Is Body Mass Index (BMI) the Best Measure?

The recent Biggest Loser finale raised a few interesting questions about using body mass index (BMI) to evaluate a healthy weight.  During the final episode of the popular weight loss show, Rachel Frederickson, a Minnesota native, won the grand prize by slimming down from 260lbs to 105lbs.  Some say that her weight loss went to far because her BMI is now estimated to be below healthy standards.

What is BMI?

Body mass index is a way of estimating how your weight affects your risk for certain medical conditions.  It is not an absolute measure of fat or of your general health.  You can calculate your BMI with this formula:

BMI formula:  weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal.  A BMI between 25 and 29.9 falls into the overweight category and a number over 30 is considered obese.  If your BMI falls in the overweight or obese categories your weight may put you at higher risk for chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea or stroke.

What Does BMI Mean?

If your body mass index falls outside the healthy range it is simply an opportunity for you to talk to your doctor about ways in which you can lose or gain weight to improve your health.  Your body mass index is changeable! Use the score as an opportunity to talk to your provider about a healthy diet and exercise program.

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How to Order Healthy Meals in Restaurants

Look for the red check in restaurants

Look for the red check in restaurants

Do you order heart-healthy meal when you dine out?  Trying to order a diet-friendly meal in a restaurant can be quite a challenge.  Entrees are usually too big and it is hard to find out how much fat, salt and sugar was used to prepare your entree.  But a smart diner can learn to order better meals in restaurants with a few handy tips and tools.

American Heart Association Certification

The American Heart Association provides a helpful guide for diners who want to eat better when they dine out.  Their Dining Out Guide provides tips by cuisine, a guide for deciphering the menu and other helpful tips.

The AHA also provide a certification of certain items on restaurant menus.  If you see the check-mark logo on an entree at your favorite spot, you’ll know that the item meets the nutritional guidelines established for good health by the AHA.  This means that the entire meal contains:

  • less than 700 calories
  • less than 30% of the total calories from fat
  • less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • less than 0.5 grams trans fat per the entire meal
  • 900 milligrams or less sodium per the entire meal
  • 10 percent or more of the Daily Value of one of the following nutrients per the entire meal: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, dietary fiber or protein.

Making Good Restaurant Choices

Since the AHA’s restaurant certification program is new, it is very likely that you’ll end up at a restaurant that doesn’t have menu items with the logo.  And very few restaurants provide nutritional information about their food.  So what do you do to make better choices?  Check out our Tips for Staying Social on a Diet.  You’ll find quick tips for dining out and advice for how to manage parties and other situations where food is present.

You’ll  find plenty of resources about diet, exercise advice and healthy eating strategies at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Check it out or join the weight loss community on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Gain Less Weight As You Age

file0001591954106We may not like it, but we expect our bodies to change as we age.  We get grey hair, our skin begins to wrinkle, and we gain a little weight after menopause, right?  Maybe not, says a new study.  A recent review released by the International Menopause Society (IMS) claims that menopause does not cause weight gain.  The group says that environmental factors, not hormones, cause women to gain weight as they age.

What Causes MidLife Weight Gain in Women?

The literature review conducted by the International Menopause Society is only one research review (and there have been many) that comments on midlife weight gain in women.  The results have been mixed, partially because it is nearly impossible to separate hormonal changes from the inevitable lifestyle changes that happen when we get older.  The IMS review did acknowledge that hormones change the way fat is distributed on a woman’s body, but study author Professor Susan Davis told Science Daily, “It is a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight.”

Gain Less Weight in Middle Age

So what should you do if you want to maintain your weight through menopause and beyond?  Some researchers feel that the key is staying active. One research study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology evaluated how different factors such as age, menopause, and lifestyle changes account for the weight gain often experienced by women in their 40s and 50s. They found that by remaining active, many women prevented weight gain.

For both men and women, staying very physically active throughout middle age and beyond has numerous health benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that we get 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.  Of course, there is not guarantee that it will prevent weight gain entirely, but it’s a great way to minimize the effects of aging and stay healthy.

Looking for more weight loss tips and advice?  Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website.  And get support and daily inspiration by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

 

 

 

Maintain Your Weight to Live Longer, Says Study

scaleNew research out of Ohio State University may give you one more reason to watch your weight as you age.  A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology evaluated nearly 10,000 adults aged 51 to 77 years of age.  Researchers found that those who maintained their weight later in life had the highest survival rates.  This was true even when the adults were slightly overweight to begin with.

