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Determining a starting point for weight loss


Obesity trends among U.S. adults. Image courtesy
of Centers for Disease Control

As obesity rates climb higher than ever within the United States, with Mississippi having the greatest population of obese people (32.5%), it's no wonder there is such pressure on society to look "perfect." It seems that each week a new magazine article criticizes a different celebrity, such as recent articles featuring Kirstie Alley, Melissa Joan Hart, and Jessica Simpson, for being overweight. Even though most of us are not featured in the limelight, any excess weight can be equally embarrassing and frustrating. But how do we determine what is healthy and how can we achieve our goals?

Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight relies heavily on 2 important factors:

  1. Body composition
  2. Daily activity level.

To determine your body composition you will need to calculate what is known as your Body Mass Index or BMI. This is the calculation of your overall body fat based on your weight and height. Click here to determine your BMI. For example, this link would show that a person who is 5'5" and 150lbs is within a normal weight range, whereas a person who is 5’5” and 200lbs is obese.

Once you know your BMI, and before you start cutting calories, it is important to determine how many calories your body would need each day to maintain your current weight. This is determined by combining your age, weight, height, and daily activity level (sedentary, moderately active, etc).

Click here to find out how many calories your body needs. The site suggests that if your goal is to lose weight eat 500 less calories than the calculator shows. Why 500 less? Reducing your diet by 500 calories can help you lose approximately 1lb a week while still providing the muscles in your body with enough energy to function. However, cutting out more than 500 calories can be dangerous for your health and cause your body to work overtime, inevitably lowering your metabolism.

It is recommended before beginning any weight loss program to consult a doctor or dietitian. These tips are intended to help people understand how the human body works and aid in determining a starting point for reaching healthy weight goals. Once you understand how your body is composed and determine how many calories you should be eating you can then formulate a meal plan and exercise regime. Living a healthy lifestyle isn't all about counting calories either. It takes dedication, support, motivation, healthy eating, and most importantly exercise.

Myth Buster: By starving yourself you can lose fat.
FALSE: By starving yourself, your body is deprived of the energy it gets from food to fuel your system. The muscles in your body depend on the energy from food, and without that energy your muscles will inevitably deteriorate, not the fat on your body. Eating healthy keeps from adding more fat to your body and exercise helps burn those unwanted pounds.