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According to the CDC, more than 70% 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. 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.
Staying at a healthy weight is especially important if you have or have had any of the following conditions:
Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure
Cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, stomach, breast, or colon
High total cholesterol level
Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis of the back, knees, and 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 and gradually. For example, lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. An initial weight loss goal of 5% to 7% of body weight is realistic for most people. Develop a healthy pattern of eating and exercising that you can follow for the rest of your life.
Remember, a calorie is a calorie. It doesn’t 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. These include low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and Mediterranean diets. You can eat a larger amount of foods that are low in fat as long as they are also low in calories. But be sure to check labels or read educational materials to make sure. Maintaining healthy eating behaviors is more important than choosing a certain diet.
Low-calorie. Low-calorie eating plans can cause weight loss through taking in fewer calories than you burn. This creates an energy shortage. It triggers the body to use stored body fat for energy. Certain types of foods are not restricted, just the number of calories consumed.
Low-carbohydrate. Low-carb diets trigger your body to lower insulin (a hormone that causes hunger) and burn stored fat for energy. This eating plan limits 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 stresses healthy fats found in olive oil and nuts along with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, 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. If you drink juice with breakfast, choose 100% fruit juice (canned, from a carton, or freshly squeezed). 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 light or low-fat dairy products. 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.
A little bit of salad dressing goes a long way. 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 the leanest cuts of meat. These include 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. Choose a potato instead of French fries.
Choose healthy, quick, and easy-to-grab foods. Try little bags or containers of ready-to-eat vegetables (such as celery sticks, cucumber wedges, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots). Or make healthier choices for snacks that are store-bought, such as pretzels. Keep them with you in your briefcase, handbag, office, car, and home.
Choose 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.
Think small when dining out. 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 won’t be as full, and you can have some tomorrow.
Be careful when ordering fast food. Fast food doesn’t have to be high in fat and calories. Try ordering 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, and avoid most sweets (candy, cakes, cookies).
Regular exercise is critical to effectively manage your weight. Here are some exercise tips for staying at a healthy weight:
Try everything. Aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises burn calories by increasing heart rate. Try to include all 4 types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.
Exercise doesn’t have to be 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 bursts of activity. If you have not been active, you should start with short intervals (5 to 10 minutes) of physical activity. Slowly build up to the activity level you want to achieve.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you have chronic health problems. Before starting a new exercise program, talk with your provider if you have ongoing health problems (such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity). Also talk with your provider first if you are at high risk for these conditions.
If you’re older, see your provider first. If you are older than 50 and plan to begin a program of vigorous physical activity, first talk with your healthcare provider. This is to be sure you don’t have heart disease or other health problems.
Start slow. Increase the exercise intensity as your strength and endurance grow.
Do things that you 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 to get involved in 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 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.
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