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Topic of the MonthWeight Loss

     - Assess Your Weight

     - Lose Weight

     - Prevent Weight Gain

     - Video


When it comes to weight loss, there's no lack of fad diets promising fast results. But such diets limit your nutritional intake, can be unhealthy, and tend to fail in the long run.

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn't about short-term dietary changes. It's about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.

Staying in control of your weight contributes to good health now and as you age.


Assess Your Weight

The first step is to determine whether or not your current weight is healthy. BMI – Body Mass Index is one way to measure your weight.  Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

If you've been thinking about your current weight, it may be because you've noticed a change in how your clothes fit. Or maybe you've been told by a health care professional that you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and that excessive weight could be a contributing factor. The first step is to assess whether or not your current weight is healthy.

Adult Body Mass Index or BMI

One way to begin to determine whether your weight is a healthy one is to calculate your "body mass index" (BMI). For most people, BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness. It is calculated based on your height and weight.

To calculate your BMI, see the BMI Calculator. Or determine your BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart.

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the "underweight" range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the "normal" or Healthy Weight range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the "overweight" range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the "obese" range.

"Underweight", "normal", "overweight", and "obese" are all labels for ranges of weight. Obese and overweight describe ranges of weight that are greater than what is considered healthy for a given height, while underweight describes a weight that is lower than what is considered healthy. If your BMI falls outside of the "normal" or Healthy Weight range, you may want to talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you might achieve a healthier body weight. Obesity and overweight have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

At an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.

For more, see About Adult BMI.


Waist Circumference

Another way to assess your weight is to measure your waist size. Your waistline may be telling you that you have a higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions if you are:

  • A man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
  • A non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches

Excessive abdominal fat is serious because it places you at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Individuals who have excessive abdominal fat should consult with their physicians or other health care providers to develop a plan for losing weight.

How To Measure Your Waist Size

                                                             image showing how to measure your waist

To measure your waist size (circumference), place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hip bone. Be sure that the tape is snug, but does not compress your skin, and is parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale, and measure your waist.

Note: The information on these pages is intended for adult men and non-pregnant women only. To assess the weight of children or teenagers, see the Child and Teen BMI Calculator.

Want to learn more?

Losing Weight
If you've decided to lose weight, even modest weight loss can mean big health benefits.

Preventing Weight Gain
Choosing a lifestyle that includes good eating habits and daily physical activity can prevent weight gain.

The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity
Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of developing certain diseases. Your health care provider can help you assess your risk factors and offer guidance on losing weight.


1DHHS, A Healthier You, page 14. Available online:


Lose Weight

Healthy weight loss isn't just about a "diet" or "program". It's about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.


                           woman looking in a mirror

What is healthy weight loss?

It's natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly. But evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn't just about a "diet" or "program". It's about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.

To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.1

Once you've achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60—90 minutes, moderate intensity), you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term.

Losing weight is not easy, and it takes commitment. But if you're ready to get started, we've got a step-by-step guide to help get you on the road to weight loss and better health.


Even Modest Weight Loss Can Mean Big Benefits

The good news is that no matter what your weight loss goal is, even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.2

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals 10 pounds, bringing your weight down to 190 pounds. While this weight may still be in the "overweight" or "obese" range, this modest weight loss can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.

So even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination. You'll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. These habits may help you maintain your weight loss over time.

In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry* found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.

Want to learn more?

Getting Started
Check out our step-by-step guide to help you get on the road to weight loss and better health.

Improving Your Eating Habits
Your eating habits may be leading to weight gain; for example, eating too fast, always clearing your plate, eating when you not hungry and skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast).

Keeping the Weight Off
Losing weight is the first step. Once you've lost weight, you'll want to learn how to keep it off.


1DHHS, AIM for a Healthy Weight, page 5. Available online: (PDF-2.17Mb)

2Reference for 5%: Blackburn G. (1995). Effect of degree of weight loss on health benefits. Obesity Research 3: 211S-216S. 2 Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online: (PDF-1.25Mb)


Prevent Weight Gain

To stay at a healthy weight, it's worth doing a little planning now. If you are overweight but aren't ready to lose weight, preventing further weight gain is a worthy goal.

If you're currently at a healthy weight, you're already one step ahead of the game. To stay at a healthy weight, it's worth doing a little planning now.

Or maybe you are overweight but aren't ready to lose weight yet. If this is the case, preventing further weight gain is a worthy goal.

As people age, their body composition gradually shifts — the proportion of muscle decreases and the proportion of fat increases. This shift slows their metabolism, making it easier to gain weight. In addition, some people become less physically active as they get older, increasing the risk of weight gain.

The good news is that weight gain can be prevented by choosing a lifestyle that includes good eating habits and daily physical activity. By avoiding weight gain, you avoid higher risks of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and some forms of cancer.

Choosing an Eating Plan to Prevent Weight Gain

So, how do you choose a healthful eating plan that will enable you to maintain your current weight? The goal is to make a habit out of choosing foods that are nutritious and healthful. To learn more, visit Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.

If your goal is to prevent weight gain, then you'll want to choose foods that supply you with the appropriate number of calories to maintain your weight. This number varies from person to person. It depends on many factors, including your height, weight, age, sex, and activity level. For more, see Balancing Calories

                                                   .photo of asian man speed-walking

Get Moving!

In addition to a healthy eating plan, an active lifestyle will help you maintain your weight. By choosing to add more physical activity to your day, you'll increase the amount of calories your body burns. This makes it more likely you'll maintain your weight.

Although physical activity is an integral part of weight management, it's also a vital part of health in general. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk for many chronic diseases and it can help keep your body healthy and strong. To learn more about how physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, visit Physical Activity for Healthy Weight.



You may also find it helpful to weigh yourself on a regular basis. If you see a few pounds creeping on, take the time to examine your lifestyle. With these strategies, you make it more likely that you'll catch small weight gains more quickly.

photo of feet on scaleAsk yourself—

  • Has my activity level changed?
  •  Am I eating more than usual? You may find it helpful to keep a food diary for a few days to make you more aware of your eating choices.

If you ask yourself these questions and find that you've decreased your activity level or made some poor food choices, make a commitment to yourself to get back on track. Set some reasonable goals to help you get more physical activity and make better food choices.

Want to learn more?

Keeping the Weight Off
Losing weight is the first step. Once you've lost weight, you'll want to learn how to keep it off.



To support efforts to help individuals achieve caloric balance and to provide insights into ways in which communities can be involved, CDC-TV has just released a new video in its "Health Matters" series "Finding a Balance" providing expert perspectives on caloric or "energy" balance and personal stories of how individuals have made changes in their lives to achieve this balance.   

Watch or download the video (Video icon 4:15 mins)