There is no hard and fast answer to how much a person should weigh in order to be healthy. But, women need to be concerned about weight because it can and does affect overall health. Obesity, or being overweight, can result in premature death and can contribute to many problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, breathing problems, arthritis, and problems with pregnancy, labor and delivery.
The first, and best, thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about your weight. Together, you can talk about what a healthy weight is for you, based on your height, build (bone size, amount of muscle) and age.
You can also use a tool called the Body Mass Index (BMI) to give you a pound range for a healthy weight. You take your weight and height and see where you fall on the BMI table for adults (see below). There is also a handy BMI calculator at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's web site (see resources at the end of this FAQ).
Some general guidelines for losing weight safely are:
â¢ Eat fewer calories. The best formula for losing weight is to decrease the number of calories you get while increasing your physical activity every day. Depending on how active you are, you may need between 1,500 â 2,500 calories a day. A safe plan is to eat 300 to 500 fewer calories a day to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
â¢ Lose weight slowly. It is best to aim for losing 1/2 to 2 pounds a week. By improving eating and exercise habits, you will develop a healthier lifestyle. And, this will help you to control your weight over time. You will also lower your chances of getting heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. 'Crash' diets may take off pounds faster, but can cause you to gain back even more pounds than you lost after you stop the diet.
â¢ Exercise. Get active for at least 30 minutes every day. You don't have to train for a marathon to be active! Brisk walking, gardening, riding a bicycle, tennis and dancing all count as exercise. You can also break up the 30 minutes into three 10-minute periods. To get even more active every day, you can do things like park farther away from the mall in the parking lot and take the stairs instead of the elevator. The idea is to use up more calories than you eat each day. This will keep the calories from being stored as fat in your body.
â¢ Eat less fat and sugar. This will help lower the number of calories you eat each day. Select foods whose labels say low, light or reduced to describe calories or fat, including milk products and cheese. Eat lean types of meat, poultry, and fish. Eat less sugar and fewer sweets (don't forget that soda and juice can have lots of sugar). Drink less or no alcohol.
â¢ Eat a wide variety of foods, including starches and dairy products. This helps your body to get the nutrients and vitamins it needs to be healthy. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, grain products and whole grains each day. Don't skip dairy products â there are many good tasting low, no, and reduced fat milks, yogurts, cheeses, ice creams, and other products to choose from. Proper calcium intake is needed for all women to prevent bone loss.
Starch is an important source of energy that all bodies need, even when a person is trying to lose weight. It is found in foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, beans, and some vegetables. Foods high in starch can become high in fat and calories when you eat them in large amounts, or when they are made with rich sauces, oils, or other high-fat toppings like butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Stick to starchy foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains, beans, and peas.
â¢ Practice portion control. Eat smaller amounts of food at each meal. Let go of belonging to the 'clean plate club.' Don't feel like you have to eat everything on your plate, even when eating out. You can also try eating more small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
â¢ Get support. It can be hard to start a weight loss program, particularly if you are out of shape and not used to exercising. Ask your family and friends for support. Try to find an exercise buddy. Make your activity fun and social â go on a walk or hike with a friend or learn a new sport like tennis or ice-skating.
â¢ Treat yourself (once in a while). When trying to lose weight, we all feel tempted to 'cheat' by eating a favorite, rich food like cake or cookies. But, sometimes it can be helpful to eat a small amount of a favorite food. This may keep you from craving it and overeating if you do 'cheat.'