Watch Your Weight

Watching Your Weight

Why do you need to watch your
weight?

Picture of woman, smiling

According to the CDC, more than 70%
of U.S. adults older than 20 are either overweight or obese. Why is excess weight a
concern? It may cause new health problems or worsen ones you already have.

Staying at a healthy weight is
extra important if you have or had any of these:

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Stroke

  • High blood pressure

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

  • High total cholesterol
    level

  • Arthritis, especially
    osteoarthritis of the back, knees, or hips

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. For example, lose 1/2 pound to 1 pound a week. An
initial weight loss goal of 5% to 7% of body weight is realistic for most people. Create
a healthy pattern of eating and exercising that you can follow for the rest of your
life.

Do you have excess weight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and
weight. A BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.
To help you figure out if your weight is within a normal range, you can use a BMI calculator at the National Institutes of Health
website.

If your weight is not in the healthy range for your height and build,
the best ways to lose weight are to:

  • Set a reasonable goal. A
    realistic weight loss goal is 5% to 7% of your body weight.
  • Lose weight slowly. You can
    aim for ½ pound to 1 pound a week.
  • Build a healthy pattern of
    eating and exercise.
    Make this something that you can follow for the rest
    of your life.

Types of diets

Many types of diets can help
with weight loss. These include low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and Mediterranean
diets.

  • Low-calorie diet. These
    diets can cause weight loss by having you eat fewer calories than you use. This
    causes the body to use stored body fat for energy. Types of foods are not
    restricted, just the number of calories you have each day.

  • Low-carbohydrate diet.
    Low-carb diets cause your body to lower insulin. This is a hormone that
    causes hunger. The diet also causes your body to burn stored fat for energy.
    This eating plan limits refined carbohydrates. These include white bread, white
    rice, pasta, crackers, and sweets.

  • Mediterranean diet. This
    is based on the eating patterns of people who live in the Mediterranean region.
    It includes healthy fats found in olive oil and nuts. It also includes plenty
    of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish. It also allows
    wine in moderation, with meals. On this plan, you would not have any red meats,
    dairy foods, or processed foods.

But keep in mind that keeping up healthy eating behavior is more
important than choosing a certain diet.

Watching calories

The best way to lose weight is
to eat fewer calories than you use up each day. It doesn’t matter if it is from fat,
protein, or carbohydrate. A calorie is a calorie. High-fat foods tend to have more
calories than foods that are high in carbohydrates or protein. You can eat a larger
amount of foods that are low in fat as long as they are also low in calories. Be sure
to check labels. 

Other healthy ideas

  • Limit butter and
    margarine.
    Even better, switch to reduced-fat margarine. Or try jam on
    your bread, bagels, and other baked goods.

  • Choose light or low-fat dairy
    foods.
    This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream. Drink 1% or
    skim milk. You will still get the nutrients and taste. But not the fat.

  • Use less salad dressing.
    Use just 1 tablespoon of dressing. Even better, use light or fat-free salad
    dressing. The same idea applies when using condiments. A little mayonnaise is
    all you need. Or use the light or fat-free kind.

  • Choose lean meats. These
    include 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 in small amounts.
    Try olive and canola oils. Bake chicken without the skin. Choose a potato
    instead of French fries.

  • Pick healthy, easy-to-grab
    foods
    . Try little bags or containers of ready-to-eat vegetables. These
    include celery sticks, cucumber wedges, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots. Or
    make healthier choices for store-bought snacks, such as pretzels. Keep them
    with you in your briefcase, handbag, office, car, and home.

  • Eat when hungry and stop when
    full.
    Take smaller portions. Don’t go back for seconds.

  • Think small when dining
    out.
    Restaurant servings are often too large. When dining out or
    ordering in, ask for half of a serving. Or get a doggy bag. That way you won’t
    be as full, and you can have some tomorrow.

  • Be careful when ordering fast
    food.
    Not all fast food is high in fat and calories. Order a lean roast
    beef or grilled chicken sandwich. Stick with regular and small portion sizes.
    Order items without the cheese.

  • Cut down on drinks and
    sweets.
    Try not to drink alcohol or drinks with added sugar. Try to skip
    sweets such as candy, cakes, and cookies.

Getting exercise

Regular exercise is vital to
manage your weight. But before you start a new exercise plan, talk with your
healthcare provider if you:

  • Are older than 50. If you plan to begin a
    program of physical activity, first talk with your healthcare provider. This is to
    be sure you don’t have heart disease or other health problems.
  • Have ongoing (chronic) health problems. These
    include heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. Also talk with your provider first if
    you are at high risk for these conditions.

Here are some exercise tips for staying at a healthy weight:

  • Try different types of
    exercise.
    Aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises burn calories by
    increasing your heart rate. Try to include all 4 types of exercise: endurance,
    strength, balance, and flexibility.

  • Don’t try to make exercise
    hard.
    Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to give you health
    benefits. No matter what your age, you can benefit from a medium amount of
    physical activity. Do this each day if possible. You can reach a medium amount
    of activity in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as 30
    minutes of brisk walking). You can also reach it in shorter sessions of more
    strenuous activities (such as 15 to 20 minutes of jogging).

  • Start with short amounts of
    activity.
    If you have not been active, start with short intervals (5 to
    10 minutes) of physical activity. Slowly build up to the activity level you
    want to reach.

  • Do things that you enjoy.
    If you like to walk and talk with friends, find a partner and start a walking
    routine. If you want to release stress-related energy or anxiety, try boxing.
    Find an exercise program you will enjoy!

  • Find ways 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 done
    regularly—can make a big difference in your overall fitness.

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