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Healthy Weight Basics

Six children hugging and laughing

As parents and caregivers, you make a big difference in what your children—and the children you care for—think and do. You are role models for your family. Eating right and being active can help you maintain a healthy weight. When your kids see you making these choices, there's a good chance that they will do the same.

By promoting "energy balance" in your family's life, you can help your family maintain a healthy weight.

What Is "Energy Balance"?

Energy is another word for "calories." What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT. Energy balance is the balance between ENERGY IN and ENERGY OUT. This balance is needed to maintain a healthy weight. Other factors that affect a person's weight include metabolism (the way your body converts food and oxygen into energy), genes, and the environment.

Changes in our environment that make it harder to do things that keep us healthy have a lot to do with our overall increase in weight over the past few decades. For example:

  • We're an in-the-car and sit-behind-a-desk society. For many of us—parents and children alike—daily life doesn't involve a lot of physical activity and exercise. If we want to be active, we have to make an effort.
  • Food is everywhere, and so are messages telling us to eat and drink. We can get something to eat in places where it was never available before—like the gas station. Going out to eat or getting carryout is easy.
  • Food portions at restaurants and at home are bigger than they used to be. To learn how these larger portions impact the calories or energy you take in, visit the Portion Distortion page.

Becoming overweight doesn't happen overnight. It happens over time—when the energy we take in by eating is not in balance with the energy we burn from being active. However, there are things we can do to prevent overweight and obesity. Visit the Energy Balance page to learn more.

To find out if you are at a healthy weight, check out your ratio of weight to height (known as the Body Mass Index or BMI).

Last Updated: February 13, 2013