In the last decade, obesity rates have risen to an alarming level. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only one state, Colorado, has a total obesity rate of less than 20 percent of the population. Most other states have 25 percent or more of their population with body mass index (BMI) scores high enough to be considered obese. Unfortunately, obesity puts you at risk for a host of serious diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. These risks are dramatically lowered as you lose weight.
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Set Realistic Goals
When just starting a weight-loss program, especially if you are obese, set realistic goals. With weight-loss reality shows such as "The Biggest Loser," many people get the idea that they can lose 6 or more pounds a week. A healthy weight-loss goal is 1 or 2 pounds a week. It may not seem like much, but 1 or 2 pounds a week can result in between 52 and 104 pounds lost in a year.
Creating extreme cuts in your diet, or exercising at too intense of a level, will not only set yourself up for failure, but can also cause injury. Start with small changes in your diet and exercise routines, such as cutting out regular soda, or going for a walk around the block. These small steps can make big changes over time. As you gain more strength, add more difficult exercises, or exercise for longer periods of time.
If you are obese, exercise likely will be difficult. However, adding even small amounts of activity to your week, such as parking further from the storefront, or going for a walk with your dog, can make a difference. Exercise can come in many forms. Get a healthy mixture of aerobic exercise (walking, elliptical, hiking, jogging), strength training (lifting weights, push-ups, resistance bands and stretching (yoga or pre-workout warm-ups). Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
When looking at your diet, avoid fad diets, such as those that cut out an entire food group (such as a no-carb diet) or cut your calorie intake below 1,000 calories per day. The best way to determine how many calories you can eat, while still reaching your goal, is to use a calorie goal calculator (see Resources).
Once you know how many calories you can eat, focus on a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy and whole grains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a program called MyPyramid, which can help you plan your meals. Avoid cutting out all the foods you want. It's OK to eat the foods you crave (such as chocolate), as long as you eat a proper portion, instead of an entire bag of candy.
Have Medical Supervision
If your BMI is high enough to be considered obese, involve your doctor in the process. Your doctor can make sure you are healthy enough to perform your planned weight-loss program, and can help you design a diet and fitness plan specialized for your needs and goals. Your doctor can also help you keep track of your progress.