Nutrition & Fitness
Strategies for Weight Management
Being at a healthy weight reduces your risk of getting many chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and some cancers. Use these strategies to help you get to or stay at a healthy weight.
First, it is important to understand what BMI is and why it is used to determine if you are overweight or obese. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a ratio between your weight in kilograms and your height in meters-squared. It is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. See the table below for weight categories. You can use an online calculator to figure out your BMI. If you are in the overweight or obese category, try to lose some weight. Even a small amount of weight loss makes a difference to your health.
Less than 18.5
18.5 – 24.9
25.0 – 29.9
30 and over
Strategy #1: Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound Goals
Setting the right goals is an important first step. Most people trying to lose weight focus on just that goal: losing weight. However, the most effective areas to focus on are changes to what you eat and your activity level, leading to long-term weight change. Successful weight losers are those who select two or three goals at a time that are manageable. For example: I will walk 30 minutes a day, three days per week. Or, I will bring lunch to work 2 days per week. Once you achieve these goals, make new ones.
Limit your initial goal to a weight loss of 5-10%. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose 10-20 pounds, even if you eventually want to lose more. You should aim for a weight loss of no more than 1-2 pounds per week. When you reach your 10% goal, hold steady there for a few months to let your body adjust to the new normal, then continue.
Strategy #2: Track What You Eat and What You Weigh
You can't change what you don't know. People who track their food lose twice as much weight as those who don't. Tracking holds you accountable, letting you know exactly how many calories you have eaten compared to how many you need to eat to lose weight. When you track, you think twice about your food choices before you eat them. You can use an online tracker, such as MyFitnessPal – they are free and easy to use. MyFitnessPal also has a smart phone app for easy tracking anywhere you go.
You should also weigh yourself once a week. Weigh yourself at the same time, on the same day, using the same scale, wearing the same clothes (or lack thereof) every week. Record it – either write it down on a piece of paper or record it in your online food tracker. This holds you accountable, even if no one else sees it. It also helps you see progress towards your goal.
Strategy #3: Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks
Focus on eating healthy most of the time. It doesn’t have to be 100%.
Don’t skip meals! Adults need breakfast for the same reasons kids do: improves concentration, productivity and improves behavior, energy levels. If you skip a meal, you are more likely to overeat at the next.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Try to eat 5 or more servings per day. Vegetables and fruit help fill you up - you can eat a lot of food for few calories. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and help prevent disease. Here are some tips for adding more vegetables and fruit to your diet:
- Add fruit to cereal or yogurt
- Take raw veggies and fruit to work for a snack
- Add extra veggies to soups or stews
- Add extra veggies to your pizza, tuna, sandwich, etc.
Choose whole foods; avoid processed foods. Whole foods are foods that are close to their natural state – you can imagine it growing in a field or on a tree. Processed foods are packaged and often have a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. Whole foods are healthier, have less calories and more vitamins and minerals than processed foods. They also lower your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Whole foods are more suited to our bodies for digestion and optimal nutrition.
Minimize how much dairy, meat, and fat you eat. Most Americans eat more meat, dairy and fat than they need to stay healthy. It is possible to have a healthy diet with little or no meat or dairy – focus on whole, plant-based foods for most of your calories. Fat, however, is an important part of a healthy diet. It helps us absorb vitamins and minerals from food. Try to keep fat to less than 25% of your daily calories. Fats from plant sources (olive oil, nuts, avocado) are generally healthier than plants from animal sources (butter, the fat on a piece of meat).
Drinks are a major source of calories. Drink lots of water – aim for 8 glasses per day. Tea and coffee, without sugar, are almost calorie-free (be careful about having too much caffeine). Milk, juice, and alcohol should be limited to one serving per day, if you drink them at all. Avoid soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and any sweetened drink.
Strategy #4: Control Your Portions
How much you eat is as important as what you eat. Here are some tips for controlling your portion sizes.
- Downsize your dishes. Smaller plates and bowls will help you serve yourself smaller portions.
- Choose your glass wisely – we tend to fill short and wide glasses with more fluid and consequently we drink more. Use a slender glass for any beverage except water.
- Eat off a dish – not out of a box or bag. Serve yourself one serving and then put the container away to avoid eating more than you intended.
- Don't bring serving dishes to the table; put food away once it is served.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit.
Avoid mindless eating – make eating your focus. Turn off the TV; leave your cell phone in the kitchen; enjoy your food and whomever you are eating with.
Strategy #5: Move More
Think of physical activity and exercise as a positive part of your life. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day, 5-6 days per week, but any exercise is better than none. Walking is a good activity if you are new to exercise.
- Reduces risk of chronic diseases
- Improves blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars
- Improves mood, mild depression, anxiety, and concentration
- Builds stronger bones and muscles
- Helps you lose and maintain weight
- Gives you energy
Strategy #6: Plan Ahead
Planning is the key to achieving your weight loss goal. Just like you plan your work day, your kids' activities and your social life, you need to plan what you will eat for the week and when you will exercise. Plan your meals and snacks. Take healthy snacks to work so you aren't tempted by the vending machines. Keep a water bottle with you, at work and while working out. Bring your lunch to work with you whenever possible. It is much harder to control what you eat when you eat out. When you do eat out, check the menu ahead of time so you can pick a healthy choice before arriving. Make sure to schedule your exercise into your week.
Strategy #7: Control Your Environment
We are surrounded by unhealthy foods – it is generally easier to find a candy bar than it is to find a piece of fruit. But there are some things you can do to control your environment:
- Don't bring junk food into your house or to work. If it is not there, you can't eat it.
- Bring healthy snacks to work and to your kids' activities.
- Don't keep a candy bowl or cookie jar on your counter or your desk. Do keep a bowl of fruit on the counter.
- Use the stairs instead of elevators.
- Walk or bike or take the bus to work.
- Turn off the TV. You burn less calories watching TV than sleeping!
Practice these strategies to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight for life. Remember that even a small amount of weight loss can improve your health.
Cooking with Joel!
Chef Joel's healthy back-to-school recipes [pdf]!
- African Peanut Stew
- White Bean Turkey Chili
- Cabbage and Carrot Salad
- Fall Vegetable Quinoa Soup
- Quinoa and Shrimp Grits
- Coconut Curry Shrimp & Green Beans
- Brie, Apple, and Arugula Quesadillas
- Easy Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe
- Glazed Salmon with Broccoli Rice
- Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
- Lentil Sweet Potato & Spinach Stew
- Caribbean BBQ Chicken
- Black Bean Tacos
- Blackened Tilapia Tacos
- Ancho Chicken Tacos
- Grilled Shrimp and Potato Kebabs
- Creamy Summer Slaw
Please submit recipes to our suggestion box, we will be featuring an employee "recipe of the month."
Here are some helpful resources for the entire campus community to use, long after the Eat Well, Live Well challenge is over. We hope these guides will help you continue to eat well and live better!
Nutrition and Fitness
- What Counts as a Cup? [pdf]
- Eat a Rainbow Every Day [pdf]
- Build a Better Salad [pdf]
- Daily Meal Template [pdf]
- Step Conversion Chart [pdf]
- 100 Ways to Eat Healthier [pdf]
- Portion Control Wallet Guide
- Just Enough for You - About Food Portions [pdf]
- CDC's Healthy Weight
- Dear (Food) Diary - article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Apps for Losing Weight and Counting Calories
Lose It! • Calorie Tracker • Health Cubby • Myfitnesspal • Daily Burners • Smoothie Selector • Food Planner Lite • VeganXpress • Slim Down Shopping List • The Carrot