An excess of body fat, indicated by a higher weight, can have serious medical consequences in the long run. Conditions that result from high weight include increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. If you’re overweight and you would rather avoid these and other health problems, you might need to lose some pounds.
Before starting any weight loss program or plan, always make a doctor’s appointment to find out the best choices for you, your body, and your lifestyle. Much of the information surrounding weight loss can be unreliable or even dangerous. With your doctor, you can choose healthy options that will benefit your wellness in the long run.
Measuring Your Body Mass Index
How do you know if you’re overweight? Your Body Mass Index can tell you.
Your Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a number that indicates your body fat percentage based on your height and your weight. You can find BMI calculators online, but if you’re curious, here’s the formula:
- Multiply your weight in pounds by 703
- Divide that number by your height in inches
- Divide by your height again
Your answer should be a number between 15 and 35.
A BMI of 19 or less shows that you’re underweight. 19-24 is a healthy ratio. 25-29 means that you’re overweight, and 30 or higher indicates obesity.
Keep in mind that this BMI formula isn’t accurate for everyone. Athletes, children, and older adults all need to have their weight evaluated differently.
Another body fat measurement method is waist circumference. Take a tailor’s tape and wrap it around your waist. A number higher than 40 for men or 35 for women could indicate that your weight is too high.
Remember as you calculate these numbers that at-home assessments can only serve as an estimate of your actual body fat percentage. To get a truly accurate picture of your possible need for weight loss, you need to see a medical professional.
If you and your doctor decide that you need to lose weight, one of the easiest and most effective ways to do so is to change your diet.
If you’re feeling a little shaky about the science of eating, here’s a refresher: when you eat food, your body converts what you’ve eaten into energy, which is measured in calories. Energy that the body doesn’t use immediately to fuel your day-to-day life is turned into body fat. One pound of body fat is equal to about 3,500 calories. If you alter your diet so that you’re eating fewer calories, you’ll lose weight. The fewer calories you eat, the more weight you will lose.
However, losing weight faster is not always healthy. Nutritionists recommend losing about a half a pound per week, by reducing your daily caloric intake by 250. Losing more than two pounds in a week is unsafe and will not help you keep the weight off.
There are lots of options eating changes you can make to lose weight, so don’t despair!
Some things you can do to lower your caloric intake include:
- Eating five or more servings of fruits and/or vegetables in a day
- Eating about three servings a day of low-fat dairy products (like light yogurt or skim milk)
- Snacking on unsalted nuts instead of candy or other junk food
- Paring down your red meat intake by switching to fish two times a week
- Drinking less alcohol
- Switching from processed carbs to whole grains
- Staying hydrated by drinking water instead of juice or soda
- Stopping emotional eating and making sure you’re actually hungry before a meal
- Never skipping meals
- Eating slowly and mindfully so you don’t accidentally overstuff yourself
- Avoiding fast food and fried treats
- Using a diary or an app for counting calories and tracking nutrients
- Getting plenty of protein
- Ditching the skin of turkey and chicken
- Reading nutrition labels when you shop
When you’re planning your new weight loss habits, keep in mind that there is no single diet that is best for everyone. We all have different lifestyles, needs, and bodies. Make sure to consult your doctor for more information on dietary changes and the healthiest ways to eat.
Weight Loss and Exercise
In addition to changes in diet, weight loss plans include changes to physical activity. Exercise doesn’t just improve your strength and stamina—it helps you burn more calories and thereby decrease your body fat.
Experts advise 30 minutes of moderate exercise for five days a week as a baseline exercise routine, but to lose weight you may have to develop a more rigorous workout plan.
Changes you can make to your physical activity levels include:
- Lengthening your regular workout by 10 extra minutes
- Moving from moderate exercise to more strenuous ones
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you can
- Parking at the edge of parking lots so your walk inside the building is a longer distance
- Walking to nearby destinations instead of getting in the car
- Scheduling time to do active chores
- Going for recreational walks with family, friends, or pets
- Exercising in place as you watch TV or during commercials
- Planning to get exercise even when you go on vacation
- Buying a pedometer to work on increasing the number of steps you take in a day
- Downloading an exercise app to track your workouts
- Cutting down “screen time” to less than two hours per day
Prescription Medication Choices
If a doctor decides that you weigh 20% more than your ideal weight, they might choose to prescribe you a weight-loss medication. These medications are meant for short-term use only, and so you won’t get a supply for more than 12 weeks.
Medications your doctor might prescribe include:
- Orlistat, which cuts down on the amount of fat absorbed by your digestive system
- Belviq, which works on the serotonin receptors in your brain so you feel full more quickly
- Naltrexone-bupropion, which makes you feel full more quickly and suppresses your appetite
- Phentermine-topiramate, which makes you feel full more quickly and suppresses your appetite
- Liraglutide, which makes you feel full more quickly and suppresses your appetite
Over-the-counter diet pills should be avoided at all costs. They aren’t regulated by the FDA, so they can contain harmful substances or cause you to lose weight too quickly. Those pills also won’t help you keep your weight off in the long run, so all your hard work will be for nothing!
Surgery for Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery is a very effective option, but it’s generally regarded as a last resort because, just like with any surgery, there can be complications. These surgeries, of which there are several different kinds, work by physically reducing the size of your stomach so that your body doesn’t absorb calories as effectively. Your doctor can explain your options to you if this is a choice you’re considering.
One of the most commonly performed weight loss surgeries, called laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, involves a band being placed around your stomach that separates it into two sections. The band’s tightness can be adjusted as needed by a doctor, so they can control your calorie intake.
Other Factors in Weight Loss
Some reasons you may be overweight, besides poor diet and lack of exercise, include:
As a health consumer, you always need to make sure that you consult a doctor before you set out on any weight loss plan. A professional can help you make sure that you’re making the healthiest choices for you.