The appeal and process of dropping a few pounds is as American as baseball and apple pie (easy on the whip cream, please!). But losing pounds properly means losing them steadily. It also means recognizing the health and psychological benefits of even small drops, such as 5 percent of your overall weight.
“Often, we’re conditioned to expect a big result when we try to lose weight, but losing even a small amount of weight can have a big impact on health,” says Jacob Martinez, MD, ProMedica Physicians Family Medicine. “And losing the weight slowly can mean you’ll keep it off longer.”
As important as weight loss is, using this new goal as a reason to eat smarter and exercise more can improve long-term health. It’s these things, says Dr. Martinez, that define a person’s health.
“From a medical point of view, a number on the scale or your ideal weight isn’t the target,” says Dr. Martinez. “It’s about getting to a better state of health. You may not even have to reach an ideal weight to get there.”
Here’s the skinny from Dr. Martinez on weight loss:
- If you want to start a weight-loss program, talk with your healthcare professional or personal trainer and lay out achievable, short-term goals.
- Tools such as Body Mass Index (BMI) or waist circumference can help set reasonable expectations that fit your lifestyle and exercise or diet limitations.
- Start with a moderate objective. Break your goal into small steps that will get you to your bigger goal (such as losing 10 pounds before your next doctor visit).
- Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight (15 pounds for a 300-pound person; 10 pounds for a 200-pound person) can lead to impressive benefits, such as higher energy levels and a positive mental attitude.
- Obese people experience even greater benefits from a 5 percent drop, such as less joint pain, reduced blood sugar, improved cholesterol levels – and greater confidence.
- Don’t focus on how quickly weight drops. Evidence shows a steady approach, such as losing one-quarter to one-half pound weekly, is the better way to keep it off over time.
- Use a weight-loss program to teach yourself healthier habits, such as making healthy food choices, eating correct food portions and enjoying regular physical activity.
- Weight plateaus, or periods where you stay at the same weight, are common in a weight-loss journey. They result when the calories you eat are equal to the energy you burn.
- To overcome plateaus, consider waiting it out as your body adjusts to changes in your metabolism or gains in weight due to new muscle. (Plateaus also can occur when your body becomes too efficient with your current exercises, so gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.)
- Finally, remember that weight loss is long-term, and that changes should be part of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
Are you ready to start your weight loss journey? Learn more about building your weight loss plan.