Your weight and your goals

Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI, which stands for Body Mass Index, isn’t exactly a household word, but you should know why it’s important. It’s recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization as the best standard to diagnose obesity.

If your BMI is too high (25 or above), you’re at an increased risk for chronic health problems. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and respiratory problems. Your risks for endometrial, breast, prostate and colon cancers also increase. Conditions related to being overweight are the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smoking is the first.

BMI isn’t just for adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed the first ever BMI charts for children.

Making sense of the numbers

Underweight: below 18.5 Normal: 18.5 to 24.9 Overweight: 25 to 29.9 Obese: 30 to 39.9 Extremely obese: 40 and above

We share a common challenge
About 97 million Americans – 55 percent of the population age 20 and older – are overweight or obese, according to the NIH, which says obesity poses a major health challenge. In addition, 11 percent of American children between the ages of 6 and 17 are overweight, compared to 5 percent in the 1960s and 1970s, according to the most recent federal statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Survey.

Be a weight-loss winner
Although it is possible to be overweight and have very little fat, few people (except body builders, for example) actually fall into this category. Most people who are overweight have too much body fat rather than muscle weight, and need to be conscious of the need to lose weight.

Once you’re overweight, it can be hard to lose weight permanently. According to the NIH, the most successful weight-loss strategies involve reducing calories, increasing physical activity and having behavior modification therapy to improve your eating and exercise habits.

Here are some suggestions on what you and your family can do to lose weight and keep it off:

Be active, but don’t go overboard with your workouts. If your schedule seems too jammed for exercise, start by walking outdoors or on a treadmill for 10 minutes a day. After a few days, increase your walking session to 15 minutes, then 20, and eventually to 30 minutes or more. Seek your doctor’s advice before launching into an exercise or any weight-loss program, or taking any over-the-counter diet pill or supplement. Be wary of fad diets and rapid weight-loss programs. They may provide dramatic short-term results, but can be hazardous to your long-term health. Stick to a minimum of at least 1,200 calories a day if you’re a woman. If you’re a man, get at least 1,600 per day, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor. Weight loss becomes much harder if your body switches over to starvation mode because of calorie limitations below these amounts. Set realistic weight-loss goals, such as one to two pounds a week or eight pounds a month. Stick with it. Don’t give up just because you reached a plateau or binged on potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers at yesterday’s barbecue. Know what you’re eating. Try to keep your daily fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total daily calories. Instead of junk food, keep fruit, a bowl of washed carrots or celery front and center in your refrigerator. Remember that reducing dietary fat without reducing calories won’t cause significant weight loss. Some fat-free foods actually contain more calories than their fat-containing counterparts. Remember that portion sizes and overall calories consumed are major contributors to weight gain, and thus a high BMI, so consider these factors at every meal.

SOURCES:

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Aim for a healthy weight: Assess your risk Accessed: 04/09/2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining overweight and obesity Accessed: 04/09/2010

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Aim for a healthy weight: key recommendations Accessed: 04/09/2010

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