The simple keys to reaching and maintaining your healthy weight

What is a healthy weight? This is not an easy question to answer, because it can depend how tall you are, your build, whether you are a man or a woman, and possibly other health factors.

In health care, we use body mass index — or BMI — as a simple way to calculate your weight relative to your height, and to determine if you could be at higher risk for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease and even cancer.

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) standards, a BMI of 18 – 24.9 means a person is a healthy, normal weight. A BMI of 25 – 29.9 indicates you are overweight. A measurement of 30 – 39.9 indicates obesity, and a BMI over 40 indicates morbid obesity. When a BMI is greater than 30, the risks are greater for chronic health problems.

The easiest way learn learn your BMI is to use a BMI calculator such as this one from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

When you get your result, keep in mind that if you are athletic or a body builder, your body fat may be overestimated. If you are an older adult, your BMI may be underestimated due to the loss of muscle mass that naturally occurs with aging.

Carrying weight around the middle is another factor associated with health risks. A waist circumference of 35 inches or more in women and 40 inches or more in men is a red flag that your body fat distribution puts you at risk. This is because fat around your middle can lead to inflammation in the body, which increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Everyone wants to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Even a moderate weight loss can have a positive effect on health. The key to getting there is to decide what a healthy achievable and sustainable weight is for you and give yourself a time-frame to reach it. It is reasonable to set a goal to lose 5 to 10 percent of total weight or to lose one to two pounds per week for women and two to three pounds per week for men. After you have reached your initial goal and maintain it for a set period of time, you can think about additional weight loss.

The National Weight Control Registry has found that the behaviors that help people maintain and keep the weight loss are a low-calorie, low fat diet, eating breakfast daily, and high levels of activity. Follow a healthy eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and be physically active.

Keep your potential health risks in mind while you are changing your eating and activity habits. Although it may be tempting, stay off the scale and only monitor your weight weekly. If you find that you have fallen off-track, don’t let that sabotage your efforts. It may happen occasionally, because it is a normal part of human behavior. Set yourself up for success. Think before you eat, and ask yourself, am I really hungry? Is there a healthier choice? The key is to find ways to get back on track and keep going.

The ultimate goal should be your health. Getting started may be the hardest part, but as you give up old habits and make strides toward a healthy weight, you’ll feel better physically and emotionally, have a better chance of avoiding disease, and even live longer. Get healthy, stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight.