, but the saboteurs don’t stop there. They will attempt to attack your fitness program too. Maybe you’ve heard some of these as well:

  • “Lifting weights will just make you big and bulky like a man”
  • “Your fitness program is too expensive – it’s not worth it”
  • “Don’t you feel selfish spending all that time at the gym?”

Do any of these sound familiar? These people, consciously or not, are trying to sabotage your diet. Why? Some people do it as a way to control you. Others withweight issues feel threatened or competitive. They tend not to feel very goodabout themselves and want everyone to be just as miserable.

We know that one piece of birthday cake may very well be that trigger to cause us to reach for more sweet treats. We know it is safe to lose this much weightbecause we’re working with professionals to help us reach our health andfitness goals. We love our workouts, our gym, the people we workout with. Most of all, the results we’re staring at in the mirror are priceless!

Don’t let these comments get you out of your zone! If you do, you’ll likely fall victim to diet sabotage. Talk with your friends and family. Explain to them how these comments make you feel and how better they can help you reach your goals. Better yet, get them to join you! They’ll feel better about themselves and you can feel great knowing you encouraged someone to get healthy and active.

Keep your eye on the prize at all times and you WILL prevail!

Original post appeared on

Abs of Steel Anyone?

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Abs of Steel Anyone?

Nancy Will is our latest My Stronger Self Member of the Month. Nancy is very dedicated to her workouts. She’s consistently

Nancy Will - My Stronger Self Member of the Month

here for her strength training classes twice a week without fail! Nancy also takes part in our free Saturday morning boot camps and has recently joined in on our new Saturday Hatha Yoga class to add a new facet to her fitness routine. When she’s here, she’s really here … focused and ready to put in the time and energy to stay healthy. Obviously, Nancy did not come to us for weight loss, she’s here to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. She’s a wonderful person to have in class and is such a positive light! Nancy is 58 years old and look at the abs she found while at My Stronger Self! She’s an inspiration to us all! You’ve worked hard and absolutely deserve title of “Member of the Month”!

Here’s what Nancy has to say about her health and fitness journey.

“Younger Next Year” was the best New Year’s resolution I could have made. Inspired by the book, I knew I could make fitness more of a priority than I had in the past. I joined My Stronger Self this January and have been amazed at my results. Lori and her staff have given me a new appreciation for what can be accomplished when you are committed to making change happen. In just seven short months, I’ve experienced an incredible transformation in the way I look and feel. It’s hard to describe the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment you walk away with after a challenging workout session at My Stronger Self –an hour focused totally on “me”. Lori and team provide the direction, variation, encouragement and motivation to push hard, reap the rewards, and keep you coming back for more. The supportive environment offered by the My Stronger Self staff and its members is beyond compare! It’s an honor to be selected as the My Stronger Self’s Member of the Month.

Nancy Will – BEFORE

Nancy Will - AFTER

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