Weight Control Basics

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Healthy Body Weight

Find your weight on the bottom of the graph. Go straight up from that point until you come to the line that matches your height. Then find your Body Mass Index (BMI).

You can also find out about your BMI from: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.


A BMI above the normal weight range is less healthy for most people. It may be fine if you have lots of muscle and little fat. In general, though, if your BMI is above the normal weight range, consult your doctor or health care provider.

Whether your weight is “healthy” also depends on:

•  Your age and family health history

•  Your fitness level

•  Your waist measurement (waist circumference). To find this, place a measuring tape snugly around your waist near your navel. Stand relaxed. Do not pull in your stomach.

National Weight-control Information Network (WIN)






Waist Circumference & Health Risks

Waist measurement helps screen for possible health risks that come with overweight and obesity. If most of your fat is around your waist instead of your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size:

•  Greater than 35 inches  for women

•  Greater than 40 inches  for men

Your “healthy weight” can also depend on other risk factors you have. These include:

•  Cigarette smoking

•  High blood glucose (sugar)

•  High blood pressure

•  High triglycerides. These are a kind of fat.

•  Not being active enough

•  Unhealthy cholesterol levels in the blood

Health Risks with Excess Weight

Being overweight is linked with:

•  Arthritis of the hips and knees

•  High blood pressure

•  Stroke

•  Type 2 diabetes

•  Heart disease

•  Gallstones

•  Cancers of the ovaries, breast, cervix, and uterus in women. Cancer of the prostate gland in men. Cancers of the colon and rectum in women and men.

Some persons are more prone to get some of these diseases. Losing weight can help control or prevent them. A weight loss of just 7 to 10 percent will help lower your risk of these diseases.

Causes of Weight Gain

•  Eating more calories than your body uses

•  Eating the same number of calories as you age and/or exercising less

•  Certain genes a person inherits that make it easier to store excess energy as fat. Also, some people are less able to release stored energy from fat. People with this problem cannot get stored energy from their fat cells. This causes them to eat more.

•  Some medicines. These include:

–  Antidepressants, such as lithium

–  Blood pressure medicines, such as Inderal®

–  Corticosteroids, such as prednisone

–  Hormones in some birth control pills and in hormone therapy (HT).

•  Stopping smoking. Some persons gain weight when they stop smoking due to:

–  A metabolic rate that returns to normal. Nicotine in cigarettes raises the metabolic rate.

–  Eating more to take the place of smoking

•  Some illnesses. These include:

–  Diabetes

–  Heart or kidney problems that cause fluid to build up in body tissues

–  Low thyroid gland output

Lose Weight Safely

•  Aim for a slow, steady weight loss.

•  Don’t follow diets that allow less than 1,000 calories per day.

•  Only take over-the-counter medicines and other weight loss aids with your doctor’s okay.

•  Don’t vomit and/or use laxatives to lose weight.

•  Beware of quick weight loss products and programs. Watch out for these claims:

– Weight loss with no effort or exercise

– Weight loss while eating all you want

– Weight loss of more than 2 pounds a week

•  Avoid using sauna belts, body wraps, and other unproven weight-loss aids.

•  Avoid being a yo-yo dieter.

•  Beware of products and programs that use these terms:

– “Miraculous breakthrough”

– “Newly found secret”

– “Fat buster"

Be Physically Active

Lose weight by eating fewer calories and increasing physical activity. Spend less time sitting and more time being active. Exercise to help build muscle and reduce body fat. Limit TV time or exercise when you watch TV.

Get Active

•  To prevent weight gain, do about 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Do this every day, if you can. This can be done at one time. It can also be spread out over 2 or 3 times during the day.

•  To lose weight and to help keep lost weight off, do physical activity for 60 to 90 or more minutes a day.

Ways to Put Activity in Your Day

Make an activity plan. Choose activities that you enjoy and will keep doing. For overall fitness:

•  Do aerobic exercises. Walk. Run. Swim. Bike. Cross country ski, etc.

