Weight Management

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

A lifestyle that combines sensible eating with regular physical activity is the key to good health.

To be at their best, adults need to avoid gaining weight, many need to lose weight and some are underweight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and breathing problems. A healthy weight is key to a long, healthy life.

Evaluate Your Body

Weight for adults and children, different methods are used to find out if weight is about right for height. If you are an adult, find out your BMI (click here for calculations). Not all adults who have a BMI in the range labeled "healthy" are at their most healthy weight. For example:

  • Some may have lots of fat and little muscle.
  • A BMI above the healthy range is less healthy for most people; but it may be fine if you have lots of muscle, a large body frame, and little fat.
  • The further your BMI is above the healthy range, the higher your weight-related risk. If your BMI is above the healthy range, you may benefit from weight loss, especially if you have other health risk factors.
  • BMIs slightly below the healthy range may still be healthy unless they result from illness.

There is no single perfect body size for children. However, many children in the United States are overweight. If you have concerns about your child's body size, talk with your health care professional.

Keep track of your weight and your waist measurement, and take action if either of them increases. If your BMI is greater than 25, at least try to avoid further weight gain. If you are middle-aged or elderly and your waist measurement increases, you are probably gaining fat and losing muscle. If so, take steps to eat less and become more active.

Evaluate Your Weight (Adults):

  1. Weigh yourself and have your height measured. Find your BMI category. The higher your BMI category, the greater the risk for health problems.
  2. Measure around your waist while standing, just about your hip bones. If it is greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, you probably have excess abdominal fat. This excess fat may place you at greater risk of health problems, even if your BMI is about right.

Find Out Your Other Risk Factors:

The more of these risk factors you have, the more you are likely to benefit from weight loss if you are overweight or obese.

  1. Do you have a personal or family history of heart disease?
  2. Are you a male older than 45 years or a postmenopausal female?
  3. Do you smoke cigarettes?
  4. Do you have a sedentary lifestyle?
  5. Has your doctor told you that you have: high blood pressure; abnormal blood lipids (high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides); diabetes?

Manage Your Weight

Our genes affect our tendency to gain weight. A tendency to gain weight is increased when food is plentiful and when we use equipment and vehicles to save time and energy. Plentiful food and labor-saving devices can make it very difficult to avoid weight gain, but it is possible to manage your weight through your food and physical activity choices.

To make it easier to manage your weight, make long-term changes in your eating behavior and physical activity. Here are some tips to accomplish this:

  • Build a healthy base and make sensible choices.
  • Choose a healthful assortment of food that include vegetables, fruits, grains (especially whole grains), skim milk, and fish, lean meat, poultry, or beans.
  • Choose foods that are low in fat and added sugars most of the time.
  • Eating mainly vegetables, fruits, and grains helps you feel full, achieve good health, and manage your weight.
  • Whatever the food, eat a sensible portion size.
  • Try to be more active throughout the day.
  • To maintain a healthy weight after weight loss, it helps for adults to do at least 45 minutes of moderate physical activity daily (at least 60 minutes daily for children).
  • Over time, even a small decrease in calories eaten and a small increase in physical activity can keep you from gaining weight or help you lose weight.


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