Being overweight or obese increases your risk for many diseases and conditions. The more you weigh, the more likely you are to suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, and certain cancers. On the other hand, a healthy weight has many benefits: It helps you to lower your risk for developing these problems, helps you to feel good about yourself, and gives you more energy to enjoy life.
Your BMI accurately estimates your total body fat. And, the amount of fat that you carry is a good indicator of your risk for a variety of diseases.
There are two ways to check your BMI:
Once you know your BMI, check Box 1 to see what the number means. Although BMI can be used for most men and women, it does have some limitations:
Your waist circumference is also an important measurement to help you figure out your overall health risks. If most of your fat is around your waist, then you are more at risk for heart disease and diabetes. This risk increases with a waist measurement that is:
If you have other risk factors for heart disease (shown in Box 2) and are overweight or obese, then you will be at greater risk for health problems. Your doctor will check your BMI, waist circumference, and other risk factors for heart disease:
Even a small weight loss (just 510 percent of your current weight) will help to lower your risk of developing weight-related diseases.
Changing the way you approach weight loss can help you be more successful at losing it. Most people who try to lose weight focus on one thing: weight loss. However if you set goals, begin to eat healthy foods, become more physically active, and learn how to change behaviors, then you may be more successful at losing weight. Over time, these changes will become routine and part of your everyday life.
Setting the right goals is an important first step to losing and maintaining weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight calls for keeping a balance . . . a balance of energy. You must balance the calories or energy that you get from food and beverages with the calories that you use to keep your body going and to be physically active.
Your energy IN and OUT doesn't have to balance exactly every day: Balancing energy over time will help you to maintain a healthy weight in the long run.
A healthy eating plan gives your body the nutrients it needs every day and helps you to stay within your daily calorie level. This eating plan will also lower your risk for heart disease and such other conditions as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels.
A healthy eating plan:
Cutting back on calories is part of a healthy eating plan to lose weight. Choose foods that are lower in fats, especially saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and added sugars. Also, pay attention to portion sizes.
To lose 1–2 pounds a week, daily intake should be reduced by 500 to 1,000 calories. In general:
If you eat 1,600 calories a day but do not lose weight, then you may want to cut back to 1,200 calories. If you are hungry on either diet, then you may want to boost your calories by 100 to 200 per day. Very low calorie diets of less than 800 calories per day should not be used unless you are being monitored by your doctor.
Staying physically active and eating fewer calories will help you lose weight and keep the weight off over time. Plus, physical activity has many benefits:
You can break up the amount of time that you do physical activity, such as 15 minutes at a time. If you haven't been physically active for some time, then don't let that stop you. Start slowly and gradually increase your activity. For example, start walking for 10–15 minutes three times a week, then gradually build up to the recommended amount with brisk walking.
Weight loss drugs and weight loss surgery may be options for some people who are at high risk from overweight or obesity or who have been unsuccessful at making lifestyle changes. If you think that you may benefit from weight loss drugs or surgery, then talk to your doctor.
Maintaining long-term weight loss can be difficult. Three keys to success are setting realistic goals, following a healthy diet, and aiming for 60–90 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
Other tips for weight loss success:
You can feel healthier by doing any of the following activities. For added fun, ask friends or family to join you.
It's very easy to "eat with your eyes" and misjudge what equals a serving—piling on unwanted pounds. This is especially true when you eat out, because restaurant portions are often super sized and enough for two or more people to share.
To keep portion sizes sensible:
* Weight is measured with underwear but no shoes.
Normal weight: BMI = 18.5–24.9. Good for you! Try not to gain weight.
Overweight: BMI = 25–29.9. Do not gain any weight, especially if your waist circumference is high. You need to lose weight if you have two or more risk factors for heart disease and are overweight or have a high waist circumference.
Obese: BMI = 30 or greater. You need to lose weight. Lose weight slowly—about ½ to 2 pounds a week. See your doctor or a nutritionist if you need help.
Besides being overweight or obese, here are other risk factors to consider:
Contact NHLBI for information on weight management and heart health:
NHLBI Health Information Center
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824–0105
Also, check out these Web sites and Web pages:
Includes publications and interactive features on overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart attack, asthma, and women's heart health
Includes publications and such interactive features as a Portion Distortion quiz and BMI calculator
Includes materials for parents to help prevent overweight and obesity in their children