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Small changes for a slimmer you

Obesity has a serious impact on health and quality of life. But you can do something about it—starting now.

If losing weight is on your to-do list, you're certainly not alone.

With a growing number of Americans tipping the scales at overweight or obese proportions, the need to slim down weighs heavily on many people's minds.

Fat for a reason?

In simple terms, you gain weight when you eat and drink more calories than your body can use. The extra calories are stored as fat.

Your weight is influenced by factors such as:

Food choices. In today's busy society, many of us may opt for high-fat, fast foods instead of more nutritious offerings. Portion sizes have also increased, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which may encourage overeating.

Psychology. Some people eat when they are angry, bored, stressed or sad—instead of just when they are hungry.

Inactivity. Many jobs today require little activity. And home life is often geared toward television rather than exercise. Convenient transportation also means people may walk less and ride more. The overall result is that we don't expend as many calories as we need to, and many of us are nowhere near being physically fit.

Genetics. Your genes do play some role in whether you're prone to weight gain, according to CDC. But that doesn't mean you are destined to be obese—your habits and choices help determine whether you will actually end up overweight.

Calculating your risk

According to the National Institutes of Health, extra pounds carry with them an increased risk for health problems, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Stroke.
  • Heart disease.
  • Certain types of cancer.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Pregnancy problems.
You can get an idea of your risk for these problems by calculating your body mass index (BMI).

Your doctor can help you interpret your BMI. But generally, if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9, you are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more puts you in the obese category. In general, the risk of weight-related diseases starts to increase at a BMI of 25. And the more overweight you are, the greater the chance your health will suffer.

Commit to change

Knowing you need to lose weight is one thing—finding a realistic way to do it is another.

Consider making these small changes that can eventually make a big difference in your weight:

Exercise more. For example, try keeping track of your steps by wearing a pedometer. Set a goal of adding 100 steps a day until you can walk 10,000 steps a day.

Whatever activities you choose, you may need to do the equivalent of 300 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to meet your weight-control goals, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Adults should build up to this level of activity if they haven't been active for a while. If you don't have time for one big workout, break your activities into 10- to 15-minute increments.

Talk to your doctor about the best way to get started with an exercise program.

Eat less, eat better. Try eating 100 fewer calories each day. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian for advice on how to choose healthful foods and how to gauge healthful portion sizes.

Make a plan. Be aware of your eating and activity patterns—keep a food diary and an exercise journal. Plan ways to avoid possible pitfalls. It might also help keep you on track if you join a support group or enlist the help of friends or family.

Set goals. If you have a lot of weight to lose, don't focus on the end result, which can seem overwhelming. Instead, make a smaller goal of losing 5 or so pounds during the next month. Reward yourself when you reach your goal, and then make a new one.

Remember, losing even 5% to 10% of your body weight can help your health and reduce disease risk factors, according to CDC.

Reviewed 5/2/2022

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