As part of its national mission to promote public health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is providing an educational program for the public on how to lose weight and keep it off.
On its website, Healthy Weight – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!, the CDC states: “The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.”
“More than one third of U.S. adults are obese. Weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than your body uses. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions,” the CDC states on its website.
The CDC presents extensive resources on assessing your weight, losing weight, and preventing weight gain.
Assessing Your Weight
To determine whether your current weight is normal, overweight or obese, in relation to your height, the CDC provides a calculator (below) to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI).
“BMI is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI provides a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems,” the CDC explains.
If you are an adult, 20 years old and older, you can use the following tool provided by the CDC to calculate your BMI and learn whether your weight is underweight, normal, overweight, or obese:
For more information on assessing your weight, see the CDC’s website on Assessing your weight.
“It’s natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly. But evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off,” the CDC states.
“To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in,” the CDC explains. “Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.”
Getting Started. Successfully losing weight requires a commitment and a plan, according to the CDC. To help you get started, the CDC provides a Step-By-Step Guide on its Getting Started website. The steps to getting started include:
- Step 1: Make a commitment.
- Step 2: Take stock of where you are.
- Step 3: Set realistic goals.
- Step 4: Identify resources for information and support.
- Step 5: Continually “check in” with yourself to monitor your progress.
Balancing Calories In Versus Calories Out. According to the CDC, losing weight, gaining weight, or maintaining weight is about Balancing Calories: the number of calories you take in (in the food you eat) vs. the calories you burn through physical activity. If you use more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.
A comprehensive calorie counter, showing the number of calories in different foods is provided by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
A basic list showing the number of calories burned in typical activities is provided by the CDC. More extensive online counters that help you determine the number of calories you are burning through various exercises are also provided by private sources such as HealthStatus or Bodybuilding.com.
The National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), provides a sophisticated online interactive Body Weight Simulator, created based on a recent scientific study.
Using Java software, the Body Weight Simulator tells you the number of calories you would need to cut from your daily diet and the length of time required for you to reach your target weight, given your current weight, height, age, gender, and physical activity level. You can re-run the simulation with increased physical activity levels, to determine how exercise will help.
The Simulator also tells you the maximum number of calories per day that you can thereafter eat to maintain your target weight. The Simulator thus helps a person gain a more realistic perspective on what will be required in your particular case to reach and maintain your desired weight.
Starting with realistic expectations and selecting a diet level that you can realistically sustain for the required period of time may be the key to staying on your diet.
Official Dietary & Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The US government has issued official science-based guidelines to help Americans maintain a healthy lifestyle, including:
- The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and the new MyPlate Icon, which HHS and USDA have issued to replace the older Food Pyramid, as a simple graphic guideline to help Americans choose and plan a healthy diet; and
- The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
Monitoring Your Progress. A recent study found that maintaining a daily food diary of what you eat, and the number of calories you are consuming, is a helpful technique used by those most successful in losing weight.
The CDC provides a form that can be used to help you maintain a Daily Food Diary. In the Notes column, you may want to record the number of calories of each food you eat, and total them at intervals during the day to keep track of the calories you are consuming.
The CDC also provides a form to help you maintain a Physical Activity Diary. This will help you keep track of your progress in achieving your exercise goals.
For more information and resources on losing weight, see the CDC’s website on Losing weight
Maintaining a Healthy Weight and Preventing Weight Gain
“Once you’ve achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60—90 minutes [per week], moderate intensity), you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term,” according to the CDC.
Follow the guidelines above to maintain a healthy diet at the number of calories appropriate to maintain your ideal weight, and continue exercising for good health.
“Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week,” the CDC advocates on its website on Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight.
“Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time. However, the exact amount of physical activity needed to do this is not clear since it varies greatly from person to person,” the CDC States.
“By avoiding weight gain, you avoid higher risks of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and some forms of cancer,” according to the CDC.
An ongoing study of people who have lost weight and kept it off, conducted by the National Weight Control Registry has found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.
“The good news is that weight gain can be prevented by choosing a lifestyle that includes good eating habits and daily physical activity,” says the CDC.
This may require a change to a healthy lifestyle – one that maintains balance in your life and that you can comfortably live with for the rest of your life.
“The key is FINDING A BALANCE in your lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity,” according to this video prepared by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), part of the CDC:
Here is a Script of the Video (as a PDF document).
For more information on maintaining a healthy weight and preventing weight gain, see the CDC’s website on Preventing weight gain.
See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:
How Do People Lose Weight & What Can Be Done About the Obesity Epidemic? (Provides a link to an online tool to help you determine how many calories per day you can eat to arrive at your goal weight, given your current weight, age, height, activity level, and gender.)
For more information on maintaining a healthy weight, healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:
- Weight Loss/ Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Physical Wellness;
- Diet & Nutrition: Physical Wellness;
- Exercise: Physical Wellness;
- Sleep, Hygiene, Quit Smoking & Other Healthy Practices: Physical Wellness;
- Activities to Preserve Mental Acuity: Intellectual Wellness;
- Social Interaction & A Sense of Connection With Others: Social Wellness;
- Other Areas of Wellness: Emotional, Ethical/ Spiritual & Vocational Wellness; and
- Healthy Living: Stories of Inspiring Seniors.
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