You don't have to stop eating chocolate cake or start running marathons to improve your health. Making small but steady changes in your eating and activity habits -- over time -- may help you lose weight if you need to, feel better, and improve your health.
The information below can help you start to change your physical activity and eating habits. When you make changes to improve your health, you may also move your friends and family to do the same.
Am I risking my health by being overweight?
Being overweight can be dangerous to your health. If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop:
• type 2 diabetes
• high blood pressure
• heart disease
• certain forms of cancer
You can help lower your risk for many health problems by losing weight. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your health. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 10 to 20 pounds may help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Slow and steady weight loss of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week is the safest way to lose weight.
How do I start to lose weight and improve my health?
To start towards a healthy weight and improve your health, try to:
• Be more physically active
• Eat healthier.
• Be more physically active
• Regular moderate-intensity physical activity can be fun and help you feel great. When you share physical activity with your friends and family, it can also be a social event. Make it your goal to try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, or better yet, all days of the week. You may need to be physically active for more than 30 minutes a day to help you lose and keep off extra weight.
What is moderate-intensity activity?
• walking 2 miles in 30 minutes
• bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes
• dancing fast for 30 minutes
Sometimes starting and sticking with a physical activity program can be a challenge. Figuring out how to beat your physical activity roadblocks may make it easier for you to get and stay active.
Note: If you are a man and over age 40 or a woman and over age 50, or have chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, talk to your health care provider before starting a vigorous physical activity program.
Beat your physical activity roadblocks!
If you do not have child care, try sharing physical activities such as walking, biking, or playing tag with your child each day.
If you do not have time or are too busy to be physically active, try doing 10 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity three times a day, or putting more energy than normal into activities like housework, yardwork, and playing with the kids.
If you do not like, or do not want to exercise, know that doing something you enjoy such as dancing to the radio, or planning active outings with a friend, family member or group all count!
If you do not feel safe being physically active in your neighborhood, form a group of people to walk, jog, or bike together, working out with videos in your home, or walking in a shopping mall.
When you begin to change your eating habits to improve your health, try to:
• Make healthier food choices
• Eat just enough food for you.
• Make healthier food choices
A healthy eating plan includes a wide variety of foods from five food groups. Let the Food Guide Pyramid help guide your food choices. Use the Food Guide Pyramid to guide the number of daily servings you eat from each food group. A range of serving numbers is given for each Pyramid food group.
The smaller number is for people who eat about 1,600 calories a day, such as women who are not physically active.
Active women and most men need about 2,200 calories a day and should choose a mid-range number of servings.
The larger number is for people who eat about 2,800 calories a day, such as active men.
Improving your eating plan may take time. Changing favorite foods may be one of the most difficult parts. To enjoy tasty, lower-fat versions of some favorite foods, try the suggestions listed in this publication.
Children, teenagers, and adults under age 25 should choose 3 daily servings from the milk, yogurt, and cheese group to meet nutritional needs.
More information about the Food Guide Pyramid
Eat just enough for you.
To lose weight, learn to eat fewer calories. Do this by selecting foods that are lower in fat and calories from each food group.
A healthy eating plan calls for making healthy food choices and eating just enough for you. Larger servings of food have more calories. Eating more calories than your body needs leads to weight gain.
Learning about the serving sizes of foods can help you eat just enough for you. Try to measure your food for a few days. This can help you learn to recognize what one serving of a food, such as 1/2 cup of rice, looks like on your plate. See also: Portion Sizes.
To lose weight, learn to eat fewer calories. Do this by selecting foods that are lower in fat and calories from each food group. For example, choose low-fat cheese and extra lean meat. Also, choose plenty of vegetables. They are lower in calories and fat than other foods and can help you feel full.
Lower fat versions of favorite foods
Instead of fried chicken, try baked, roasted, broiled, grilled, or oven-fried chicken with the skin removed.
Instead of ham hocks, salt pork or fatback to flavor vegetables, try onions, garlic, low-sodium chicken broth or bouillon, smoked turkey, turkey bacon, or turkey ham. (These meats are high in salt, so use just a little bit.)
Instead of regular ground beef, try extra lean ground beef or lean ground turkey breast.
Instead of French fries, try mashed potatoes made with nonfat milk, a baked potato topped with a vegetable or fruit salsa, or a salad.
Instead of sour cream, try low fat or nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt, or low fat cream cheese.
Instead of salt, try spices, herbs, lemon, lime, or vinegar. (Salt is not fattening, but it may contribute to high blood pressure in some people).