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How to maintain a healthy weight

August 12, 2015

If you struggle to keep your weight in check, you’re not alone. Approximately 30% of adults in the U.S. are now obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Duke Health experts discuss some of the most important points to consider when it comes to weight management.

Why is it important to maintain a healthy weight?

“One of the key reasons to maintain a healthy weight is to significantly reduce cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea, which can impact the heart,” said Duke cardiologist Melissa Daubert, MD. “If you have any of these risk factors or illnesses already, then you can often resolve many of them by achieving a healthy weight, possibly even reducing your need for medication to treat these conditions over time.”

What are some of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight?

“First of all, you have to get moving,” says Timothy Thompson, MD, an internal medicine doctor at Duke. “You don’t have to join a gym or invest in expensive equipment. It can be as simple as walking a little farther or taking the stairs. The best option is to find a physical activity you enjoy doing -- cycling, aerobics or dance -- so it’s not drudgery; it’s fun. 

“Another important factor for weight control is healthy eating. It’s not only how much you eat, but also what you eat that matters. Try eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber, and less fried foods and saturated and trans fats. I also suggest eating three meals per day and one snack, but not skipping meals, because that can have the opposite effect. Even though you’re eating fewer calories, you can still gain weight because your body compensates for the change by decreasing your metabolism.

“It’s important to note fad diets and supplements aren’t the way to lose weight most of the time. These methods are not proven effective and can even be harmful because they’re not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

When should someone consider surgery as an option for weight loss?

Weight loss surgery is an option for those who are classified as morbidly obese,” says Dana Portenier, MD, a weight loss surgeon at Duke. To qualify, “you should have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or be 100 pounds over your recommended weight. If you have a BMI of 35 to 40 and also have obesity-related health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, then you may be a candidate as well.

“Keep in mind, surgery is by no means the easy way out. You can’t just show up, have the surgery and get skinny. Surgery is a tool to make traditional weight loss methods, like diet and exercise more effective for you. After the surgery is when the real work begins, so you have to be willing to establish good behaviors and stick with them.”

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