What You Should Know Before You Start A Weight Loss Plan
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The measurements that count
Know your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Over the past twenty years, Canadians have become more familiar with specific measurements related to health, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings. When it comes to weight-related health risks, there are three important numbers that you should know. The first is your actual weight in pounds; the second is your Body Mass Index, or BMI; and the third is your waist measurement.
Your BMI is based on your height and weight. Healthcare providers consider BMI to be a better measure of health risk than your actual weight in pounds. In fact, the medical terms “overweight” and “obesity” are based on BMI values. A BMI of between 25 and 29.9 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. The higher your BMI, the greater your risk of developing a weight-related illness, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
What is your BMI? Are you overweight or obese? You can find out by using the BMI Calculator from Dietitians Canada at https://www.dietitians.ca/Learn/BMI-Adult.aspx
What is your waist circumference?
Body fat that accumulates in the stomach area (described as “abdominal obesity”) is more of a health risk than body fat that builds up in the buttocks and thigh areas. For this reason, your waistline provides valuable information about your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Healthcare providers consider a waist circumference too high if it is 102 cm (40 inches) or more in men, or 89 cm (35 inches ) or more in women.
Consulting your healthcare provider about controlling your weight
Contact your healthcare provider about healthy eating and physical activities that can help you lose weight, improve your fitness and decrease the chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. Be sure to set realistic goals. Small changes can make a surprising difference in your health. Your healthcare provider can offer practical suggestions that do not require a complete overhaul of your current way of life. In some cases, your healthcare provider may refer you to a nutrition specialist, such as a registered dietitian, for in-depth counseling about food choices. You may want to start the conversation by asking a few questions of your own. For example:
- Ask your healthcare provider for any educational brochures on topics such as eating habits, counting calories or physical activity
- Request to have your BMI measured and ask your healthcare provider what it means with regard to your health status
- Have your waist circumference measured and discuss the significance of the measurement with your healthcare provider
- Be prepared to describe your current diet and activity level and what changes might promote better health
- Think about how much change you’re willing to make before you visit your healthcare provider
- Ask if specialists are available on your health plan and in your area, such as dietitians or physical trainers
What is metabolic syndrome?
A high waist circumference can be one sign of a condition called metabolic syndrome. Although most people have never heard of it, this syndrome is quite common; it affects about one out of every five adults in the Canadians. Metabolic syndrome often progresses to type 2 diabetes—and treating the syndrome can help prevent this form of diabetes.
A person has metabolic syndrome if they have at least 3 of the following 5 conditions:
- High blood pressure (≥ 130/85 mm Hg, or receiving medication)
- High blood glucose levels (≥ 5.6 mmol/L, or receiving medication)
- High triglycerides (≥ 1.7 mmol/L, or receiving medication)
- Low HDL-Cholesterol (< 1.0 mmol/L in men or < 1.3 mmol/L in women)
- Large waist circumference (see above)
If you think you may have metabolic syndrome, it is important to discuss the possibility with your healthcare provider so that you can undergo the appropriate diagnostic tests. Treatments for metabolic syndrome involve basic lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating a healthier diet, and increasing your activity level. Your healthcare provider can help you develop a specific plan for making the necessary changes.
How to get active
Regular physical activity has been shown to help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and other chronic conditions. It is important for maintaining good health in all adults and children, regardless of whether their weight is a problem or not. Lifestyle changes do not have to be drastic to be effective. Simple measures applied every day can make a significant difference over time. Here are a few examples:
- Increase whatever physical activity you are currently doing by adding 10 minutes a day, or increase the intensity from low to moderate. (See the list below for an idea of different activity intensity levels.)
- Limit time spent online, watching TV and playing video games to less than two hours total per day.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to your destination, rather than parking as close as possible. You can also get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
- Do more household chores (such as dusting, vacuuming or weeding).
- Walk or run with the dog and/or the kids.
- Use an exercise machine (such as a treadmill or bike) while watching TV.
- Take “active” vacations—go hiking or ride bicycles.
- Walk to do errands (such as to the grocery store or post office) instead of driving.
- Buy a pedometer, which measures how many steps you take each day. Gradually increase your daily number of steps. (Pedometers can be purchased at sporting good stores.)
- Don’t be embarrassed about exercising!
How Active Are You?
Moderate Effort (30-60 minutes)
Vigorous Effort (20-30 Minutes)
From Handbook for Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living
Conditions and medicines that may prevent weight loss
In some people, overweight or obesity may be related to a medical condition or a medicine they are taking, which interferes with their weight loss efforts. If you have, or think you might have, any of the conditions on this list, or you are taking any of the medications listed, contact your healthcare provider to discuss measures you should take to manage your weight. In some cases, specific treatments for your medical condition or a change in medicines can make a difference in your efforts to manage your weight.
Some Medical Conditions that May Make it Difficult to Lose Weight
- Polycystic ovarian disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Heart valve disorders
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Upper airway resistance syndrome
- Carbohydrate craving syndrome
Medicines that May Cause Weight Gain
High blood pressure
- Alpha blockers
- Beta blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Can diet pills and natural health products help with weight loss?
Although diet drugs may help you lose weight at first, they usually don’t help you keep the weight off and may have damaging side effects. Health Canada has approved some natural health products for sale, there are still some products that have not been approved that may be dangerous (e.g. buying online). Taking drugs also does not help you learn how to change your eating and exercise habits. Making lasting changes in these habits is the way to lose weight and keep it off.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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