Achieving and Maintaining a Healthful Weight
by Mary Calvagna, MS
It is true that taking in fewer calories than you use each day is the way to lose weight, but this is not always easy. Weight loss and the ability to keep it off can be tricky. Fad diets, weight-loss pills, and herbal remedies are often sought for a faster fix but they may make it harder to keep the extra weight off. Making healthy habits to lose weight may help keep the weight off, if you continue these habits.
Using the Body Mass Index
The first step is determining your current weight status: Are you underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese?
One common measure for this is the Body Mass Index (BMI). It assesses weight according to your height. Doctors often use this measure to have a better picture of weight and risk of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. It can also provide a healthy weight-range goal for those planning weight loss.
There are many online calculators that can calculate your BMI. BMI values are:
This is a common, fast tool that offers more information than weight alone. However, it is not foolproof. Some people may fall into overweight or obese levels because of muscle mass. Your doctor can work with you to create healthy weight goals.
Eating a Healthful Diet
Weight gain is often the result of eating more calories than your body uses. The first step is to know how many calories you are taking in. Before you start a diet lockdown, track a couple days of your current food intake. Look it over to see where changes may help. Do you have very little to eat all day, then binge on dinner and evening snacks? Are you drinking many of your calories with sugary drinks? Maybe you are doing a great job eating your veggies? Starting here will help you plan where to make changes. Make gradual changes. Some fad diets require major changes to your diet. This major overhaul can make it hard to stick to long term. Gradual changes can help you find ways that better fit with your lifestyle and choices.
Cutting back on calories should not mean cutting back on nutrition. Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. There are many options for whole grains. Find ones that fit your taste and habits. You can find a whole grain to suit any meal. Cut back on fattier foods like animal protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Try to balance each meal so that they include a healthy protein, veggies/fruit, and whole grain. You may find it easier to tackle changes in small steps. Losing even 10% of your body weight may lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Other tips that may help include track how much you eat and drink and check the portion size of foods you are eating. A dietitian may also help you get started, can assess your food intake, and help you focus on changes to make.
Getting Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity can help you increase the amount of calories you use during the day. This can include bouts of activity during the day like taking the stairs or planned exercise routines. More physical activity can help you get to an ideal weigh and help you stay there too. It can also lower the risk of health problems linked to overweight, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Consider getting a pedometer or other activity tracker. It can help show your daily activity level and set goals.
Exercise is a planned period of activity. 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. A total of 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity every week is recommended. This may mean 5 days of 30 minutes of activity, or 3 days of 50 minutes of activity, whatever works for you. Strength training can also play an important role in long term weight loss. Make sure you talk with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise program. An ideal exercise program combines four types of exercise:
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. 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. Try different options to see which works best to you.
Sometimes health conditions or medicine can make it hard to lose weight. Talk to your doctor if you have made changes to your diet and physical activity but have not seen any results.
American Council on Exercise
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Last reviewed June 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/1/2020