Achieving and Maintaining a Healthful Weight
You may have heard that losing weight is as easy as eating less and exercising more. Well it's true—taking in fewer calories than you use each day is the simplest way to lose weight. Never mind the fad diets, weight-loss pills, and zany herbal remedies—it all comes down to a balanced diet and a regular exercise program.
Using the Body Mass Index
The first step is determining your current weight status: Are you underweight, normal weight, overweight, or
A good measure for this is the Body Mass Index (BMI), a standardized method used by many health professionals to evaluate weight and body fat. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. It gives you an indication of whether you are at risk of health problems that are related to being overweight or obese. If your BMI is 25 or higher, you are at risk for a number of serious health problems, including
To find your weight in kilograms, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.45. For example:
If your weight is 130 pounds: 130 x 0.45 = 58.5. Your weight in kilograms is 58.5.
To find your height in meters, multiply your height in inches by 0.0254. For example:
If your height is 5'6", that is 66 inches: 66 x 0.0254 = 1.6764. Your height in meters is 1.6764.
To square the number, multiply it by itself: 1.6764 x 1.6764 = 2.81
For the example above, the BMI is: 58.97 divided by 2.81 = 20.98
BMI values are interpreted as follows:
- 18.4 or less = underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9 = normal weight
- 25 to 29.9 = overweight
- 30 and over = obese
Eating a Healthful Diet
To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you use. This is where your diet comes in; which may be in need of an overhaul. But, you don't want to lower your calories at the expense of nutrition. To learn more about developing a healthful diet that is right for you, read our article on the latest food guide pyramid:
Try not to think of your new eating habits as "going on a diet," instead, think of it as a lifestyle change. Adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet and cutting back on animal protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol are good for you no matter what your age. Creating a healthful diet that you can stick to throughout your life will help you achieve and maintain your desired weight, and losing even 10% of your body weight will lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Getting Regular Exercise
To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in; this is where exercise comes in. Not only does regular exercise help you get to an ideal weight, it can help you stay there too. Additionally, muscle burns more calories than fat, so building up your muscles will allow you to eat more while maintaining your weight. If you don't exercise already, it is time to get started. A good goal for many people to work up to is exercising 4 to 6 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. If you are not sure how to begin, read our tipsheet:
There are several different types of exercise that you can do. An ideal exercise program combines four types of exercise:
- Strength training
No Time Like Today
Now that you have the tools, getting started is up to you. Start slowly, have carrots or an apple for a snack, instead of a bag of chips. And take a walk around the block before or after work today. Just remember, the sooner you begin working toward your ideal weight, the sooner you can reap the healthful benefits.
American Dietetic Association
US Department of Argriculture
Food and Nutrition Information Center
Canadian Public Health
Dietitians of Canada
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home.html .
American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/ .
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ .
Wee CC, Hamel MB, Davis RB, Phillips RS. Assessing the value of weight loss among primary care patients. J Gen Intern Med. 2004;19(12):1206-1211.
Douketis JD, Macie C, Thabane L, Williamson DF. Systematic review of long-term weight loss studies in obese adults: clinical significance and applicability to clinical practice. Int J Obes. 2005; 29(10):1153-1167.
Last reviewed May 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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