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Sunday, April 24, 2011

How can you maintain a healthy weight?

Once you determine your BMI is in the healthy weight range, how do you stay there? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some good suggestions. See: Changing body composition: as we grow older our bodies change whether we want them to or not. We will gain body fat and lose muscle. This shift to more body fat and less muscle slows our metabolism making it even harder it is to maintain a healthy weight. Adding to this, many of us are less physically active as we get older, burning less calories each day which can lead to weight gain.
So how can you maintain and not gain?
  1. Eat healthy:
CDC notes the Dietary Guidelines approach to eating healthy is:
  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs
2.  Move More, Sit less
Many of us get more and more sedentary as we age. We eat the same amount but move less. Thus, the next suggestion is to keep moving.
Exercising whether it is a walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics class, cleaning house, or doing yard work helps burn calories. If your nightly routine is sitting in front of the TV, turn it off for 30 minutes and go for a walk. Take the kids, take the dog but get up and out.
Strength Training – often overlooked when one wants to keep their healthy weight is strength training. As noted above, as you age you lose muscle and gain fat. However, if one participates in strength training they can keep more of their muscle and gain less fat. In fact, strength training can help raise your metabolism making it even easier to keep the weight off.
Twice each week, I go to the gym for some strength training exercises. I have met with a physical trainer who showed me how to do 10 machines at the gym. He demonstrated how they work, how many repetitions I needed to do and how much weight I should lift at each one. Strength exercises not only tones a person, builds some muscle but also increases one's metabolism.
Exercise will not only help you maintain your healthy weight but it also lowers your risk of many chronic diseases.
3.      Monitor your weight
          CDC also suggests monitoring your weight. Weigh yourself regularly and if you gain weight ask yourself if you're eating more or exercising less. In college, my nutrition professor was a healthy weight. One time she told us she had just come back from a dietetics convention, had sat a lot, eaten well and gained 5 pounds. Then she told us she would lose those 5 pounds. She would cut back on desserts and exercise more for a few weeks, monitor her progress and do what she could to lose the 5 pounds she had put on. How much easier it is to lose 5 pounds than to wait until it is many, many pounds overweight. My professor maintained a healthy weight her whole life. If she gained weight, she lost it. But she didn't wait until she was 30, 40 or 50 pounds, she monitored her weight and took measures to lose when she gained a few pounds more than the healthy weight she wanted to be.

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