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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Maintaining a healthy weight

One of the dietary recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, is to achieve and keep a healthy weight. First, how does one even know what a healthy weight is? There used to be height/weight tables everywhere so you could easily look up your height and determine a good weight for your height and gender. Now it is a little more complicated as instead of height/weight tables, they have what is called, BMI tables. What is BMI? It stands for Body Mass Index, a newer creation of how much you should weigh for your height. For most people, it is a good indicator of your body fatness. Yes, one can calculate mathematically, BMI=weight (kg)/height (meters2). But the easier way to calculate your BMI is to go online to one of the BMI calculators. Go to and type in BMI and you will get calculators for adults and children. Or go directly to:

You will see on the left the:
  •             Adult BMI Calculator
  •             Child and Teen BMI Calculator
Click on the Adult BMI Calculator and note it is gender neutral. A 5'7" woman weighing 130 pounds has a BMI of 20.4 which is normal. If that 5'7" woman weighed 162 pounds she would be overweight. But it would be the same for a man that was 5'7". A 6' man weighing 177 pounds is a healthy weight. However, if he gains 7 pounds, it puts him in the overweight BMI category. If you have children, type in their information to see if your children are a healthy weight for their age and height.

Healthy Weight: BMI 18.5-24.0. So what if you find you are a Healthy Weight? That is great, now you need to stay there. The CDC website has some great hints at maintaining your healthy weight. One of their recommendations is to make sure you are eating healthy, make sure you exercise and to monitor your weight to stay in the healthy weight range. Keep a tab on your BMI because as it moves up closer to a BMI of 24, you are moving closer to the overweight range. You really want to stay below a BMI of 25.

 Overweight: 25-29.9: Too many Americans are finding themselves in this range. Being in this range increases your risk of many diseases. Your goal will be to move down the Overweight range and try to get back nearer 25 and below 25. CDC offers tips on losing weight and we will get into that more in the next blog.
Obese: >= 30: This is a very unhealthy range to be in. As noted by CDC and others, as weight increases to the levels of overweight and obese, the risks for many conditions increase including:
        Coronary heart disease
        Type 2 Diabetes
        Cancers (endometrial, breast and colon)
        Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
        Blood lipids are affected: High total cholesterol, high triglycerides
        Liver and Gallbladder Disease
        Sleep apnea and respiratory problems

What if you are Overweight? Then set a goal to drop some of those pounds. How much? Even modest weight loss can improve your health profile. As CDC notes, if a 200 pound person loses 10 pounds to 190 pounds, they have lowered their health risks for many diseases.

ATHLETES: OK so you are a weight lifter or an athlete or just a person who considers themselves quite fit. You look up your BMI and it says you are overweight. Is this true? Not really. For you, the BMI is not an indicator that you are over fat. Rather it is an indicator that you have a lot of muscle mass. BMI does not measure body composition. So for those who are fit and their weight is muscle, the BMI may not necessarily be an indicator they need to lose weight. For athletes, a better indication would be their fitness level and their percent body fat. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his career had a BMI of 31 which would be obese but he was far from obese.


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