by Jeannie Versagli, RD
Why is it important to maintain a healthy weight through a lifetime?
Weight is an indicator of health over a lifetime, from birth to the end of life. Establishing a balanced weight throughout the life cycle is key to maintaining health and wellness. The body manages best when it is in balance. When the body is not in harmony and or in balance, diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease, inflammation, auto immune disorders such as celiac, arthritis, cancers, and liver disease may begin to develop.
How do you determine if you are at a healthy weight?
There are several tools available to aid in determining a healthy weight. BMI is used as the standard in the health industry to assess a person’s weight category, which has been an indicator to wellness. BMI does not provide a direct percentage of body fat, but it does screen weight status. Research indicates that BMI correlates strongly with metabolic disease risks.
- BMI of less than 18.5, falls in the Underweight range
- BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, falls in the Normal or Healthy Weight range
- BMI of 25.0 to 29.9, falls the Overweight range.
- BMI of 30.0 or higher, falls in the Obese range.
Along with BMI, waist circumference is another metric used to aid in evaluating an individual’s weight status and risk for developing chronic disease. The goal is a waist circumference of equal to or less than 40 inches in men and equal to or less than 35 inches in women.
What factors contribute to a healthy weight?
Many factors contribute to a person’s weight. The environment, family genetics, metabolism (the way your body changes food and oxygen into energy over time), hormones, habits, age, and sex will all influence weight status over time. Energy balance is key over time. The challenge for an individual is the ability to adapt over time to the factors that influence weight balance over a lifetime.
- The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT = stable weight.
- The more energy IN than OUT = weight gain.
- The more energy OUT than IN = weight loss
As we age, our metabolism slows down and requires less caloric intake. Studies indicate that, between the ages of 18 and 49, individuals gain one to two pounds each year of life, and over time this weight gain increases their chances of developing diseases like those listed earlier. In addition, muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30; this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Menopause brings additional weight gain due to lower estrogen levels that occur which encourage fat storage at the belly area as visceral fat. Family genetics play a role with weight gain that occurs beyond an individual’s 50’s and 60’s. To maintain a healthy weight and minimize weight gain over time it is important to exercise, eat healthy and receive adequate.
What is the best diet to follow for providing a stable weight over time?
The Mediterranean diet is the best nutritional approach to aid in maintaining a healthy weight over time. Focus on consuming plant-based proteins a few times a week and limiting the consumption of red meats to several times a month. Incorporate at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to aid in energy balance to prevent weight gain. Consume adequate fluid intake a minimum of 64 ounces a day. Remember to adjust caloric intake over time to maintain energy balance, for maintaining a stable weight.
Here are some weight management strategies for maintaining a healthy weight over a lifetime:
- Exercise regularly, physical activity burns calories and builds muscle which requires more energy to maintain. Look to do 150 minutes a week minimum.
- Monitor portion control.
- Eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, as they are packed with nutrients.
- Focus beyond the scale.
- Do not skip meals. Breakfast helps improve our metabolism, keep us alert and ready to tackle our day.
- Eat all meals at the table – no eating on the run. Also avoid eating while distracted. Mindfulness goes a long way to recognizing satiation cues and avoid overeating.
- Monitor your caloric intake daily if you begin to struggle with maintaining a stable weight. Look to using a food app such as MyFitnessPal to aid in tracking your caloric intake and expenditure. You can even start calorie and macro tracking right in your HAC app, if you already have it downloaded.
Our nutritional needs evolve over time as we move through our life cycle, monitoring our weight is a simple way to assure we remain healthy. Often, I reflect to the simple adage of, “you are what we eat”. Nutrition remains our pathway to wellness.