Most of us just want to lose a few pounds to feel more confident and look better in a bikini. But aside from our own female vanity, there are significant health reasons to shed that extra weight. If that tightening waistband isn’t enough to motivate you to lose weight, perhaps the threat of these diseases will get you off the couch and to the gym:

Type 2 Diabetes. Millions of Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, a condition where the body does not produce enough insulin to convert glucose to energy. Losing weight can help manage diabetes by better controlling your blood sugar. It doesn’t take much weight loss to have an effect on type 2 diabetes – a study done at the Colorado School of Public Health found that losing as little as 2 pounds helped reduce the odds of diabetes by 16%.

Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke. It is no secret that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Losing weight can lower your cholesterol, lower levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood), and lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown that if you are overweight, you can reduce the risk of high blood pressure by as much as 28 percent if you lose just 15 or more pounds.

Metabolic Syndrome. What is metabolic syndrome? It is essentially a combination of risk factors that affect the first two health conditions we’ve discuss: heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome occurs when the body loses its ability to recognize and use insulin. The result is “insulin resistance”, and the condition is more likely to develop with age, affecting more than 40% of people over 60 years ago. Overweight people can reduce their chances of developing metabolic syndrome by reducing their weight 10-15%.

Cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Being overweight has been linked to several of the major forms of cancer including colon, esophageal, and kidney cancer. Overweight women are particularly vulnerable to uterine and postmenopausal breast cancer.

It doesn’t take obesity to increase cancer risks, simply gaining weight as an adult increases the odds of developing some cancers. For this reason, it is suggested that adults try to stay as close as possible to their high school graduation weight.
For women who already are overweight, losing 20 pounds can decrease their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent. While it is not known exactly how weight affects cancer growth, it is a fact that fat cells produce extra estrogen, which is thought to have a role in the development of cancer cells.

Sleep apnea. This is a condition where a person stops breathing for very short periods of time while sleeping, making is darn near impossible to get a full night’s rest. The result is sleepiness during the day, lack of concentration, and even the risk of heart failure. People who are overweight may have extra fat around their neck, which makes the airway smaller and causes inflammation in the throat. Losing weight can help take the pressure off the neck and throat, and make it easier to breathe while sleeping.

Osteoarthritis. What is osteroarthritis? It is a joint condition where the bone and cartilage in the joints wear away and the joints become inflamed. Osteroarthritis is most common in the knee, hips and lower back. Being overweight puts extra pressure on these joints, causing even more inflammation. By losing at least 5% of your body weight, you can reduce the pressure on your joints and lessen your risk of osteoarthritis.

Gallbladder disease. Gallstones and inflammation of the gall bladder all constitute forms of gallbladder disease. Gallstones are solid pieces of cholesterol that accumulate in the gallbladder; they can cause sharp or dull pain in the abdomen particularly after eating fatty foods. Losing weight can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the chances of developing gallstones. However, fast weight loss of 3 pounds or more per week can actually increase the chances of developing gallstones. For many reasons, it is better to limit weight loss to 1-2 pounds per week.

Pregnancy Complications. Being overweight can affect both a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, and her risk of complications during pregnancy. Early studies show that overweight women can increase their chances of conceiving by losing just 5 percent of their bodyweight. Weight loss causes an increase in the blood flow to the uterus and has a positive effect on ovulation, improving the odds of conception.

Overweight women who become pregnant have increased risks of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and complications from Cesarean births. Their babies are also at risk of stillbirth, prematurity, and defects of the brain or spinal cord.

Women who are overweight and thinking about getting pregnant are encouraged to lose weight before they become pregnant. Pre-pregnancy weight loss can greatly lessen the chances of complications during the pregnancy.