•  Do exercises for endurance and to strengthen muscles. Do push ups, pull ups, and use weights. To build endurance, increase the number of times you do these exercises or the amount of weight you lift.

•  Do stretching exercises, such as leg stretches, reaching from side to side, and yoga.

•  Do warm-up exercises before aerobics. Loosen your muscles by stretching and/or walking for  5 minutes. After the activity, cool down with 5 minutes of walking and/or stretching.

•  Choose a good time and place to exercise each day. If you exercise before a meal, wait about 25 minutes before you eat. Wait at least 2 hours after you eat before you exercise hard.

•  Be in tune with your body when you exercise. If your muscles or joints start to hurt, ease up.

•  Don’t overdress. Too much sweating can be harmful.

•  Read about fitness and exercise. Talk about good fitness habits with persons who stay fit.

Before you begin to exercise, check with your doctor, especially if:

1. You have been inactive for a long period of time.

2. You are overweight or have a medical problem.

3. You are a male over 40 years of age or a female over age 50.

Choose Foods Wisely

Know how many calories to eat to lose weight.

•  To lose 1/2 to 2 pounds of body fat per week, you need to eat 250 to 1,000 less calories each day than what you now eat.

•  In general, about 1,200 calories per day promotes a healthy weight loss for most women; about 1,600 calories per day for most men.

•  Follow your doctor’s advice for how many calories to eat each day for weight loss.

•  Read food labels for calorie content per serving.

General Eating Tips to Control Your Weight

•  Eat at regular times. Have half of your food in the first half of the day.

•  Plan at least 3, but not more than 6 meals a day. Have the first one within 2 hours of waking.

•  Vary your food choices to get a variety of nutrients.

•  Eat smaller portions. Limit second helpings.

•  Watch the FAT! Think: Without fat, less fat, little fat, low-fat. Aim daily to get 30% or less of your calories from fat. Use the chart on the next panel for the maximum grams of fat to eat per day for your calorie needs.

•  Don’t gobble your meals. You will be more satisfied with less if you eat slowly.

•  Get 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber per day.

–  Eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables.

–  Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas; bran; and beans, lentils, and peas.

•  Eat fewer sweets (candy, cookies, cakes, and sweetened cereals). Limit sugar.

•  Drink less alcohol or no alcohol.

•  Drink water instead of soda and other sweetened beverages.

Follow These Eating Tips

•  Appetite is a desire for food. Hunger is a true physical need for food. Eat in response to hunger, not appetite.

•  Use smaller sized plates for meals.

•  To avoid impulse buying, shop only from a well-planned list. Never shop when hungry.

•  Blast out your desire for food by yelling the word “STOP.”

•  Plan your snacks in advance.

•  Put on tight clothes if you feel like eating too much.

Eating Pace Tips

•  Eat slowly. Chances are you will eat less.

•  Chew food well and swallow before the next bite.

•  Take sips of water between bites.

Eating Mood Tips

• Eat only when relaxed, not to reduce tension.

• Instead of thinking of “not eating,” think of showing respect for your body by refusing to overeat.

• Think about feeling bloated or stuffed before you overeat. Be aware of these negative sensations.

Eating Out Tips

•  Choose restaurants that have low-calorie foods. Decide what you’ll eat ahead of time.

•  Don’t starve all day before you go out to eat.

•  Avoid “all-you-can-eat” restaurants.

•  Order “a la carte” or “half orders” to keep portions small. Share an order with someone else.

•  Drink few, if any, alcoholic beverages. Alcohol stimulates the appetite and has calories.

Eating With Others Tips

•  Beware of “Saboteurs” who try to undermine your weight loss. They may feel threatened by your success.

•  Tell others about your weight loss goals.

•  Meet friends for a walk instead of sitting and talking.

•  Don’t eat just because others are. Wait until you are hungry.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


The American Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM) is not responsible for the availability or content of external sites, nor does AIPM endorse them. Also, it is the responsibility of the user to examine the copyright and licensing restrictions of external pages and to secure all necessary permission.


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