Watch Your Weight

When is watching your weight necessary?

Picture of woman, smiling

According to the CDC, more than 68 percent of U.S. adults older than 20 are either overweight or obese. Extra weight is a concern because it may cause new health issues or worsen already existing health problems. A BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. To help you determine if your weight is within a normal range, you can use this BMI calculator.

Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important if you have or have had any of the following conditions:

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Stroke

  • High blood pressure

  • Cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, stomach, breast, or colon

  • High total cholesterol level

  • Arthritis of the back and knees

If your weight is not in the healthy range for your height and build, the best way to lose weight is to set a reasonable goal and lose it slowly and gradually. For example, lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. An initial weight loss goal of 5 to 7 percent of body weight is realistic for most individuals. Develop a healthy pattern of eating and exercising that you can follow for the rest of your life.

Healthy tips for maintaining your weight

Follow these nutrition tips for maintaining a healthy weight:

  • Remember, a calorie is a calorie, no matter if it is from fat, protein, or carbohydrate. High-fat foods generally have more calories than foods that are high in carbohydrates or protein, but the truth is, the best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn each day. Many types of diets can help with weight loss, such as low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and Mediterranean diets. While it is possible to eat a larger quantity of foods that are low in fat as long as they are also low in calories, be sure to check labels or read educational materials to make sure. Maintaining healthy eating behaviors is more important than choosing any particular diet.

    • Low-calorie. Low-calorie eating plans can cause weight loss through taking in fewer calories than you burn. This creates an energy deficit triggering the body to use stored body fat for energy. Specific types of foods are not restricted, just the number of calories consumed.

    • Low-carbohydrate. Low-carb diets trigger your body to lower insulin (insulin is a hormone that causes hunger) and burn stored fat for energy. This eating plan restricts refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, pasta, crackers and sweets.

    • Mediterranean. This eating plan is based on the eating patterns of people who live in the Mediterranean region. It emphasizes healthy fats found in olive oil and nuts along with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and fish. It also allows wine in moderation, with meals. On this plan, you would avoid red meats, dairy, and processed foods.

  • Fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are low in fat and calories can also help reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

  • Start your day off right by eating breakfast. Drink 100 percent fruit juice (canned, from a carton, or freshly squeezed) with breakfast, or take a can to drink at work. Spruce up your breakfast -- a banana or handful of berries will liven up your cereal, yogurt, waffles, or pancakes. Take a piece of fruit to munch on during your commute.

  • Use butter and margarine sparingly. Even better, switch to reduced-fat margarine or try jelly on your bread, bagels, and other baked goods.

  • Use "lite" or low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream). Use in recipes and drink 1 percent or skim milk. You will still get the nutrients and taste but not the fat.

  • When you make or buy a salad, a little bit of salad dressing, about 1 tablespoon, goes a long way. Even better, use "lite" or fat-free salad dressing. The same principle applies when using condiments, a little mayonnaise is all you need. Or use the "lite" or fat-free kind.

  • Choose the leanest cuts of meat such as beef round, loin, sirloin, pork loin chops, turkey, chicken, and roasts. All cuts with the name "loin" or "round" are lean. If you cook it yourself, trim all visible fat and drain the grease.

  • Use oils sparingly (try olive and canola oils). Bake chicken without the skin. Substitute a potato for french fries.

  • Choose healthy, quick, and easy-to-grab foods such as little bags or containers of ready-to-eat vegetables (such as celery sticks, cucumber wedges, and cherry tomatoes). Or, make healthier choices for snacks that are store-bought, such as pretzels. Keep them with you in your briefcase, office, car, and home.

  • Substitute low-fat or fat-free baked goods, cookies, and ice cream. They still taste great. Cut down on the portion size and how often you eat these items. Or, choose fruit. It tastes great, is filling, and provides energy.

  • Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Take smaller portions. Never go back for seconds.

  • Typical restaurant servings are often twice the size of a single serving. When dining out or ordering in, ask for half of a serving or a "doggy bag." That way you will not be as full, and you can have some tomorrow.

  • Fast food does not have to be high in fat and calories if you are careful. Try ordering a lean roast beef or grilled chicken sandwich. Keep the portions to regular and small. No "double" anything or "going large." Order items without the cheese.

  • Try not to drink alcohol or drinks with added sugar, and avoid most sweets (candy, cakes, cookies).

Regular exercise is critical to effectively manage your weight. Here are some exercise tips for maintaining a healthy weight:

  • Aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises burn calories by increasing heart rate. Try to include all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

  • Physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits. No matter what your age, you can benefit from a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. The same moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as 30 minutes of brisk walking) as in shorter sessions of more strenuous activities (such as 15 to 20 minutes of jogging).

  • If you have been sedentary, you should start with short intervals (five to 10 minutes) of physical activity and gradually build up to the desired level of activity.

  • If you have a chronic health problem, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or if you are at high risk for these conditions, first consult your health care provider before beginning a new program of physical activity.

  • If you are older than 50 and plan to begin a program of vigorous physical activity, first consult your health care provider to be sure you do not have heart disease or other health problems.

  • Start slow and increase the exercise intensity as your strength and endurance grow.

  • Do exercises that you will enjoy. If you like to walk and talk with friends, find a partner and develop a walking routine. If you want to release stress-related energy or anxiety, try kick boxing. The point is--get involved in an exercise program you will enjoy!

  • Finally, choose to be active throughout the day. Use the stairs instead of the elevator; do wall pushups while you wait for the breakfast coffee to brew; park at the far end of the parking lot and walk briskly to the building. Even small changes -- when consistently done -- can make a big difference in your overall fitness level.

  • Don't get discouraged if you miss a day. Vacations, illness, and schedule changes may interrupt your exercise plans. Just get back on track when the interruption is done.