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FAQs (From the American Dietitetic Association)

Weight Management:
Registered Dietitians Answer Frequently Asked Questions

Making healthy choices that fit your lifestyle, so you can do the things you want to do, is the first step in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Since many people have the same concerns about managing weight, here are answers--from registered dietitians (RDs)--to the most frequently asked questions.

How do I know I'm at a healthy weight?

Body mass index or BMI is a standard "tool" for helping you judge your body weight and the amount of body fat you have. BMI calculates a weight-to-height ratio and assigns a number to the result. The higher the BMI number above the normal range, the greater the degree of overweight. Generally speaking, a BMI of 27 is considered overweight and 30 or above is severely overweight.

People with a higher percentage of body fat tend to have a higher BMI except for body builders. Carrying excess body fat, not muscle, puts you at greater risk for health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. As with weight charts, BMI is only a guideline. Consult your doctor or registered dietitian about the weight and BMI that are healthy for you.

What is the best way to lose weight?

The secret to successful weight management is not just losing weight but keeping it off permanently. Although there really isn't one "best way," RDs advise that slow, gradual weight loss is healthier, easier to manage and more likely to be permanent. To make healthful eating and physical activity choices:

Use the Food Guide Pyramid as the basis for your healthy eating pattern. Be sure to include the minimum number of servings from each food group. A registered dietitian (RD) can help you develop a healthy eating plan that will fit your lifestyle.

Can I lose weight by counting fat grams or calories?
You need to monitor both calorie and fat intake to lose weight. A low fat eating pattern is not necessarily low in calories. In order to lose weight, your calorie intake must be less than calories burned. Portion size is also key to any healthy eating plan. Large servings of even low-fat foods can undermine your weight loss goals.

What should I do if I hit a plateau?
Hitting a plateau during a weight loss program is normal. Your body requires fewer calories to function as your weight decreases. Everyone's body levels off at a different weight. Some people will level off at a higher weight than others.

Gradually increasing the amount or intensity of your physical activity may help you continue to lose while for others it will help to maintain your new weight. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10% with maintenance can provide important health benefits. Any activity that gets you moving, helps you on the way to a healthy lifestyle. Get energized with a brisk walk in the morning, at lunch and after dinner. Try a fun new activity like line-dancing or roller blading. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. You'll be more fit without adding more time to your fitness routine.

Are prescription medications an option for me?
If you only need to lose a few pounds, prescription weight loss medications are not for you. These medications may be one part of a weight management program for obese patients that also includes diet counseling from an RD, regular physical activity and lifestyle changes. Prescription medications for weight loss generally reduce appetite, making it easier to control food intake. Talk with your physician to determine if prescription medication should be part of your weight loss program.

ADAF 1997.
Reproduction of this fact sheet is permitted for educational purposes.
Reproduction for sales purposes is not authorized.

The American Dietetic Association
216 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995
FAX: 312/899-1979