Weight Control

September 29, 2011

Maintaining a healthy weight is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Being either overweight or underweight can be unhealthy, and many people who are not obese are interested in maintaining a healthy weight. Often, overweight or obese people are also interested in maintaining their weight.

Many people find that they can lose weight to a certain point, and then find it increasingly difficult to lose more weight or keep the weight off. The body seems to have a “set point,” below which the body acts as though it were starving: metabolism slows, appetite increases, and weight loss may seem impossible. The set point is not always the same as the ideal body weight. Sometimes the set point is at a weight considered obese. In 1995, researchers discovered the hormone leptin. When leptin was given to leptin-deficient obese mice, they returned to a normal weight. Unfortunately, leptin is not useful in treating human obesity. Very few obese humans are leptin-deficient: Most obese people actually make lots of leptin in their fat cells. There are probably other regulatory hormones that govern the set point which have not been discovered yet.

When diet and exercise do not lead to dramatic weight loss, a better strategy may be to maintain a realistic weight. Continued efforts at dieting may contribute to poor self-image, nutritional deficiencies, or eating disorders. The goal of being “healthy at any weight” involves deciding on a realistic, maintainable weight and choosing healthy diet and exercise habits to maintain that weight. Healthy lifestyle habits can lead to an improved energy level, a more positive emotional outlook, and a positive body image based on staying active and enjoying life.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, adults should adopt the following healthy habits in order to maintain their weight. (a) Eat breakfast every day. People who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day.

(b) Choose whole grains more often. Try whole-wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, or bulgur.

(c) Select a mix of colorful vegetables each day. Different colored vegetables provide different nutrients.

(d) Have low-fat, low-sugar snacks on hand at home, at work, or on the go, to combat hunger and prevent overeating. (e) Eat three meals every day instead of skipping meals or eating a snack instead of a meal. (f) Drink plenty of water. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses each day. (g) At restaurants, eat only half your meal and take the rest home. (h) Visit museums, the zoo, or an aquarium. You and your family will walk for hours and not realize it. (i) Take a walk after dinner instead of watching TV. (j) Get plenty of sleep.

Children should drink water or low-fat milk more often than sugary sodas or juices. Involving children in meal preparation may increase their interest in eating what is served. Pregnant women should eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation. They should also eat foods rich in folate, iron, calcium, and protein, or get these nutrients through a prenatal supplement. Remaining active is important during pregnancy, but certain activities such as contact sports may be dangerous. Pregnant women should discuss their physical activities with their health care provider.

Older adults should emphasize high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits, especially if they are prone to constipation. To prevent osteoporosis and maintain an active lifestyle, older adults should consume at least three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese a day, or take a calcium and vitamin D supplement. Although older adults often feel less thirsty, adequate water intake is still important. Physical activity should be part of each day’s activities. Several short walks throughout the day can be enough to help seniors stay healthy and active. Older people sometimes become socially isolated, and staying connected with family, friends, and community can help maintain physical activities as well as maintaining emotional health.

See Also: Body mass index, Diet, Exercise, Nutrition, Obesity, Sports

Suggested Reading

  • Levine, J. A., & Bine, L. (2001). Helping your child lose weight the healthy way: A family approach to weight control. New York: Citadel Press.
  • Jonas, S., & Konner, L. (1997). Just the weigh you are: how to be fit and healthy, whatever your size. Shelburne, VT: Chapters Publishing.
  • Weight loss guide


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