How to Maintain Your Weight

Trying to maintain your weight is a little bit different than trying to lose weight.  Most people know that changes to your diet and exercise program are necessary for weight loss.  But what steps should you take to make sure you don’t gain weight?  Here are a few tips:

  • Keep track of your numbers.  Know your body mass index (BMI) or weigh yourself on a regular basis.  Small changes on the scale are normal from time to time.  But if you notice that your weight continues to increase, you may need to watch your diet or include more exercise in your daily routine.
  • Stay active.  Face it, most of us get lazier as we age.  We take the stairs less often, we drive to nearby locations when we could easily walk and we might even spend more time sitting on the couch reading or watching television.  This sedentary activity could cause weight gain. If you continue to eat the same number of calories, but you burn fewer calories with less activity each day, you will gain weight.
  • Get creative in the kitchen.  Let go of your old eating ruts.  Take a cooking class, visit the farmer’s market, or get a new cookbook from the local library to learn new ways to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.  Healthy produce will help you to eat more food, stay satisfied throughout the day and get the nutrients you need to stay healthy and active.  
  • Watch portion sizes. If you don’t occasionally check the portion sizes of your meals, it is easy to slowly increase your food intake and gain weight.  Not sure how much food you should eat?  Use the Nutrition Facts label on your food package to find the serving size of each food. You can also download this handy portion size guide to give you an idea of how much food to eat.

Are Short Workouts Better for Your Health?

If you read health magazines or follow health trends, you’ve probably seen stories about the benefits of short workouts. High intensity interval training is popular in health clubs right now and a new kind of workout called Tabata training is also getting a lot of attention. The workouts are appealing because they are short. But are they really better for your health?

Minimize Weight Gain in Less Time

A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion evaluated data from nearly 5000 participants over three years. The researchers found that short high intensity bursts of activity were linked to a lower risk of obesity. This led study authors to conclude that hard mini workouts lasting ten minutes or less can be an effective form of weight gain prevention.

Are Mini Workouts Right for Me?

For most people, any increase in physical activity level is a good thing. But to reap the benefits of short high intensity workouts, you have to work at a difficulty level that may be too intense for some people. What’s the best way to find out? Speak to your health care provider. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are healthy enough for vigorous activities like jogging or tennis. He may also be able to explain how an exercise program can improve your health, which might help you stick to your program.

Healthy State Fair Activity and Eating Guide

Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair's healthy offerings

Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair’s healthy offerings

Have you made plans to go to the Minnesota State Fair? The great Minnesota get-together runs from August 22 – September 2, 2013, so you’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy the festivities.  But before you go, check out this list of resources.  You’ll find fun ideas to help you eat well and stay active during your day at the fair.

Eat Healthy at the Minnesota State Fair

Get Active and Fit at the Minnesota State Fair

Remember that you can also visit the Minnesota State Fair Food Finder to find healthy foods to try and the Minnesota State Fair Fun Finder to find healthy activities.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

Television Viewing Hours May Determine Weight Loss Success

What's your number?

What’s your number?

Do you know how many hours of television you watch each week?  Many of us underestimate the number of hours we spend sitting on the couch in front of the tv.  And who really keeps track of the number anyway?   Weight loss researchers do, that’s who.  And those scientists have found that people who lose weight and keep it off share certain patterns when it comes to television.

How Does Your Number Measure Up?

Most successful losers watch 10 hours of television per week or less.  That’s according to the National Weight Control Registry, a collection of information about people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept the weight off.  Researchers are interested in the habits of successful losers so that they can conduct research to help other dieters lose weight and keep it off.

The average American watches nearly 39 hours of television each week.  Older adults watch the most television averaging 47.5 hours per week and teenagers (12-17 years old) watch the least amount of television, averaging about 24 hours each week. Of course, other forms of sedentary screen behavior was not measured in the Nielson Survey that provided these numbers.

Take The Test, Improve Your Outlook

You might think you know how much television you watch, but chances are good that the number in your head is too low.  Take a week-long test and see how many hours you really watch.  Keep a log and record the amount of time spent in front of your television (or computer).  Then compare your number to the 10-hour number that is shared by successful weight losers.  Is your number too high?

If it is, that doesn’t mean you have to give up television completely.  That plan is unrealistic and likely to backfire.  Instead, commit to taking one television viewing hour each day and doing something active instead.  This is a perfect time of year to get outside and go for a walk.  Visit a farmers market to get fresh food for dinner. Take the kids to the park.  Just enjoy the fresh air away from the couch.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.