Healthy weight management is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight requires an understanding of the factors that contribute to weight gain and the key strategies to prevent it, as you will learn in this chapter. Ideally, this achievement reflects a cambination of good nutrition, consistent physical activity, and effective stress management, topics described in following chapters. When you keep your weight at a healthy level, you reduce your odds of disease, disability, and early death.
What Is a Healthy Weight?
A healthy weight is one that minimizes your risk of illness and disease and falls within the range of weight appropriate for your height. A person may suffer from poor health if overly heavy. Similarly, a person can experience poor health if overly thin. Therefore, a reasonable weight goal is in between those two extremes. Among individuals this can fall within a broad range, as people come in a variety of sizes and shapes due to strong genetic factors. Each person should find his or her own healthy weight for his or her own body type.
Understanding Body Composition
It’s not the size of the package that is important, it’s what is inside that counts. Your body is composed of fat mass and lean body mass. Together, this is referred to as your body composition. Ideally, you want to keep the percentage of fat quite a bit lower than the percentage of nonfat mass. (Your nonfat mass includes your bones, organs, and muscle.) And, if you decide to lose weight, you want to lose fat, not valuable muscle tissue that gives you strength and support.
Just because a person appears to be thin does not make him or her healthy. Some people who are thin in appearance are actually unhealthy when it comes to body composition. Typically, they are weak, sedentary, and may be smokers. They may eat very little food and have an unbalanced diet. Oftentimes, people with this type of profile believe that they are healthy as long as they are thin. They could not be more mistaken.
Being significantly underweight poses serious threats to good health. For premenopausal women, being too underweight can lead to infertility or osteoporosis. People who suffer from disorders such as anorexia or bulimia also experience poor health. In particular, people who are anorectic will consume muscle tissue from their body’s stores to survive when fat stores are depleted, including tissue from the heart muscle. It is not uncommon for people who are recovering from anorexia to have a heart attack when the weight they begin to gain creates excess stress on an already weakened heart.
At the same time, a person who may be more stocky and robust in appearance, but who exercises regularly, eats a balanced diet of nutrient rich fresh foods, and who does not smoke, is much healthier. In fact, a study by Steven N. Blair, P.E.D., Director of Research and President of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, showed that men who exercised regularly but who were a little bit heavier had a lower risk of death than those men who were thin but completely inactive.
The message, therefore, is not that thin is in or that every person must have the same body. Rather, the message is that you should aim to maintain a weight that is healthy for you and your body type.
All Body Fat Is Not Equal
To make matters even more complex, researchers have found that the amount of body fat is not the only factor that is important. What is equally, if not more significant, is where the fat is deposited on your body. Studies show that people whose bodies store fat around the abdominal area, also referred to as an “apple shaped” body, are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes than those people who are more “pear shaped” and carry their excess fat around their legs and thighs.
To determine whether or not you have abdominal obesity, you need to measure your waist circumference. For purposes of this measurement your waist is considered to be halfway between the lowest rib and the’ top of your hipbone, measured when you are upright and your trunk is perpendicular to the floor. A waist circumference of greater than forty inches for men, or greater than thirty-five inches for women, may indicate a higher risk of heart disease. Abdominal obesity is also considered one of the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome.
The Body Mass Index
Another method to assess whether your weight may put you at risk is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). The BMI expresses weight relative to height. It provides a general guideline to check whether you are in a healthy weight range. A high BMI score may indicate increased risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. BMI guidelines are not accurate for estimating risks for people who are healthy at higher weight levels, such as muscular competitive athletes or pregnant women. These guidelines also do not apply to growing children or frail and sedentary older adults.
Instructions for calculating your BMI are included in Appendix B. If your BMI is greater than 25, you fall into the category of overweight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a healthy weight. If your BMI score is less than 18.5, you are considered to be underweight.
Benefits of Losing Excess Fat
Losing excess fat is not only an important factor in reducing the risk of heart disease, but also in reducing the risk of many diseases, including gallbladder disease and several types of cancer.
