If you're like most people, your weight will fluctuate during your lifetime. How do you know when you are at a realistic and healthy weight?
A healthy weight for one person is not necessarily a healthy weight for another. The goal should not be to have a body like models and movie stars. The goal is to get to, and stay within, a healthy weight range for you.
What's a healthy weight?
"The answer to this question is not found in a chart or table," says Deborah Bade Horn, vice president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. The answer, she says, begins with a conversation between a doctor and the patient.
"The actual number of ‘how much to lose' is often adjusted" during the course of your weight-loss journey, Horn says. It depends on how your body responds, she says.
To determine whether you should lose weight, you can do a self-assessment or schedule a visit with your doctor. Either way, you can start by learning your body mass index, or BMI.
Your BMI is determined using your height and weight. This number is a good indicator of the amount of body fat you have.
You can find a BMI calculator online. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website is one reliable source.
"BMI is a good starting point, but it is not the only measurement tool that we have and it is not perfect," Horn says.
"For example, if you are an older American, you may have a normal BMI, but your lean muscle mass is actually low and your body fat is comparatively high," she says.
So, in addition to calculating your BMI, your doctor may also measure your waistline. If you carry most of your fat around your middle rather than your hips, you're at higher risk of obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In general, your waist should not be greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Your doctor can tell you if your waist measurement is of concern.
How much to lose?
"Determining the weight at which you are healthiest requires a careful look at your lifestyle, what you are willing to change and - most importantly - what weight loss you can successfully maintain long term," Horn says.
Studies have shown that losing even a small amount of weight can have health benefits. A weight loss of about 5 to 7 percent of your body weight over six months can often help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It also may have other health benefits.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, you'll need to be realistic. You can't do it all at once. Set small, incremental goals that are within your reach. Losing 1/2 to 2 pounds per week is a reasonable goal for most people.
Realistic weight-loss goals allow you to work on lifestyle changes that can help ensure your long-term success. These include eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. This means controlling your calorie balance (energy in, energy out).
So don't obsess about a number on the scale. "Everybody is different," says personal trainer and wellness coach Tara Cwikla, "You should work with your physician to determine an appropriate weight goal."
Now that we've established that reaching a healthy weight depends on changing your eating and exercise habits, do you know what that lifestyle might include?
Try this warm-up exercise!
Play this word-search game to find words that represent a healthier lifestyle. We've placed 25. How many can you find?
NOTE TO USERS: Clicking on the link below will open a new window in your Internet browser. From that window you may print out your word game. To return to the program, simply close that window.View and print your word game.
Created on 03/19/2013
Updated on 03/19/2013
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Facts about healthy weight.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy weight – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!
- Weight-control Information Network. Talking with patients about weight loss: Tips for primary care providers.