Despite known risks, overweight and obesity have become national and global epidemics, and not just for adults. Overweight among children and teens has risen dramatically within the past two decades. Key reasons? In the United States, typical eating and lifestyle patterns provide more calories (energy) than many people need: too many consumed, too few burned in physical activity.
That said, some people don't need to lose weight. Instead they need to strive to keep their healthy weight over the years or gain some if they're underweight.
Are you at your healthy weight? Appearance or fitting into a clothes size are commonly cited reasons to maintain a healthy weight. Yet, even a few pounds of excess weight may be riskier than you think. Research shows that too much body fat increases risks for high blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid (fats) levels as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, breathing problems, gout, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers. Did you know that excess body weight is linked to premature death, too?
No matter what your age, pay attention to your weight. Two measures can help you judge your body fat: body mass index (BMI) and waist size. Abdominal fat has more potential health risk than body fat in other spots. (Strenuous workouts build muscle; extra weight from muscle isn't a problem.) What's your "measure" of fitness? Check chapter 2 to learn how to find out.
As an adult, set your goal on achieving or keeping a weight that's healthy for you. Your calorie needs decrease gradually over time. To combat "weight creep" over time, slowly cut back on your food and beverage calories and move more. If you are overweight and need to drop a few pounds, aim for slow, steady weight loss. Cut your calories, but keep your nutrient intake adequate—and move! And if you have a health problem or take medication, check with your healthcare provider before starting.
The chance of becoming overweight or obese as adults declines when children and teens keep their healthy weight as they grow. The advice for kids who are mild to moderately overweight: help them slow or prevent continued weight gain so they can grow and develop normally. More active play, fewer sit-down activities (TV, video and computer games), and healthful eating are their best strategies.
At any age, a healthy weight is key to a long, healthy, and productive life. The smart way to a healthy weight range is all about balance: calories from food and drinks balanced with calories used. To eat fewer calories, go easy on added sugars, fats, and alcoholic drinks, and choose sensible portions. Keep physically active, too.
For more about weight management, refer to chapter 2. For specific Dietary Guidelines' advice on healthy weight for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those with chronic disease, check chapters 16, 17, and 22.
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