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Patient Handout: Healthy Weight
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it's important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in.
Want to find out if you are at a healthy weight? Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Body Mass Index calculator, available at: www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.htm.
Getting the Most Nutrition out of Your Calories
There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie foods, but chances are, you won't get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day—those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients, but lower in calories. Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products more often.
Finding Your Balance between Food and Physical Activity
Becoming a healthier you isn't just about eating healthy—it's also about physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you control body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you expend each day.
Be physically active, at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
Increasing the intensity or the amount of time that you are physically active can have even greater health benefits and may be needed to control body weight. About 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain.
Children and teenagers should be physically active 60 minutes every day, or most every day.
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it's important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do).
Energy balance is like a scale. To remain in balance, the calories consumed (from foods) must be balanced by the calories used (in physical activity). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in. No matter which results you want, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help you reach your goal.
Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity
Given the health benefits of regular physical activity, we might have to ask why two out of three (60%) Americans are not active at recommended levels. There are barriers that keep Americans from being, or becoming, regularly physically active. Understanding common barriers to physical activity and creating strategies to overcome them may help you make physical activity part of your daily life.
Social environments such as school, work, family, and friends can significantly influence an individual's level of physical activity. However, characteristics of our communities such as the accessibility and location of parks, trails, sidewalks, and recreational centers as well as street design, density of housing, and availability of public transit may play an even greater role in promoting or discouraging an individual's or family's level of physical activity. There are also significant environmental barriers from water and air pollution to crime and dangerous automobile traffic.
To address this, the CDC has initiated the ACES: Active Community Environments Initiative project to promote and support the awareness and development of places where people of all ages and abilities can easily enjoy walking, bicycling, and other forms of recreation.
There are many opportunities within our environment that support physical activities from parks, trails, and sidewalks to recreation and fitness centers. Even malls provide opportunities for fitness walking. Understanding environmental opportunities and barriers that we face in our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle may provide some of the knowledge necessary to promote healthy living. This information may also provide ideas for advocacy and civic participation (visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/health_professionals/active_environments/aces.htm to learn more).
Aside from the many technological advances and conveniences that have made our lives easier and less active, many personal variables, including physiological, behavioral, and psychological factors, may affect our plans to become more physically active. In fact, the 10 most common reasons adults cite for not adopting more physically active lifestyles are:1
Tips for Being More Active
With a little creativity and planning, even the person with the busiest schedule can make room for physical activity. For many, before or after work or meals is often an available time to cycle, walk, or play. Think about your weekly or daily schedule and look for or make opportunities to be more active. Every little bit helps. Consider the following suggestions:
1. Sallis JF, et al. Predictors of adoption and maintenance of vigorous physical activity in men and women. Prev Med 1992;21:237-251.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: www.cdc.gov. Accessed July 17, 2007.