Tom was dreading the appointment with his primary care physician. She had been monitoring his increasing weight and BMI (body mass index), and Tom knew that with his job and responsibilities at home, his numbers were going to be worse. He was overstressed all the time — and sought comfort in French fries and cheesecake.
Sure enough, he had a BMI of 42 kg/m2. He was on the fast track to developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and some serious health problems.
BMI is your body mass index, which is your weight in kilograms (kg) divided by your height in meters squared (m2). It’s generally considered a marker for future health problems, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and a number of other problems many of which increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Catherine McNeal, MD, PhD, a specialist in lipid disorders (that is, blood fats) offers some tips on lowering your BMI and getting control of your health.
Understand the concept of “calorie.”
A calorie is a unit of energy. You have to know that 3500 calories is the amount of energy stored in one pound of fat, Dr. McNeal explains. It takes about a 3,500-calorie deficit to burn off one pound of fat.
“Try substituting one bad habit at a time. For example, if you eat candy or chips, find an alternative that you can enjoy that contains fewer calories.”
Know the calorie count of foods and beverages.
For weight loss, it’s helpful to know how many calories are in each of the items of food you eat or beverages you drink, as it relates to the amount of energy you have to burn off to maintain, lose or gain weight, Dr. McNeal advises.
For example, there are about 100 calories in an average slice of bread. That’s the equivalent of a 30-minute walk, depending on your speed and how much you weigh (the more you weigh, the more calories you burn). There are about 300 calories in a 24-ounce soda. That’s about the equivalent of a fast 30-minute bike ride. There are about 1200 calories in a double-bacon cheeseburger. That’s the equivalent of jumping rope for an hour and a half. Straight. Without stopping. Oh my.
Manage your stress.
It’s very hard to lose weight if you’re stressed, Dr. McNeal says. “If you give everything you’ve got at work, you’re exhausted when you get home, you fix dinner — or pick something up on the way home — and help your kids with their homework and then do some household chores, this stress makes it really hard to find time to be active and eat more healthful foods,” Dr. McNeal notes.
Make small changes toward better health one at a time. “It requires a great deal of advanced planning and not just chance to start developing healthier habits. And, sometimes life is really just too chaotic to do anything except keep your head above water. Try substituting one bad habit at a time. For example, if you eat candy or chips, find an alternative that you can enjoy that contains fewer calories,” suggests Dr. McNeal.
Monitor your weight.
Weigh yourself periodically between visits with your healthcare provider, Dr. McNeal suggests. Although your scale and the one in the office may not read the same, the change in your weight should be the same. Don’t let a gain in weight come as a surprise. When you notice the scale creeping up, kick in with a little bit more activity and a little fewer calories consumed to regain control.
The support of your family and friends makes a big difference in keeping you on the path to healthfulness. They can be your greatest cheerleaders.
“Change is much easier if you have that support. If you hate to exercise, find a friend who will make a daily walk, bike ride or workout a stress reliever rather than a chore,” advises Dr. McNeal.
“There are some great Smartphone apps to help you keep track of calories in and calories out,” says Dr. McNeal. Use today’s technology to your health advantage.
Treat weight loss as a job.
“You put a lot of work into your job and career, so transfer that same energy to your weight loss plans and improvement of your overall health head to toe. Make it your mission to succeed here, too,” Dr. McNeal advises
Have fruits and vegetables take up a greater portion of your plate. To be a thrifty shopper, buy fresh fruits and vegetables when in season, freezing them for later use, or buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables (without extra salt or sugar), Dr. McNeal says.
Understand your metabolism declines as you age.
“As we age, we lose muscle mass. Muscles are one of the main calorie burners in our body. As a result, our basal metabolism declines. Our basal metabolism is the calories we need to run our body — to circulate our blood, breathe, run all the cells in our body. Consequently, as we age, we need less fuel to keep our bodies running,” explains Dr. McNeal.
Moreover, “typically as we age, we tend to exercise less and eat more, which is why we’re usually more overweight as we age than we were when we were younger,” says Dr. McNeal.
“The most important thing to remember,” Dr. McNeal says,” is that change is hard, especially when it comes to our ‘comfort habits.’ If you aren’t ready for a big change, try small but sustained changes to reduce your weight and increase your activity level. These goals may be more realistic and achievable. It’s hard to lose weight, so give yourself a pat on the back — but not an extra treat! — when you do succeed.”