Maintain A Healthy Weight
Follow these steps
For a prediction about your future, don’t bother with crystal balls and psychic friends. Your doctor can ask two simple questions that will reveal, with a fair degree of accuracy, what’s in store for your health as you age: Do you smoke? Are you overweight?
Next to smoking, your weight is the greatest measure of what sort of long-term health risks you may face, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gout, and gallbladder disease. Lowering your weight, quite simply, means lowering your risks.
Of course, before you can work to maintain a healthy weight, you need to know how to define a healthy weight. Use the Body Mass Index calculator. It gives you a rough idea of where you stand, placing you in one of three categories: healthy weight, overweight or obese. Check your BMI right now, and then use your browser’s “back” button to return to this page.
Know Your BMI?
If your body mass index is less than 25, you should work to keep it there. If your BMI is greater than 25, you can improve your long-term health by lowering your number. Studies have shown that having a BMI above 25 increases the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer.
The following steps, from the nutrition and weight-management book “Eat, Drink And Be Healthy” by Walter C. Willett, M.D., chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, can help you maintain a healthy BMI or lower one that’s high.
If you are active now, congratulations. You can reap even greater benefits by increasing the frequency and intensity of your activity. If you aren’t active, getting started can help reduce your weight and, therefore, improve your health. Here’s what Dr. Willett recommends.
A walk might not seem like “exercise” to people who sweat at the gym, but research has shown considerable health benefits from walking. For women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study — one of the largest and longest health studies ever — those who walked briskly about three hours a week were 35 percent less likely to have had a heart attack over an eight-year period than the women who only walked occasionally.
Make your day more active
You’ve heard these suggestions before, but they’re worth repeating. Use stairs instead of elevators, park a distance away from your destination and walk, get off the bus or train a few stops early and walk the rest of the way, rake and shovel manually instead of using power equipment to blow leaves and snow away.
Make exercise enjoyable
Obviously, the more fun you have participating in an activity, the greater the chance that you’ll do it often and stick with it longer. If you hate the thought of being indoors and running on a treadmill, don’t set that as your goal. If you love swimming, join a pool. Like tennis? Sign up with a partner. (Having someone to keep you on track always helps.)
Exercise 30 minutes each day
This is the tough one for many people. Scheduling time for exercise is often the first item to drop off the “to do” list. Try to think of daily exercise as an investment, just as valuable to your future as your IRA — you’re banking good health now for use later in life. Here’s some good news: The 30 minutes doesn’t have to be consecutive. If your schedule doesn’t allow one uninterrupted 30-minute block of time, get your daily fill of exercise in two 15-minute blocks.
Watch What You Eat
The two factors that influence what you weigh are amount of physical activity and how much you eat. Experts suggests focusing on the following dietary practices to monitor and control the calories you consume.
Keep track of your calories
To maintain your current weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Writing down what you eat is the first step toward making a change. Right now, you may have no idea how many calories you take in each day. (The average number used by health professionals and the food industry is 2,000 calories per day.) Keep a notepad with you and jot down what you eat throughout the day, and the approximate portion sizes of each item. At the end of the day, you can search for the values of each food and tally your totals. (Our nutrition database contains thousands of food entries, each with total calorie content and the ability to adjust portion size. You also can get an idea of how many of those calories you’re burning when you exercise.)
Practice defensive eating
In our “super-size it” society, overeating is easy, automatic and nearly inevitable. To protect against the onslaught of messages tempting us to eat more food and larger portions, Doctors suggests these steps:
- Stop before you’re stuffed.
- “Clean your plate” was not good advice. (Sorry, mom.) Walk away from your plate feeling satisfied but light.
- Don’t eat things just because they’re available.
- If you stock your pantry with high-calorie snacks, chances are that you’ll eat them. Make life easier for yourself and don’t bring tempting items into your home. Instead, stock fruit (apples, grapes) and whole-grain crackers.
- Choose small portions.
- You can control portion size at home. Dining out, however, requires some planning. Know that the portions you get in restaurants and fast-food joints are often double (at least) a normal portion size.
- Eat slowly.
- Your digestive system sends signals when it’s had enough. If you eat too quickly, this process can’t keep up, and you end up eating more than you need.
According to Doctors, most people can control their weight by being conscious of what they eat and by getting daily exercise. The reward is a longer, healthier life.
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