People who have overweight or obesity*, compared to those with healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions. These include:
- All-causes of death (mortality).
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (dyslipidemia).
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Coronary heart disease.
- Gallbladder disease.
- Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint).
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems.
- Many types of cancer.
- Low quality of life.
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders4,5.
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning6.
Assessing Your Weight
A high amount of body fat can lead to weight-related diseases and other health issues. Being underweight is also a health risk. Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference are screening tools to estimate weight status in relation to potential disease risk. However, BMI and waist circumference are not diagnostic tools for disease risks. A trained healthcare provider should perform other health assessments to evaluate disease risk and diagnose disease status.
How to Measure and Interpret Weight Status
Adult Body Mass Index or BMI
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can indicate high body fatness, and a low BMI can indicate too low body fatness. To calculate your BMI, see the BMI Calculator. Or determine your BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart. Weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese. Weight that is lower than what is considered as healthy for a given height is described as underweight.1
At an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.
How to Measure Height and Weight for BMI
Height and weight must be measured to calculate BMI. It is most accurate to measure height in meters and weight in kilograms. However, the BMI formula has been adapted for height measured in inches and weight measured in pounds. These measurements can be taken in a healthcare provider’s office, or at home using a tape measure and scale.
Finding a Balance of Food and Activity
A healthy lifestyle includes good nutrition and adequate physical activity. If you need to gain or lose weight, consider changing your dietary pattern and physical activity level to achieve your goal.
Counting calories all the time is not necessary, but in the beginning, it may help to determine how many calories are in the foods and drinks you consume regularly. See MyPlate Plan to determine how many calories a day you need to maintain your current weight based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. Then click on the results to see recommended daily amounts fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains for adequate nutrition at your calorie level.
To learn how many calories you are taking in, write down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink, plus the calories they have, each day. Check the nutrition facts label for serving sizes and number of calories, and consider portion size
Tips to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
In the United States, the number of children with obesity has continued to rise over the past two decades. Obesity in childhood poses immediate and future health risks.
Parents, guardians, and teachers can help children maintain a healthy weight by helping them develop healthy eating habits and limiting calorie-rich temptations. You also want to help children be physically active, have reduced screen time, and get adequate sleep.
The goal for children who are overweight is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Children should NOT be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider.
To help children develop healthy eating habits:
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugary drinks.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Remember that small changes every day can lead to success!
For more information about nutrition, visit Choose My Plate for children and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans [PDF-30.6MB].
Reducing the availability of high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can help your children develop healthy eating habits. Only allow your children to eat these foods rarely, so that they truly will be treats! Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar snacks that are 100 calories or less:
- 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tablespoons hummus.
- A medium apple or banana.
- 1 cup blueberries or grapes.
- One-fourth cup of tuna wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
- A few homemade oven-baked kale chips.
In addition to being fun for children, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:
- Strengthening bones.
- Decreasing blood pressure.
- Reducing stress and anxiety.
- Increasing self-esteem.
- Helping with weight management.
Children ages 3 through 5 years should be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should be physically active at least 60 minutes each day. Include aerobic activity, which is anything that makes their hearts beat faster. Also include bone-strengthening activities such as running or jumping and muscle-strengthening activities such as climbing or push-ups.
Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own routine and encourage your child to join you.
Reduce sedentary time
Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television viewing for children aged 2 years or younger. Instead, encourage children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity