There are over 154 American adults that are overweight, according to a 2013 data study from the American Heart Association. Of that number, 78 million adults are obese and 42 million of them are women. Being obese increases risks for chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes and certain cancers. Women who are obese can drastically improve their health with an appropriate diet and exercise program.
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According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, obesity is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, greater than 30. BMI helps estimate body fat and is based on body weight in relation to height. BMI can be calculated by multiplying weight in pounds by 703, then dividing by height in inches, and dividing by height in inches. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides an online adult BMI calculator.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, or NHLBI, Obesity Education Initiative recommends weight loss for obese women to help decrease risk for disease. Adult women typically need fewer calories per day than men, according to the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. To lose weight successfully, NHLBI recommends that obese women, like men, reduce their consumption by 500 to 1,000 calories per day to achieve a 1- to 2-pound per week weight loss. After six months of weight loss, which should be up to 10 percent of initial body weight, weight maintenance is encouraged before losing additional weight.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends that obese women follow a low-calorie diet plan, but not lower than 800 calories per day. For most obese women, diets consisting of 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day are appropriate. Women who weigh more than 165 pounds or who exercise regularly may require up to 1,600 calories per day.
For obese women, the NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative recommends the Low-Calorie Step I Diet consisting of 15 percent of total calories from protein, 55 percent or more from carbohydrates and 30 percent or less from fat. Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol should be limited to 10 percent. Consuming 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day is also recommended.
Following the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, food guide plate guidelines is appropriate for making healthy food choices; the USDA MyPlate website also offers individualized menu plans.
Benefits of exercising for obese women may include weight loss maintenance, reduced disease risk, reduced body fat and a reduced decrease in muscle mass associated with weight loss. Exercise should be increased slowly and care taken to avoid injury. NHLBI suggests that all adults work up to an exercise plan that includes at least 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days of the week. The Center for Medical Weight Loss explains that since women's bodies naturally contain more fat than men's, women may want an exercise program that focuses on cardio, while adding some weight-training to increase muscle mass, which also helps burn calories.
Walking is a popular cardiovascular exercise for many obese women and can help burn excess body fat. Resistance exercises such as Pilates or weight lifting can help burn additional fat and can be alternated with walking or other cardiovascular exercises.