Maintaining A Healthy Weight

Over and over, research studies continue to find that maintaining a healthy weight is good for us. Not only does a healthy weight reduce your risk of cancer, it also helps to reduce the risk of such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

If you’re overweight, your first goal should be to keep your weight steady – avoid gaining weight. Weight gain can creep up on us all – a pound one year, two pounds another.  So, just keeping your weight steady can have important health benefits.  For even more benefit, try losing some weight, even just a little at a time.

So what steps can a person take to move toward maintaining a healthy weight when we are surrounded by high-calorie foods and unaffordable gym memberships? As daunting as maintaining or losing weight may seem, here are some basic steps to help get you started. You got this.

  • Be active. If you don’t currently exercise, start with a lower-impact exercise such as walking or gardening. Your local YMCA may have classes to get you started. Remember, the goal is to exercise 30 minutes a day at a moderate level for at least five days per week. While more is almost always better, doing some sort of physical activity is better than none.
  • Eat fruits, vegetables and whole-grains foods. They tend to be high in fiber, which will help you feel full and may reduce your snacking. They are also lower in calories than most go-to processed snacks.
  • Set goals and celebrate your successes. Start exercising only two or three times a week and work your way up. And start small – first, try not to gain weight, then aim to lose weight. Know that losing one-half of a pound to two pounds per week is the optimal weight loss amount.  By losing weight slowly you’re more likely to keep weight off over time. Celebrate when you are able to achieve a goal.
  • Eat smaller portions sizes. Many of us tend to eat everything on our plate, so serve yourself smaller portions at home. Using smaller plates can help. Also, when you’re eating out, save half of your order for lunch the next day, or split it with a friend.
  • Avoid eating in front of the television or computer. In general, avoid eating or snacking while you’re using an electronic device. Often, we tend to overeat because we’re not paying attention to how much we are eating or how full we are.
  • If you eat when you are stressed, think of other strategies. Before you turn to a cookie or piece of chocolate, consider another activity like calling a friend, taking a quick walk around the office or house, or spending five minutes mediating.

 For more information on maintaining a healthy weight or preventing cancer, visit Siteman Cancer Center’s prevention webpage. Visit Your Disease Risk, a free online personal assessment tool, to learn ways to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

 

Written by Aimee James, PhD, MPH, a cancer researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Siteman Cancer Center. Her research focuses on cancer prevention and control, health disparities and community-based research. Her work focuses heavily on populations traditionally underserved by healthcare institutions and aims to reduce disparities in cancer burden, particularly disparities associated with socioeconomic circumstances or being uninsured. A strong guiding factor in Dr. James’ work is the importance of engaging community members and patients in conversations about the research that affects them.

Photo: Person about to stand on weighing digital scale by franchise opportunities (Flickr CC License, CC by 2.0).

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