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Health library

Maintenance work: Controlling your weight over time

Keeping off the pounds and staying healthy requires lifestyle changes and commitment.

Despite what some infomercials and celebrity diet books say, there's no big mystery to controlling your weight. It boils down to this: Eat well, exercise and make good health your priority.

After all, keeping off extra pounds isn't just about the way you look. More important, it's about how you feel. Being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer.

You don't need to slim down to high school size to reduce your risks for these serious diseases. You just need to work at maintaining a healthful weight. 

Stay strong, get moving

If you don't exercise your muscles, you lose them.

That's why strength training, along with aerobic activity, is vital for managing weight.

This doesn't mean body builder-level iron pumping. Doing some arm curls with hand weights or even cans of food will help. You also can do pushups on the floor or against a wall.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a strength-training program should exercise your legs, arms, chest and upper back. To start, do a set of exercises with a weight that allows you to complete 8 to 12 repetitions before you tire out. Do your strength-training routine at least twice a week.

The other half of the exercise equation is aerobic activity. This could include walking and step aerobics, according to ACE. Other options include swimming, rowing and bicycling. All will help you burn calories.

Once you start exercising, don't stop! Make activity a regular part of your life. According to guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most adults need at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate aerobic activity every week. Aim for at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities, such as working with weights or resistance bands.

To prevent weight gain, many people need more than 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. And some will need to do more than 300 minutes (five hours) a week to lose weight or maintain weight loss.

If you can't get the full amount of exercise at once, you can break it into chunks of 10 or more minutes each. To sneak in these smaller increments, look for exercise opportunities throughout your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a quick walk during your break at work. Park your car a little farther away from your destination and walk a block or two.

Your doctor can help you identify the ideal type and amount of exercise for you.

Eat right

For the sake of your weight and your overall health, focus on nutrition when you make most of your food choices. Think of food as your body's fuel, and make it high quality.

That doesn't mean you never get to indulge. Strive for eating well most of the time, but still leave room for an occasional treat.

To eat well, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables (a nice alternative to fatty snacks), low-fat dairy items, whole grains, fiber, and protein from lean cuts of meat or legumes.

When you do eat out, resist super-sizing at fast food restaurants and avoid huge-portion platters at fancier establishments. There's nothing wrong with splitting an entrée with a friend, either.

You can get a better idea of how to structure a healthful diet by talking with a health professional and visiting the academy's website.

Keep it up

Sticking to these habits will help you stave off extra pounds and reduce your risk for serious illness.

Talk to your doctor for more advice and voice any concerns you have about your health or weight.

A doctor and other specialists, such as a dietitian, can help you reach and maintain a more healthful weight.

Reviewed 1/29/2024


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