Health, Nutrition

Weight Management (Part 1)

Debra Hollon, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Senior Clinical NutritionistPear and tape measure. Photo credit: Asha ten Broeke

Now that we’re more that three months into the year, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  If you’re still sticking with it, good for you!  It takes a lot of commitment to keep up a major lifestyle change.  For many people, maintaining a healthy weight is a key part of their Diabetes management plan.  If you’re having a hard time reaching your weight loss goals, don’t give up.  You may just need to rethink your strategy.    

Weight loss is all about balancing calories—how many calories you consume vs. how many calories you burn.  One of your first steps is figuring out how many calories you need to consume a day in order to lose weight.  Your health care provider or a nutritionist can help you figure this out, but you can estimate your ideal calorie intake by multiplying your weight by 10 (again, this is only an estimate—you should still contact your health care provider for more tailored guidelines).  Your next step is paying attention to how many calories there are in the food you eat and watching your portion size.

I often suggest people think of their daily calorie intake as a budget.  You can “spend” those calories on whatever you like (ideally produce, whole grains and lean protein sources), but stop and think is it going to be worth it?  Keeping a food diary of everything you eat can be helpful for staying on top of your calorie intake.  Oftentimes people find they eat less simply by writing down what they ate every day.  Plus, it keeps you accountable.  There are a number of great programs out there now that can help you track your calories for free.  Lose It!, My Fitness Pal, and Fit Day are good choices. 

Remember, the scale is only one way to measure success at your weight loss efforts.  I once had someone suggest using the “pant-o-meter”, which is simply being aware of how well your clothes fit; as you lose weight, they’ll start to feel looser.  Other markers for success are better blood sugar control, lower blood pressure readings and lower cholesterol levels.  Next time, we’ll talk more about what makes up a healthy diet.  If you have any questions, leave us a comment below.

(Photo credit: Asha ten Broeke)

Health, Heart Health

FYI: BMI

Scale. Photo Credit: Victor Maltby

We use a lot of acronyms and abbreviations in our modern world.  LOL—laugh out loud; ASAP—as soon as possible; TTFN—ta ta for now.  Here’s another one you may be familiar with:  BMI. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple calculation used to determine if a person’s weight is appropriate for their height and is a fairly reliable estimate of body fat for most adults. You can easily find your BMI using a calculator like this one from CDC.  A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal; anything below 18.5 is classified as underweight.  Along the same lines, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and, taking it one step beyond, anything above 30 is considered obese.  Because there is a connection between weight and some chronic diseases, BMI is often used as a screening tool to identify potential risk for developing conditions such as hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes and stroke.  

However, BMI does have some limitations.  For starters, BMI is calculated using the total weight—meaning it doesn’t distinguish between body fat and other elements that contribute to a person’s weight (bones, organs, muscle, etc).  Since muscle weighs more than fat, it’s possible for someone with a muscular build and little body fat to fall in the “overweight” category.  Many professional athletes, for instance, have BMI in the overweight range because of the muscle they develop during training.  Secondly, BMI is a generalization.  Everyone is different and body composition varies by age and gender. 

The important thing to remember is BMI is a guideline and isn’t meant to be used to diagnose health risks.  However, regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.  If you have questions about weight loss or BMI, you may want to talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Primary Care Physician.  Photo credit: Victor Maltby)