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Weight Loss

Weight Loss

America has a big weight problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75% of Americans are considered overweight or obese. It is estimated that over 160 million Americans are on a diet and they spend more than $70 billion each year on weight-loss plans, medications, supplements, and other weight-loss strategies.

A healthy weight can vary from person to person. Successful long-term weight loss is not dependent on fad diets or exercise programs. For people who have lost weight and kept it off, they followed healthy lifestyle changes with healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity, and stress management.

There is no one universal, successful weight-loss program that will work for everyone. There are several keys to success when it comes to achieving your weight loss goals. The first is to set realistic weight loss goals and find a plan that works for you. It should be a plan that makes you feel good and keeps you motivated. Set short-term goals and reward your efforts along the way. Another important key is to take your time. People who have steady, gradual weight loss (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more likely to keep the weight off than people who lose weight quickly.

What is a healthy weight?

While excess body weight can lead to a number of complications, the number on the scale does not always tell the whole story. A high amount of body fat can also lead to weight-related diseases and other health issues. Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference are screening tools to estimate your potential for serious health problems. Weight loss is recommended for anyone who is considered obese (BMI > 30) or overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) with other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and heart disease.

While BMI can be used as a screening tool, it does not paint the whole picture of your overall health. A trained healthcare professional should perform a total health assessment to evaluate your health status and risks.

What causes weight gain?

Several factors can play a role in gaining and retaining excess weight. These include eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and environmental factors.

Food intake and exercise

You will gain weight when you eat a high-calorie diet and do not have enough physical activity to burn it off. This is the biggest cause of weight gain for most people.


Our environment is another big contributor to not being able to maintain a healthy weight. For example:

  • Not having area parks, sidewalks, and affordable gyms can make it harder for you to have regular physical activity.
  • Oversized portion sizes in America increase calorie intake, making even more physical activity necessary to maintain a healthy weight.
  • You may not have access to supermarkets that sell affordable healthy food choices, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. This can lead to you eating highly processed foods with added sugars, which can lead to weight gain.


Studies show that genetics can play a role in people with obesity. Experts believe that genes may increase a person’s likelihood of being obese but that other factors, including poor dietary choices or little physical activity, also may be required for a person to gain weight.

Medications and health conditions

Some hormone imbalances can cause you to be overweight or obese, such as underactive thyroid, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Cushing’s syndrome. Some medications also have weight gain as a side effect, including certain antidepressants, seizure meds, and corticosteroids.

Stress and poor sleep habits

You may eat more than usual when you are stressed, angry, upset, or bored. Research has also shown that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese. This is partly because hormones that are released during sleep help control appetite and the body’s use of energy.

How can you start losing weight?

The best place to start if you want to find a healthy weight loss plan is a dietitian or other healthcare provider. They can suggest healthy eating habits based on the latest research and tailor a weight control plan based on your medical history.

Regular physical activity is another cornerstone of a successful weight-loss strategy. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system, and improving your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. Exercise can also help in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity.

When lifestyle changes are not enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe you a weight loss medication. They can help suppress your appetite or alter the way your body absorbs nutrients. You should not take medications on their own. You need to continue eating a low-calorie diet and exercising regularly for them to work best. Some common weight-loss medications include:

What’s a healthy diet you can eat to lose weight?

There is no single diet that nutritionists would universally consider the healthiest. Most healthy diet plans do have a few things in common. They tend to be plant-based diets, they emphasize healthy fats, no simple sugars, and low sodium, and they favor natural foods over the highly processed fare typical of much of the American diet.

Aim to include a variety of foods at each meal. To balance your plate, your meals should include protein, fat, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

Eating a recommended amount of protein is essential to help preserve muscle mass while losing weight. Diets with adequate protein may also reduce cravings and snacks by helping you feel full and satisfied. Some good protein choices include:

  • Soy protein
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Lean chicken with no skin
  • Lean beef
  • Pork
  • Low-fat dairy products

The quality of the carbs you eat is important too. Cut processed carbs from your diet, such as chips and cookies. Choose carbs that are high in fiber and nutrients, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.

All vegetables can be nutrient-rich additions to your diet. Aim to eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables daily.

Examples of vegetables include:

  • leafy greens
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • green beans
  • squash

If you are deciding what foods you should eat, note that certain vegetables — like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn — are considered carbs or grains when on the plate because they’re higher in carbs and calories. Be mindful of your portion sizes when adding these vegetables to your plate.

Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds are great choices for your eating plan.

Note that oils are composed of 100% healthy fats. Although some, like olive oil, are considered healthy, they also provide 9 calories per gram, compared to protein and carbs, which provide only 4 calories per gram.

For this reason, it’s important to eat healthy fats in moderation and limit saturated and trans-saturated fats.

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any weight-loss diet.


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