Aim for a Healthy Weight

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important to overall health and it can help you prevent and control many diseases and chronic conditions. Being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, and certain cancers. Extra weight also increases strain on your joints, and make conditions, such as arthritis, worse.

What is a healthy weight?

For adults, a healthy weight is defined as the appropriate body weight in relation to height. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the general measure used to determine if someone is at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Use the Body Mass Index Table below to determine what your BMI is:

The Health Benefits of Losing Just 5% of Your Body Weight

While reaching a healthy weight should be your final goal, it may surprise you that losing just 5% of your body weight can give you many health benefits. It may be enough to lower your blood pressure, lower your bad cholesterol, and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. This means if you weigh 200 pounds, you can benefit by losing just 10 pounds!

How Do I Begin My Weight Loss Journey?

It’s best to lose weight gradually. It’s safer that way, and you are more likely to keep the weight off. Keeping weight off is about making permanent changes to your lifestyle, and not about quick fixes and fad diets. Permanent changes come from making better food choices and from being active.

Focus on DOABLE and SPECIFIC Goals

It’s easy to say, “I’ll eat better,” or “I will exercise more.” But these aren’t very specific, which doesn’t make them very doable. Instead, create specific goals that are doable, such as, “I will eat 3 pieces of fruit per day” or “I will walk 30 minutes on five days each week.” Maybe you will choose to swap one can of soda for water each day. These are specific goals that you can reach! Additionally, you may also want to reward yourself when you have achieved your goals (but not with food!). For example, treat yourself to a walk through the park.

Be Mindful

Of situations that encourage unhealthy eating - there may be situations that encourage undesirable eating, such as sitting in front of the TV, or when there are treats available in the workplace. In these situations, be aware of that cue and change it. For example, create a specific and doable goal to not eat a snack while watching TV, or instead, eat a healthy one, such as a piece of fruit, or a carrot.  At work, walk away from the treat table.

Of fullness – It takes 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’ve been fed. Eating slowly will help prevent you from eating too much and will help you feel satisfied. Also, eating fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water can help you to feel fuller.

What Should I Eat?

A good place to start is to use the United States Department of Agriculture’s My Plate. or )

My Plate shows the five food groups that are the building blocks of a healthy diet. Everything you eat and drink matters. You should focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Keep these My Plate tips in mind:

  • Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables and you should focus on eating a variety of colorful produce during the week – red, dark green, yellow, blue, purple, white, and orange. Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables all count! If buying canned fruit, select those without added sugar (not canned in syrup). If buying canned vegetables, select no-salt or reduced salt varieties.
  • Make half your grains whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole oats, barley, and quinoa.  Make sure to check ingredient labels for the words “whole grain.”
  • Choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) dairy products. You will get the same amount of calcium and other nutrients as whole milk, but with less saturated fat and calories.
  • It’s a good idea to vary your protein choices throughout the week. Lean protein choices include skinless chicken or turkey, 90% or leaner ground beef, pork tenderloin, seafood, beans and lentils, tofu, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Start by making small changes, such as swapping a cookie for a piece of fruit, or adding more vegetables to your plate. Begin to cut down on portion sizes. Think of each change as a “win” as you build positive habits.

More Tips for Healthier Eating

  • Reduce your portion sizes. Using a smaller plate may help, while also following the My Plate guidance.
  • Focus on variety! Try new foods.
  • Drink more water.
  • Make a healthy shift – this means swapping an unhealthy food for a healthier food, such as shifting from whole milk to low-fat milk in your breakfast cereal, shifting from drinking soda with your lunch to water, or shifting from white bread to whole-wheat bread.

Read Nutrition Labels!

It’s important to read nutrition labels when purchasing food. This is especially important for packaged and processed foods. In particular, look for:

  • Number of servings per package. You may be surprised to find that a small package of a snack food may contain more than one serving!
  • Added sugars mean sugars were added during the manufacturing process, and not those that are occur naturally in the food. Added sugars contribute calories, but no essential nutrients.
    • Sugar is usually listed in grams on a nutrition label. Women should eat no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. This equals 6 teaspoons of sugar. Men should eat no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day. This equals 9 teaspoons of sugar. A single 20 oz. bottle of soda can sabotage your sugar intake for the entire day! Here’s something to think about: On average, Americans consume 66 pounds of added sugar each year! That is more than thirteen 5-pound bags of sugar!
    • Major sources of added sugars are sugar sweetened beverages (such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and coffees, sports drinks, and energy drinks), candy, cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts, ice cream, yogurt, granola and energy bars, and cereals. Added sugars are even found in ketchup, breads, dressings, and pasta sauce.
    • Food manufacturers are required to show “added sugars” on food nutrition labels starting January 1, 2020, although some manufacturers are doing this now. To find out if a food has added sugar, check the ingredient label. Added sugar can be listed under many names, including brown sugar, maple syrup, corn sweetener, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.
  • Sodium (salt) – Too much salt in your diet can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams (mgs) per day for most adults (which is about ¾ of a teaspoon). More than 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods.

Be More Active!

Along with a healthy diet, regular physical activity can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.  Additionally, much like healthy eating, physical activity also helps reduce your risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

You should aim for 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week. That’s only 30 minutes five times a week! You can also break your physical activity into 10-15-minute chunks and still get the benefits. If you haven’t been very physically active, start slowly and gradually increase your duration and intensity over time as you become stronger. A great place to start is walking! Walking is the easiest, least expensive, and most convenient activity that you can do. You can walk almost anywhere. To start, set a reachable goal for the day, such as ten minutes. Gradually increase until you can walk for at least 30 minutes at a time. Also, choose to take the stairs whenever you can!

Remember, meaningful change takes time. Set doable and specific goals, and with each achievement, you will be that much closer to your desired weight!