The Basics: Overview

Being at a healthy weight can help lower your risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. 

Eating a mix of healthy foods and getting physical activity can help you control your weight — and has many other health benefits as well!

How do I know if I’m at a healthy weight?

Finding out your body mass index (BMI) is one way to learn if you’re at a healthy weight. You can use this BMI calculator to find out your BMI.

You can also talk to your doctor or nurse or a registered dietitian about what’s a healthy weight for you. They can help you make a plan for getting to and staying at a healthy weight. 

  • If you’re overweight and have risk factors for heart disease (like high blood pressure or high cholesterol), or if you have obesity, losing weight may improve your health. You can lose weight by getting more physical activity and eating fewer calories. Calories are a measure of the energy in the foods you eat.
  • If you are at a healthy weight, take steps to stay at the same weight. You can stay at the same weight by getting regular physical activity and eating the right number of calories.
  • If you think you might be underweight, talk to your doctor or nurse about how to gain weight in a healthy way.  

How do I know if I’m eating the right number of calories?

Balancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories you use for energy helps you stay at a healthy weight. 

Use the MyPlate Plan to get an idea of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. 

  • If your weight stays the same for several months, you’re eating the right number of calories to maintain your weight.
  • To lose weight, try eating 500 to 750 fewer calories each day. 

The Basics: Health Benefits

What can losing weight do for me?

Getting to a weight that’s healthy for you can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your blood sugar
  • Raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol

And if you’re overweight or have obesity, getting to a weight that’s healthy for you can help lower your risk of serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

You may get these health benefits by losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, this would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds.

Take Action: Set Goals

Losing weight can be challenging — but with time, commitment, and the right support, it’s possible! Start by making a promise to eat well, move more, and get support from family and friends.

Set realistic goals.

If you need to lose weight, do it slowly over time. Start by setting small, manageable goals like:

  • I’ll try to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
  • I’ll start by adding 10 minutes of physical activity to my daily routine.
  • I’ll aim to eat 3 servings of veggies and fruit a day.

Remember that changing habits takes time, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet all your goals right away. What matters is that you continue to work toward healthy habits.

Keep a food and activity diary.

When you know your habits, it’s easier to make changes. Write down:

  • What foods you eat (but you don’t need to track calories)
  • When you eat
  • Where you eat
  • How much you eat
  • Your physical activity
  • How you’re feeling

Print this food and activity diary or make your own. 

Take Action: Get Active

Get more physical activity.

Getting active helps you balance the calories you take in with the calories you use — and has many other health benefits as well!

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week. For example, try going for a brisk walk several days a week.
  • To get the most benefits, try to also do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. You can lift weights, climb stairs, or work in the garden—anything that makes your muscles work harder than usual counts.

How much activity you need will depend on your weight goals. If you’re working toward losing a large amount of weight, you may need to do more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet your goals. Talk to your doctor or nurse to make an activity plan that’s right for you.

But remember that even some physical activity is better than none. If the idea of long physical activity sessions seems overwhelming, try to get moving for shorter 10-minute periods throughout the day.

Check out these resources for more information:

Take Action: Eat Healthy

Eat healthy.

Eating healthy is good for your overall health. Making healthy food choices that are lower in calories can also help you manage your weight.

Here are a few healthy eating tips:

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and a variety of foods with protein, like eggs and beans.
  • Drink water or fat-free milk instead of soda or other drinks with added sugars.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose healthier versions of your favorite foods that have fewer calories and less added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
  • Bring this shopping list of heart-healthy foods the next time you go food shopping.

Check out these links to learn more:

Take Action: Portion Sizes

Eat smaller portions.

Eating a healthy diet is important, but you also need to pay attention to how much food you eat and limit portions of high-calorie foods. Take the Portion Distortion Quiz to test your knowledge.

Here are some ideas for eating smaller portions:

  • Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Stick to an eating schedule that works for you.  
  • Read the label to find out how many servings are in a package. There may be more than 1!
  • Put a serving of food in a bowl instead of eating out of the package or container.
  • Serve yourself a portion that’s the right amount of calories for you. Leave serving dishes on the stove or countertop rather than bringing them to the table so you’ll be less tempted to keep eating even after you’re full.
  • Eat slowly — this will give you time to feel full.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. That makes it harder to keep track of how much you’re eating.

Try these tips when you eat out:

  • Share a meal with a friend, or take half your meal home as leftovers.
  • Ask for sauces or dressings “on the side” so you can control how much you use.

You don’t have to feel hungry or give up all of your favorite foods to lose weight! Learn about switching to healthier, filling alternatives.

Take Action: Get Help

Ask your doctor for help.

You may also want to talk to a doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian about different ways to lose weight. Your doctor can tell you about your options. Check out these questions to ask your doctor about losing weight.

Find out if you need to get tested for diabetes.

If you’re age 35 to 70 years and you’re overweight or have obesity, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. You may also need to get tested if you have other risk factors — like if you have family members with type 2 diabetes or if you had gestational diabetes in the past. Learn more about type 2 diabetes.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for obesity. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get free or low-cost health services. To learn more, find a health center near you.

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