What is a healthy weight?
A healthy weight is a weight that lowers your risk for health problems. For most people, body mass index (BMI) and waist size are good ways to tell if they are at a healthy weight.
But reaching a healthy weight isn't just about reaching a certain number on the scale or a certain BMI. Having healthy eating and exercise habits is even more important. When you're active and eating well, your body will settle into a weight that is healthy for you.
If you want to get to a healthy weight and stay there, healthy lifestyle changes will work better than dieting. Reaching a certain number on the scale is not as important as having a healthy lifestyle.
Why pay attention to your weight?
Staying at a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can help prevent serious health problems, including:
- Heart disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Sleep apnea.
But weight is only one part of your health. Even if you carry some extra weight, eating healthy foods and being more active can help you feel better, have more energy, and lower your risk for disease. In fact, you may be healthier than a thinner person who eats poorly and isn't physically active.
Why isn't dieting a good idea?
In today's society, there is a lot of pressure to be thin. But being thin has very little to do with good health. Many of us long to be thin, even though we're already at a healthy weight. So we get desperate, and we turn to diets for help.
Diets don't work.
- Diets are temporary. When you diet, you're usually not eating the way you will need to eat over the long term. So when you quit dieting, the extra weight comes back.
- Dieting usually means not letting yourself have many of the foods you love to eat. So when you quit dieting, you return to eating those foods as much as you used to—or more. And the extra weight comes back.
- Dieting often means eating so little food that you're hungry all the time and don't have enough energy. So when you quit dieting, you return to eating as much as you did before—or more. And the extra weight comes back.
- Most diet programs don't include an increase in activity, which is vital to staying at a healthy weight. So when you quit dieting, the weight comes back.
Dieting can actually be bad for you.
- After they quit dieting, most people regain the weight they lost—and many gain even more.
- Many diets do not include the right balance of foods to keep you healthy.
- Dieting leads to eating disorders in some people.
- Some people fall into an unhealthy cycle of losing and gaining weight, which may be harder on the body than just being overweight.
- Some people feel so defeated after repeatedly failing to lose weight and keep it off that they give up altogether on healthy eating and being active.
Since dieting doesn't work, what can you do?
If you decide that you do need to make some changes, here are the three steps to reaching a healthy weight:
- Improve your eating habits. Do it slowly. You may be tempted to do a diet overhaul and change everything about the way you eat. But you will be more successful at staying with the changes you make if you pick just one eating habit at a time to work on.
- Get moving: Try to make physical activity a regular part of your day, just like brushing your teeth.
- Change your thinking. Our thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel and what we do. If you can stop your brain from telling you discouraging things and have it start encouraging you instead, you may be surprised at how much healthier you'll be—in mind and body.
One Woman's Story:
"The biggest key to my success is knowing that this is a process. It's not 'all or nothing at all.' It's a matter of making choices every day. One day I might decide to eat more than another day, and that's okay, as long as I'm paying attention. I finally realized it wasn't a time-limited thing. It became much more of a lifestyle change than a temporary diet. The idea that somehow I could go back to my old ways was just not there anymore."—Maggie
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine; Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition; Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Diabetes Educator
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