Diet and nutrition
Managing weight sensibly
Overall health and well-being, not to mention a healthy weight,
go hand in hand with sensible eating and regular physical
exercise. To maintain optimal health, adults need to avoid
gaining weight. Being overweight or obese increases health
risks such as heart disease,
blood pressure, high blood cholesterol,
certain types of cancer,
and respiratory problems. Healthy weight is the key to longevity.
Evaluate your body weight
It is important to determine your ideal weight in relation to your height.
This is known as the Body Mass Index, or BMI. To determine your BMI, weigh
yourself and have someone measure your height. Find your BMI in the table
below. The higher your BMI category, the greater your risk of developing
weight-related health problems.
Using a tape measure, stand and measure just around your waist, just
above the hip bones. Health risks increase as this measurement increases,
particularly if this measurement is above 35 inches (89 cm) in women and
above 40 inches (102 cm) in men. A pot belly or excess abdominal fat may
also place you at higher risk, even if your BMI is within the healthy
It should be noted that not all adults whose BMI is deemed "healthy"
are at their ideal weight. For instance, some adults may have
a lot of body fat and little muscle. In general, a BMI above the
healthy range is unhealthy for most people, but it may be healthy
in those with lots of muscle and little body fat. The higher your
BMI above the healthy range, the greater your weight-related health
risks. If this is the case for you, you may benefit from weight
loss, particularly if you have other health risk factors such
as a family history of heart disease,
smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, high
blood pressure, diabetes,
or abnormal blood lipids (i.e. high or low cholesterol or high
triglycerides). Your risk also increases if you are postmenopausal.
A BMI below the healthy range can still be considered healthy as long as
it does not result from illness. Those whose BMI is below the healthy range
can experience dysmenorrhea (irregular menstrual periods), infertility, and
Learn to manage your weight
Genetics affect our tendency to gain weight. However, weight
management is possible through balancing sensible eating with
regular physical exercise. Weight management is a lifelong commitment
that requires long-term changes in eating behavior and physical
activity. Crash diets, fasting, binge eating, purging, misuse
of laxatives and diet pills, self-induced vomiting and obsessive
exercise may lead to dramatic weight loss, but these are often
the beginnings of serious eating disorders such as anorexia
nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Loss of one to two pounds per week is usually safe. The important
thing to remember is to lose weight gradually—about ten
percent of your total body weight over 6 months.
If you decide to diet to lose weight, be sure to consult your physician or
health care provider. He or she can provide you with the information and support
you need to ensure your weight loss is gradual and healthy. He or she may also
suggest a program of physical activity that will help you lose weight but not
muscle mass. Staying active is important and keeping active reduces the risk
of muscle atrophy, decrease in bone density, and fractures.
Make healthy food choices
Eat sensibly—make sound food choices that include fruits
and vegetables, grains (particularly whole grains), skim milk,
and fish, poultry or legumes such as peas, nuts, beans or lentils.
Exercise moderation in relation to foods containing refined flours
and sugars. Added sugars and refined flours can increase the production
of insulin in the body and what the body doesn't use, it may store
Ensure you choose reasonable portion sizes. When eating out especially,
choose small portion sizes. Share an entrée with a friend
or ask your server for a doggie bag so you can take food home.
You can also check food labels for suggested serving sizes and
for nutritional information such as calories and fat grams per
serving. Many foods sold as single servings often provide two
or more portions. Be particularly careful to limit your intake
of high-calorie foods. These include cookies, cake, French fries,
oils, and cheese or sandwich spreads.
Be sure you fully understand product labels. Low-fat foods are not necessarily
low-calorie foods. In some cases, extra sugars are added to low-fat foods, making them
high-calorie foods and therefore poor choices.
If you believe it will help you better understand your eating patterns, you can
keep a food journal. Write in it the foods you eat, the amounts, and the times at which
you eat and snack. This can help you identify where you may need to modify your eating
habits. For example, if you tend to snack during the day, you may be taking in additional
calories. Your journal will help you identify where you may need to make more sensible
choices. Choose fruit slices or vegetable sticks in place of pretzels, for example. Try
a cup of low-fat milk in place of a soft drink or similar snacks such as custards or
puddings. Instead of frying fish and poultry, consider grilling them.
Increase your physical acitivity
Although necessary for good health, being physically active and maintaining a healthy
weight provide different health benefits. Everyone can improve health and have fun by
including moderate physical exercise into their daily routine. Moderate physical activity
is any activity that requires about as much energy as walking 2 miles in 30 minutes.
Try to exercise 30 minutes at least 3 times per week and daily, if at all possible. If
you currently exercise 30 minutes per day, increasing the time you exercise or engaging
in more rigorous physical activity will allow you to reap even greater health benefit. If
you find it difficult to exercise for 30 minutes at a time, you can spread activity over
the course of the day. For example, you can take your pet for a walk in the morning,
vacuum when you get home from work, and do light gardening after dinner. You can go for a
brisk walk with a friend, read a book, then play tag with your kids. The key is to make
physical activity part of your routine.
Choose activities you enjoy and that you do regularly. Some people
prefer activities that fit naturally into their daily lives—light
gardening, walking the dog, or taking extra trips up and down
stairs. Other people prefer a regular exercise program such as
an aerobics class, circuit training, aquacize or dance class.
Below are a few suggestions.
|Daily activities that provide exercise
Walk more instead of using the car or bus
Choose a bus stop that is a little further from your starting
or end point so you can increase the amount of walking you
Take the stairs instead of the elevator
Use a push mower to mow your grass
Clean the house
Walk the dog
Push a baby stroller
Pedal a stationary bike or use a treadmill while watching
Play actively with children
|Exercise and recreational activities
Walk, inline skate or jog
Golf (pull cart or carry clubs)
Canoe or kayak
Cross-country or downhill ski
Take part in exercise programs at home, school, or work
Play rugby, football, or soccer
Swim or take an aquacise class
Play racquetball, squash, or tennis
Play field, floor, or ice hockey
Take a ballroom or belly dance class and attend social
Play volleyball or basketball
Join a recreational softball league
Aerobic activities increase heart rate and breathing. As a result, they help
improve cardiovascular fitness. Strength and flexibility activities such as
carrying groceries, weight training, yoga, stretching, and dancing help improve muscle
strength and overall flexibility. Combining aerobic exercise with strength and flexibility
activities will provide the greatest overall health benefits.
Most people do not need to consult with their doctor before
planning to become more physically active. However, you should
definitely consult your physician or health care provider
if you are planning to start a vigorous exercise program or
if you have chronic health problems such as diabetes,
or obesity, if you are at high risk
for heart disease, or if you are a woman over the age of 50.