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Losing weight is not an easy task. There are no healthy, quick fixes. In a world filled with crash diets and meal replacement shakes it can be hard to know what’s the best way to lose weight — and keep it off. 

Nearly 3 in every 4 adults, age 20 or older, in the U.S. are either overweight or obese according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. But almost half of them are trying to shed a few pounds.

Thinking about starting a weight loss plan for the summer? Summit Health’s primary care physician Estela Wajcberg, MD, gives some guidelines for healthy weight loss and tells us what to avoid when starting a diet and adopting a more nutritious lifestyle. 

Before you begin, go for a checkup.

It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a Summit Health provider to have a check-up before you embark on a major lifestyle change. Physicians like Dr. Wajcberg will listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, review your BMI and discuss any possible medical conditions that you may have like diabetes. A simple wellness visit can ensure you are safely ready to get started on a diet and exercise plan. 

Slow and steady is best — do not crash diet.

“In general, a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is safe and is likely to stay off. I tell my patients to focus on the journey, not specific pounds lost each week or month,” said Dr. Wajcberg.

When you change your lifestyle through diet and physical activity, you will become healthier and have better habits. Unlike trying a fad diet that is impossible to maintain for a long period of time, changing how you eat will make you more likely to maintain weight loss for years to come. 

What is BMI?

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is measured by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. BMI is used as a screening tool to determine a person’s health risk. Other assessments indicate exact levels of body fat. 

How to tell if you are underweight or overweight

According to the guidelines, a BMI measurement of less than 18.5 is underweight, 18.5-25 is normal weight, 25-29 is overweight and over 30 is obese. Morbid obesity is when the BMI is between 35-39 and there are one or more associated health conditions, or over 40 if there is no other medical condition.

Everyone’s BMI should be evaluated individually. For example, athletes generally have heavier muscle mass that can result in higher BMI measurements even though they have very little body fat.  

The link between body weight and overall health 

“Maintaining an ideal body weight helps with quality of life and can improve how you feel cosmetically, psychologically and socially. It also has physical benefits and can help you control certain medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, prediabetes and diabetes, high cholesterol, triglycerides levels, and high blood pressure,” explains Dr. Wajcberg.

Keeping an ideal body weight also helps reduce the chance of having cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, heart attack and stroke. 

Tips for healthy weight loss 

Are you ready to get started on your weight loss journey? Remember these guidelines from Dr. Wajcberg: 

  • Focus on long-term goals to achieve better health, and to prevent or control current medical conditions. 
  • Become educated about the practice of a healthy lifestyle.  
  • Understand the basics of nutrition. Maintain a balance between all nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Add fruits and vegetables to the mix. If you need help coming up with a diet that is right for you, make an appointment with a Summit Health nutritionist. 
  • Get physical. Movement helps burn calories. Schedule time for exercise and stick to your assigned time to work out. Find a type of exercise you enjoy and switch up your routine, so you do not get bored. 
  • Enroll in a weight management program. Everyone’s weight loss journey is unique and individual attention can help you achieve your goals. 
  • Maintain a balanced low-calorie diet combined with physical activity. This can result in a negative net calorie overall and weight loss without decreasing your body’s metabolism which helps you burn the food you eat. 

Unhealthy weight loss: what not to do 

Diets are not all the same. Several popular diets exclude carbohydrate intake which is an important fast source of energy during physical activity. Usually, those diets also have an excess of protein and fat that can be overwhelming to your kidney function, and lead to increased cholesterol and triglycerides levels. 

After losing weight, the reintroduction of carbohydrates can then result in you gaining back weight. When physical activity is not added to a diet plan, the initial weight loss can result in a decrease in your metabolism rate which leads to difficulty in achieving further weight loss. 

Summit Health can help 

We look forward to working with you to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Before beginning your weight loss journey, see a Summit Health primary care provider to make sure you are healthy enough to start a diet and exercise program. If you need help creating a diet plan our registered dietitians in Nutrition Services can develop a nutritional plan that is tailored to meet your health needs.