In addition to the reduced risk for numerous diseases, losing weight provides multiple physical, mental, and emotional benefits. People who lose excess fat weight feel better, have more energy, have fewer aches and pains, and can enjoy a higher quality of life. People may also experience an improved sense of self-esteem and a feeling of greater control over their life that leads to a greater sense of self-confidence.
Excess weight strains your heart and your circulatory system. Your heart must work harder to pump more blood through your body. Extra weight also strains your musculoskeletal system and puts greater stress on your joints.
People who carry excess weight are more likely to have certain risk factors for heart disease, including high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, Type 2 diabetes, or high blood pressure. At the same time, when people who are overweight lose excess body fat, even as few as five to ten pounds, they can typically expect reductions in their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, accompanied by increases in HDL cholesterol. All of these benefits add up to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Causes of Weight Gain
In simplistic terms, one can say that the cause of weight gain is taking in excess calories. But this does not take into full consideration the complex social factors that make it difficult to live an active lifestyle, to enjoy wholesome fresh foods, and to separate emotional factors from the need to eat. Furthermore, as researchers learn more and more about the differences among people’s metabolic profiles, it seems that depending on what types of foods are consumed, some people are more prone to gain weight easily and to have a more difficult time of losing it. The overall picture is complex, but a few simple factors play key roles.
Super-Sizing of Foods
In our day and age, it is easy for people to overeat. The super-sizing of food portions by food manufacturers adds to this tendency. Since most of the cost of food production is in the labor and not in the raw materials, food producers have financial incentives to increase the size of food products in order to attract more customers. The increased amount of cost involved in providing a larger serving size is outweighed by the greater number of customers who purchase their product, since it is perceived as a better value or more food for the money. This perception of value by the consumer, however, fails to take into consideration that they are actually purchasing more food than they need. And all that excess consumption leads to excess weight.
In fact, this issue is so prevalent that in December 2003, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) re-examine the portion sizes on food labels. The FTC made this recommendation based on the fact that “they [food labels] may significantly understate the amount of particular foods and calories that people typically consume.”
Officials at the FTC believe that current food labeling practices confuse consumers over serving sizes so that consumers “may underestimate the number of calories and other nutrients that they eat.” For example, a typical three-ounce bag of chips is labeled as “two servings,” but packaged as a single serving. Twenty-ounce soft drinks are also packaged as a single serving but described as two servings on the food label. The FTC recommends that the FDA look at whether serving-size listings are “sufficiently clear and prominent.”
Until government officials clear up current labeling practices, however, it is up to you to make judgments about serving sizes on your own. Take time to read food labels carefully, and compare the weight of the package with what is noted as the weight of a serving on the label. Also, read the serving-size guidelines at the end of this chapter carefully.
While emotional overeating may not rise to the level of a clinical eating disorder, many people overeat in response to cues that are completely unrelated to hunger. Stress can playa role, as can environmental factors in the home. For example, if your parents rewarded you with a food treat when you accomplished tasks, you may continue to give yourself this type of treat when you finish something as an adult. Similarly, if food was used to cope with emotions rather than discussing, facing, or experiencing emotions, it can continue to play that role in adult life.
Keeping a journal can be helpful for people who find that they eat in response to these types of emotional cues, rather than to true feelings of hunger. In the journal, you can record what triggered an eating episode, what you were thinking and feeling at the time, and what feelings you were avoiding by eating. This process may be very revealing as you start to unravel some of your more unconscious eating behaviors that lead to overconsumption of food.
Eating Highly Refined, Processed Foods
Another factor that can contribute to overeating is choosing foods that are highly refined and processed. In this case, the overeating often occurs in response to genuine hunger cues. For example, breads and pastas that are made with enriched flour rather than with whole grains lack fiber that provides important feelings of fullness and satiety. Drinking juices instead of eating fruits is also another missed opportunity to eat fiber-rich foods.
Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is critically important to health. Not only does it provide roughage that is good for digestion, but it also lowers cholesterol levels and makes you feel full. It truly is hard to overeat when your meals are filled with wholesome fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Lack of Physical Activity
Living an active lifestyle in today’s technology-driven world is a challenge. It is actually much easier to live a sedentary life today than it is to live an active life. Many of us start our day by traveling to work or to school via cars or buses. We spend much of our day seated in chairs with few breaks from our sitting lifestyle. When we return home at the end of the day, we are tired and hungry and the last thing we feel like doing is “exercising.”
Without a conscious effort to move, it’s actually quite easy to be completely inactive all day long. When this lack of movement is combined with overconsumption of foods, it’s easy to see how the combination can quickly add to increased weight gain.
Loss of Lean Body Mass
An aspect of the picture that affects metabolism and activity levels is the natural decline in lean body mass that occurs with aging. After the age of thirty-five, both men and women lose approximately one-third to one-half pound of muscle each year. If your total weight is not changing, this means that this loss of lean body mass has been replaced by an equivalent gain of fat mass. Although your weight may not have changed, the difference between these two types of tissues is extremely significant from the point of view of weight management.
The loss of lean body mass means your body is composed of less of the metabolically more active tissue as well as a decrease in the muscle that provides strength to move and accomplish physical tasks. So not only is the body burning fewer calories even at rest, but it also becomes more tired and less capable of doing things such as walking up the stairs, running after children, and lifting and carrying grocery bags.
This is the beginning of a cycle of reduced daily physical activity that leads to even more fat gain. Over time, the ratio of fat becomes high and the amount of lean is low. The older adult may no longer have the strength to even climb a flight of stairs or get up and move around at all, and the pounds can easily add up.
Do Your Best to Be Your Best
Managing your weight is part of a healthy lifestyle. To achieve success, it’s best to make changes gradually and to have realistic expectations. The following tips can help you get started:
- Examine your eating habits. Are you meeting the necessary requirements?
- Portion size matters. Learn what healthy single servings of food should be, and adjust your portion sizes.
- Get active each and every day. Every movement counts.
- Incorporate strength or weight training with Phen24 diet pills to increase your lean body mass. Please check phen24 real reviews before ordering any diet pills.
As you improve your daily habits, instead of focusing on changes in your scale weight, notice changes in how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are you feeling stronger? Are you sleeping better at night?
If you’re the type who needs a goal in the form of a number, such as weight, to keep you motivated, think about measuring your progress in other ways. Get your cholesterol and blood sugar levels tested. Check whether your resting heart rate and blood pressure levels are going down. Most importantly, know you’re doing the best that you can for your long-term well-being.
While it is important to eat a diet full of foods that enhance health and to avoid eating those foods that can be harmful to health, keep in mind that overeating any foods can lead to excess weight that is harmful to health. One of the ways to avoid overeating is to learn what a reasonable serving size should look like. Here are some helpful visual cues:
- One serving of fresh fruit or vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball.
- One serving of canned fruit or cooked vegetables is about the size of a computer mouse.
- One serving of dried fruit is about the size of a golf ball.
- One serving of fruit as juice measures 3/4 c.*
- One serving of vegetable juice measures 1 c.*
- One serving of sliced bread is about the size of a CD case.
- One serving of cold cereal is about the size of a baseball.
- One serving of hot cereal is about the size of an English muffin.
- One serving of rice or pasta is about the size of a regular scoop of ice cream.
*It’s recommended that no more than one each of your fruit and vegetable servings be from juice since juice does not provide the same amount of dietary fiber as the fruit itself.
There are several strategies you can use to avoid overeating when you are eating out. For instance, you can share a main course with a friend, order a meal of various side dishes, or simply take half of the order home to eat later. Another way to avoid overeating is to be sure to eat the recommended amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables. The high fiber content of these foods help you to feel satiated, and when you are feeling so full, you are much less likely to overeat.
Keep in mind that lifestyle habits are not easy to change. Be gentle with yourself and appreciate your small successes on a daily basis. Over time, you will find that your life has transformed in so many more ways than simply managing your weight. The weight that you lose, whatever the amount, represents your body’s quest to find its best balance in the midst of a lifestyle dedicated to creating health.