BMI, which stands for Body Mass Index, isn't exactly a household word, but you should know that it's an important measure of overweight and obesity.
If your BMI is too high (25 or above), you're at an increased risk for chronic health problems. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and respiratory problems. Your risks for endometrial, breast, prostrate and colon cancers also increase. Conditions associated with being overweight are the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smoking is the first.
Making sense of the numbers
- Underweight: below 18.5
- Normal: 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: 25 to 29.9
- Obese: 30 and above
Be a weight-loss winner
Although it is possible to be overweight and have very little fat, few people (except body builders, for example) actually fall into this category. Most people who are overweight have too much body fat rather than muscle weight, and need to be conscious of the need to lose weight.
Once you're overweight, it can be hard to lose weight permanently. The most successful weight-loss strategies involve reducing calories, increasing physical activity and having behavior modification therapy to improve your eating and exercise habits.
Here are some suggestions on what you and your family can do to lose weight and keep it off:
- Seek your doctor's advice before launching into an exercise or any weight-loss program, especially if you have a chronic health condition.
- Get active. Over time, you should aim to meet the guidelines established by experts. The guidelines recommend healthy adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (such as walking fast or cycling). They also advise doing strength-training exercises at least twice a week.
- Be wary of fad diets and rapid weight-loss programs. They may provide dramatic short-term results, but can be hazardous to your long-term health.
- Set realistic weight-loss goals, such as 1 to 2 pounds a week.
- Stick with it. Don't give up just because you reached a plateau or binged on potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers at yesterday's barbecue.
Know what you're eating.
- Reduce fats. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. Instead of junk food, keep fruit, a bowl of washed carrots or celery front and center in your refrigerator.
- Avoid oversized portions. Read labels to determine serving size. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Eat whole grains. Make sure at least half of all the grains you eat are whole grains.
- Pack protein. Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Created on 07/10/2002
Updated on 09/15/2011
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining overweight and obesity
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Aim for a healthy weight: key recommendations