First, what does “healthy weight” mean to you? Is it the weight you think you should be? The same as you weighed 20 years ago? Ten pounds less than someone else? We can’t provide an exact number for you personally, but we can give you some pointers on how to get to a weight that’s healthy for you and stay there.
Two ways to get a ballpark idea if your weight is healthy or not: body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
BMI measures your height compared to your weight. But experts note that BMI doesn’t measure belly fat, and that’s important. Too much belly fat can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Waist circumference (waist size) takes belly fat into account and helps predict your risk of health problems from being overweight. Women whose waist measures more than 35 inches and men whose waist measures more than 40 inches are at higher risk. Losing weight can reduce belly fat and lower that risk!
To measure your waist correctly, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out.
- People who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1-2 pounds oer week) are more successful at keeping weight off.
- Healthy weight isn’t a temporary commitment. It means ongoing lifestyle choices including healthy eating and daily movement.
- Even modest weight loss of 5-10 percent of your total body weight can produce important health benefits like improving blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.
Create an eating plan that you can sustain for life. To be successful with healthy eating, your diet should be (1) based on healthy food choices and (2) something you can do long term. That means you might need a different strategy than someone else. Some people cut back on sufgar, some eat more protein, others focus on extra fruits and vegetables. The details will depend on what you like and what fits best in your life. Visit Eating for Life to get started.
Incorporate movement throughout the day, every day. Physical activity can make you feel better, function better, and sleep better. Combining exercise with healthy eating is a strategy that can help improve weight loss. Learn how much you should be moving everyday.
Control your environment. While we all aspire to lose weight on shear willpower, that’s usually not enough. Removing unhealthy temptations and replacing them with healthy choices will help you to stay on track. Some ideas include:
- Keep unhealthy food out of your home and make healthy snacks accessible. Wash and package serving size portions of fresh fruits and vegetables, shelf stable whole grain snacks, and switch full-fat dairy to low- or non-fat options.
- Be strategic when eating out. Avoid buffet style restaurants, drink water to reduce sugar and calories from beverages, and ask for a to-go container when your meal is served so you can portion appropriately before eating.
- Lay out your workout clothes. Whether you plan to exercise first thing in the morning or right when you get home, lay out your attire in a spot that makes it easy to change.
- Keep your walking shoes and headphones near the door. Do you have a few minutes to spare? Instead of sitting down to watch TV, throw on your shoes and plug in your headphones. Head outside for a walk while listening to music, catching up on a podcast, or chatting with a friend.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough zzz’s increases your hunger and appetite which means it can be harder to make good choices. Too little sleep also increases stress hormones which tells the body to hold onto fat. Creating a nighttime routine that is focused on preparing for sleep is key.
- Journal, journal, journal. Writing down what you eat is the single best predictor of weight loss success. But most people don’t do it because they think it will be too time-consuming. Guess how long it takes (yes, studies have been done)? Less than 15 minutes a day on average. You don’t need to add lots of detail, but aim for at least 3 entries each day and do it consistently day after day for the best results.
Family history and genes. Your chances are being overweight are greater if one or both parents are. Your genes may affect how the amount of fat you store in your body and where you may carry extra fat.
Race or ethnicity. Obesity in American adults is highlight in African American and Hispanic/Latino men and women.
Age. Many people gain weight as they age. Adults who have a normal BMI often start to gain weight in young adulthood and continue to gain weight until they are ages 60 to 65. In addition, children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults.
Sex/Gender. A person’s sex/gender may affect where the body stores fat. Women tend to build up fat in their hips and buttocks. Men usually build up fat in their abdomen or belly. Extra fat, particularly if it is around the abdomen, may put people at risk of health problems even if they have a normal weight.
Environment. Where you live, work, play, and worship may affect your eating and physical activity habits, and access to healthy foods and places to be active. Neighborhoods with more green space and areas safe of physical activity encourage more movement. The same can be said for areas with a high number of grocery stores which increase your access to healthier food choices. Where you work and worship may also make it easier for you to eat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Vending machines, cafeterias, or special events at your workplace or place of worship may not offer healthy, lower calorie options. Whenever possible, choose the healthier options and limit your treats to a small sliver of pie or cake.
Family habits and culture. Some families may consume foods and beverages high in fat, salt, and added sugars or eat large amounts of unhealthy foods. Families that spend a lot of time engaging in sedentary activities like watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer also increase the risk of failing to reach the minimum amount of recommended physical activity.
Other factors like certain medical conditions, certain medications, binge eating disorder, stress.