Maintaining a Healthy Weight - Korrin Fotheringham
How to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Whether you have recently lost weight or have stayed at a healthy level for some time, maintaining a healthy body weight is important. Keeping that weight off can be challenging, though, especially if you have recently experienced changes in your lifestyle or daily routine. Many people have a tendency to fall into bad habits if they are not actively looking toward a health-based goal. To maintain a healthy weight, watch your calorie intake, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and continue those habits that helped you lose weight in the first place if you've already shed some pounds.
Finding the Right Energy Balance
Keep a food diary.Keeping a food diary can give you a better understanding of the number of calories you're consuming each day. Estimate your portions so you can use nutritional information to determine how many calories are included in each of your meals.
- Keep your food diary for at least a week so you can get a daily average.
- Take note of days that seem out of the ordinary and try to figure out why you were consuming so much more (or so much less) on that day than on others. This can help you identify triggers that cause you to overeat.
Assess your level of physical activity.As with your food, it might also be helpful to keep a physical activity diary for a period of at least one week. This can help you determine your average level of physical activity during the day.
- Be sure to include daily activities as well as dedicated exercise times. For example, if you routinely walk up three flights of stairs to get to your office each morning, this should be included as physical activity. Cleaning the house or walking the dog also are daily physical activities.
- You also need to calculate the period of time when you are not active. For example, if you spend four hours a day sitting at your desk at work, this should be included in your physical activity diary.
Determine your daily calorie needs.Your daily calorie needs depend on your age, sex, and physical activity level. Use your physical activity diary to determine which general category you fall into: sedentary, moderately active, or active.
- Look for tables or calculators online that will enable you to estimate your daily calorie needs. For example, you can find a table in the dietary guidelines established by the U.S. government, available at .
- Finding a general category will not give you an exact number of calories you must consume each day to maintain a healthy weight, but it will give you a good estimate.
- If you find that you are gaining weight despite using this estimate, you can adjust downward by 200 calories until you find the right balance.
Adjust your caloric intake as needed.While your goal may be to maintain a healthy weight, your weight may fluctuate between 5 and 10 pounds regularly for a number of different reasons that are unrelated to your eating or physical activity level, such as hormones or stress.
- The key to maintaining a healthy weight is finding the right balance between the calories you're consuming and the calories your body is burning for fuel. You may not be able to maintain your weight simply by consuming the same amount of calories all the time.
- Revisit your calorie calculations once a month or so and make adjustments as necessary. If you find you're gaining or losing weight, you may want to keep a food and physical activity diary for a week. Compare the week's entries to previous weeks you've done and see if you can identify the differences that are causing weight gain or loss.
Calculate your body mass index (BMI).Your BMI looks at your percentage of body fat rather than simply your weight, which makes it a better way to gauge whether your weight is in a healthy range for you. If your BMI is too high or too low, you should focus on eating and exercising to gain or lose weight, not to maintain your current weight.
- The easiest way to calculate your BMI is by using an online chart.Make sure you have accurate height and weight measurements before you begin.
Measure your waist circumference.Even if your BMI is in a relatively healthy range, your waist circumference may be too large. Carrying excess abdominal fat puts you at risk of developing obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure.If your waist circumference is too high, you should diet and exercise to lose more weight around your midsection.
- Wrap a tape measure around your waist, just above your hips, while standing. The tape measure should be tight, but not squeezing or pressing into your skin. Make sure it's straight and horizontal around your waist.
- Take a deep breath in, then exhale and place your finger on the larger number where the end of the tape reaches. This is your waist circumference. You are at risk for developing obesity-related health conditions if you are a man and your waist circumference is larger than 40 inches (about 101 cm), or if you are a non-pregnant woman and your waist circumference is larger than 35 inches (about 89 cm).
Following a Healthy Diet
Eat breakfast every day.Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is the best way to jumpstart your metabolism and give you the energy to focus and perform throughout your day. A healthy breakfast includes sources of vitamins and protein as well as healthy fiber.
- For example, you might have whole-grain toast topped with a poached egg and a tomato. If you don't have time to prepare breakfast in the morning, you might go with a fruit smoothie that includes a protein boost.
- You also might consider batching breakfasts such as make-ahead breakfast wraps or fruit salad and putting it in the freezer if your time is limited in the morning. Then all you have to do is heat each portion up for a few seconds in the microwave and you're ready to go.
Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.Fruits and vegetables are relatively low-fat food options that are packed with the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. You should aim to have at least two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day.
Choose lean meats and protein sources.Poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and eggs are lean sources of protein that will give your body the fuel it needs to build strong muscles. The meat you eat should be broiled or grilled rather than fried.
Limit your intake of sugar.Consumption of sugars and saturated fats can cause you to gain weight, even if the rest of your diet is relatively healthy. Be careful about added sugar in packaged foods, especially frozen dinners and pasta meals that you wouldn't consider sweet.
- Natural sugar in fruit is better for you than refined sugar added to other foods. Try having a medium-sized apple or a cup of grapes as a snack instead of cookies or cakes.
Drink plenty of water.The amount of water you need to stay adequately hydrated depends on your size and how physically active you are. Generally speaking, however, you should be drinking at least eight or nine glasses of water a day.
- To determine how much water you lose through sweat when exercising, weigh yourself before and after your exercise session. For each pound of weight lost, you need to drink a pint of water.
- Keep in mind that if you feel thirsty, that means you're already dehydrated. Drink water constantly, not just when you're thirsty.
Maintain consistent eating patterns.To maintain a healthy weight, it's best to establish a regular pattern of eating at the same times every day. Eating smaller meals every two or three hours may be better than eating three larger meals.
Control your portions.Managing portion sizes is important if you want to maintain a healthy weight. This can be especially difficult when eating out, because restaurants typically serve larger portions of food than one person needs.
- You can control your portions while eating out by splitting a meal with a friend or ordering from the kid's menu. You also can ask the server for a to-go box and split your meal in half as soon as it comes to the table.
- When eating snacks, choose single-portion containers or take only a single portion out of a larger bag rather than eating directly from the bag.
- Use government health websites such as , provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to better understand what healthy portion sizes are for various types of food.
Try to exercise most days of the week.Ideally, you want to engage in moderate-intensity exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day at least four days a week. You don't have to do this exercise all at once, but you should be consistent and exercise at the same time every day.
- If you don't have an hour that you can carve out of your day for exercise on a regular basis, try splitting the time into three 20-minute intervals. For example, you might take a brisk walk in the morning, at mid-day, and then in the evening.
Include strength training in your exercise regimen.Getting down to your goal weight isn't enough if your muscles remain weak and easily fatigued. Even doing basic bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups and crunches, can help build muscle strength.
- There are plenty of strength training videos you can find online for free and follow at home. However, if you're new to strength training, you may want to work with a professional trainer first to make sure you're getting your form right.
Work physical activity into your daily routine.Exercising regularly is not just about dedicated fitness work at a gym. Many daily physical activities including gardening, cleaning around the house, walking the dog, and other daily chores can also be done at moderate intensity to keep your body active.
- For example, you might walk up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or park far away from your destination so you have a further distance to walk.
Make exercise a social activity.If you have trouble staying motivated to exercise on a regular basis, going for a walk or jog with a friend can help you stay on track. You also might consider joining a gym or fitness club, or taking a new class to learn a new physical activity.
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