Getting healthy and losing weight - one step and one pound at a time
By: Erin Louks Smith, M.D.
If the term “swimsuit season” makes you cringe because of your weight, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, with over 30 percent registering in the obese range. In state-by-state comparisons, The Minnesota Department of Health reports that Minnesota scored lower than the national average with an obesity rate of 25.5 percent.
Still that statistic shows that one in four Minnesotan’s is obese. It’s a statewide and national problem.
The word “obese” is a medical term which means too much body fat and is usually based on your body mass index (BMI). BMI compares your height to your weight; a BMI of 30 or over is considered obese. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight; 18.5 to 24.9 is considered the normal range. Finally, a BMI over 40 is categorized as extreme obesity.
BMI isn’t an end-all. It simply compares your weight to your height. It doesn’t show whether your weight is fat or muscle. Athletes carry more muscle and will have a higher BMI because of it. This does not mean they are overweight. Likewise, an elderly person who has lost muscle over the years may have a BMI in the normal range, but may still benefit from weight loss. It’s important to discuss the topic with your primary care physician and develop a plan for weight loss (if needed) that meets your specific situation.
If you are curious about your own BMI you can check it using a BMI calculator online. One can be accessed through the National Institutes of Health at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
Obesity is a complex issue that can seriously affect your health. It puts extra stress on your bones, joints and organs, making them work harder. In addition obesity increases your risk for:
• High blood pressure and high cholesterol
• Heart disease and stroke
• Certain types of cancers
• Type 2 diabetes
• Sleep apnea
Losing weight seems like an easy answer, but it can be daunting. Shedding 10, 50 or 100 or more pounds is a big commitment, and a difficult one to take on. But even small changes are changes and any weight loss can help. You don’t have to lose all the weight in order to see substantial health benefits. If you have significant weight to lose, start small, with reasonable and attainable goals. It probably took you years to gain the weight. It’s okay if you don’t lose it overnight.
Again, talk with your primary care physician before starting any weight loss regime. But, in general, heed the following advice.
It’s all about input and output. You’ll need to eat fewer calories and burn more. A pound is roughly 3,500 calories. If you opt for water instead of sugary soda twice a day you’ll eliminate 280 calories from your diet. Add an activity that burns 220 calories and you’ll total 500 calories for the day. One week of this and you should hit 3,500 – or one pound.
Take the first step. Commit to being healthier – even if it is just five or ten pounds healthier. Look for steady progress over time. One to two pounds a week is a reasonable goal for many people. Remember you don’t need to measure progress in pounds. You can measure it in the inches around your waistline or in the length you are able to walk or jog each day.
Keep a food and activity diary. Write down what you eat and drink and the exercise you complete. It’s a way of holding yourself accountable, and gives you a visual of your progress and success.
As you write down when and what you eat, think about why you were eating. Some people eat for emotional reasons – when they are sad or happy. Others eat when they are lonely or bored. Identifying your trigger times can help you avoid them and develop new habits that don’t include splurging on unwanted calories.
Strive for a nutritionally healthy diet that gives your body the nutrients it needs while staying within your daily calories goal for weight loss. Control portion sizes; two large scoops of mashed potatoes is more than one serving. A healthy plan is made up of plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, beans, eggs, nuts, whole grains and fat-free dairy. Avoid sodium, sugars saturated and trans fats.
Eliminate tempting foods from your environment. People often eat what is available and convenient. Have a bowl of carrots in your fridge where you can grab a few when hunger sets in.
Eat more often, in smaller amounts. This can help keep your metabolism active so you’ll burn more calories over the course of a day.
Drink plenty of water. You body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated your metabolism may slow down.
Find an exercise activity that works for you. Walking, water aerobics, taking the steps instead of the elevator – all help burn more calories. Ask your doctor for recommendations based on your health and weight level.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. Indulging in a piece of chocolate cake it isn’t the end of the world – or your weight loss goals. Continue with your plan and remember that one mistake doesn’t mean the end.
Avoid fad diets or those promising an unbelievable weight loss in a short amount of time. Claims that sound too good to be true usually are. Drastically cutting calories in hopes of drastic weight loss can be dangerous.
Obesity is on the rise in the U.S. Some have termed it an epidemic. Two out of three adults are either overweight or obese. These statistics are as daunting as weight loss can be. Whether you have five 105 pounds to lose, it all starts out the same: with the first pound and a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier you.
Dr. Louks Smith is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic in Cloquet.