Losing Weight Safely And At A Steady Pace

By Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

While there are plenty of ways to lose weight fast, most crash diets won’t teach you how to maintain a healthy weight. Even worse, losing weight at a rapid pace can potentially lead to other health risks.

The best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight safely happens to be a fairly simple process. It involves developing healthy eating habits and staying active to burn off excess calories. If you commit yourself to making healthier choices in what you eat and how much you exercise, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of shedding weight at a safe and steady pace until you get to where you need to be. Before you start, be sure to consult your doctor on creating a healthy weight loss plan.

Set a weight loss goal

As you begin your weight loss journey, it’s important to have a target weight in mind. This might sound obvious, but some people tend to focus on losing as much weight as they possibly can, which can lead to failure. You need to have a general sense of how much weight you want to lose, and you want to be fair to yourself about this. You don’t want to set unrealistic goals, only to feel discouraged and defeated when you’re unable to attain them.

You can start by consulting your health care provider to determine a healthy weight for yourself. You can also look up your body mass index, or BMI, to help you set your target weight. This formula uses your height and weight to determine an optimal weight for you. It’s easy to find online calculators that use your height and weight to calculate your BMI, but you can also calculate it yourself.  

How to calculate your BMI on your own

You can calculate your BMI by using one of the two formulas below:

BMI formula in pounds (lb) and inches (in) – Your weight in pounds, divided by your height in inches squared, and multiplied by a conversion factor of 703:

  • [ Weight in pounds / ( Height in inches)2 ] x 703
  • Example for a weight of 145 lbs and a height of 5’9” (69 in): [ 145 / (69)2] x 703 = 21.41 BMI

BMI formula in kilograms (kg) and meters (m) – Your weight in kilograms, divided by your height in meters squared:

  • Weight in kilograms / (Height in meters)2
  • Example for a weight of 65kg and a height of 1.60m: 65 / (1.60)2 = 25.39 BMI

Know that BMI is an approximation and does not account for your frame or musculature, but it gives you a range to shoot for. Waist circumference is good to record, as well.

Take inventory of what you eat each day

It’s important to track the foods you’re eating and count the calories you consume each day. While calories are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to dieting and weight loss, it certainly helps to figure out how many you should be consuming on a daily basis. The more active you are throughout the day, the more calories you get to eat. If you keep an inventory, you can decide to add more exercise on a particular day so that you can have that special treat, instead of just eating what you want and feeling bad afterwards.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a helpful simulator that can help you determine how many calories to consume each day and the amount of physical activity required to hit your target weight. Apps for your smartphone can also help you track your calories and physical activity.

Find foods you like

One of your priorities should be to create healthy meals and find fun foods that are not laden with calories from fats, oils and sugars. You need to keep this up for years, not just for a few weeks, so put the “diet mentality” away for good — that is, get rid of the idea that a brief sacrifice, followed by your same pattern of unhealthy eating or “going back to normal” when the diet ends, is OK.

Drink plenty of water and add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and other healthy foods to your diet. Meanwhile, cut back on sugars, salt, saturated fats and trans fats. (You should stay away from trans fats for health reasons, alone, regardless of whether you want to lose weight.)

Can you lose weight and still eat foods high in sugar and saturated fats? Yes, it’s possible, but it’s not really advisable, since all calories count, no mater where they come from. So, if you need to, have a small piece of that cupcake, log the calories in you inventory, then push it away and move on to fill yourself with something healthy.

Track your progress

Keeping tabs on what you’re eating and when you’re exercising is a great way to reach your weight loss goals and create new habits that will help you keep the weight off in the long term. If tracking the amount of weight you’re losing each week isn’t encouraging, try focusing on other things to stay positive like the amount of times you opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator or how many vegetables and fruits you ate for the day.

Avoid fad or crash diets

In addition to being nearly impossible to sustain over time, rapid weight loss techniques may be harmful to your health. The main problem with these weight loss methods is that they tend to deprive your body of much-needed nutrients, especially if they require you to cut certain types of food from your diet altogether. Losing weight too quickly can mean losing water and lean muscle mass instead of fat. Rapid weight loss has also been associated with other problems like increased risk of gallstones.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that individuals aim to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week for a period of six months. If you have a lot of weight to lose, talk to your doctor to come up with a healthy weight loss amount per week.

Next Steps: Start enjoying the benefits immediately

Whatever the reason, congratulate yourself on what you have set out to accomplish.

It may be just a desire to slim down, but in reality, your weight loss could potentially protect you from a whole host of associated problems and serious conditions, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression
  • Pregnancy complications

And the list goes on.

Losing weight may seem like a huge undertaking at first, but keep this fact in mind: Losing just 5 percent of your body weight could significantly lower your risk for several diseases and health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Start with a good goal and focus on making permanent, lasting changes to your lifestyle that will help you keep the weight off for many years to come.

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