Managing your weight

Being overweight can put you at higher risk of many health problems, including heart disease and stroke

Diet, family history, stress and activity level all have an impact on your weight.

Recognizing when you have reached an unhealthy weight is the first step toward managing your weight.

Risks of being overweight:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Some types of cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea (breathing stops for short periods during sleep)
  • Osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)

Determining body fat

Two simple methods—waist circumference and body mass index—are often used to measure the amount of a person's body fat.

  • Waist circumference

    If you carry fat primarily around your waist, you are more likely to develop health problems than if you carry fat mainly in your hips and thighs. Women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches, or men with a waist of more than 40 inches may have a higher disease risk than people with smaller waist measurements.

    To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your bare abdomen, just above your hipbone. Be sure that the tape is snug but does not compress your skin and is parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and note the number.

  • Body mass index (BMI)

    Body mass index (or BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height. It is a reliable indicator of total body fat for both men and women, but it does have some limits. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build. It may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.

    BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches, then multiplying the result by 703. (Weight in pounds divided by height in inches, then multiplied by 703=BMI)

    Calculate your BMI

    The higher your BMI is above 25, the greater chance you may have of developing health problems.

    If your BMI is 25 or above, you should lose some weight. Even losing 10 pounds can make a difference in your health. Talk with your physician about weight loss goals that are safe and realistic for you. Losing as little as 5 to 15 percent of your body weight over a six-month period or more can go far in improving your health. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 5 percent means losing 10 pounds.

Healthy way to reduce your weight

Avoid fad diets

With strict dieting, you may take weight off fast, but you'll likely put the pounds back on. This is the healthy way to reduce your weight:

Change what you eat:

  • Eat fewer calories
  • Eat as little fat as possible, especially saturated fats

Change how you eat:

  • Eat when you're hungry, not when you're tired, stressed, lonely or bored
  • Don't skip meals. If you're not hungry, eat less, but eat something
  • Make breakfast or lunch your main meal and eat a light dinner

Learn more about diet and nutrition