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Consuming healthy foods, beverages, and snacks, and getting regular physical activity may help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Making suitable lifestyle choices may also help men and women prevent some health problems.
Here’s a quick overview of some ways to eat better and be more active.
Learn more ways to move more and eat better—for yourself and your family!
If it is tough to manage your weight, you are certainly not alone in today’s world. In fact, more than 39 percent of American adults have obesity.1 Excess weight may lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and other chronic health problems. Setting goals to improve your health may help you lower the chances of developing weight-related health problems.
Your body mass index (BMI) can help you determine if you are at a healthy weight, overweight, or have obesity. BMI is a measure based on your weight in relation to your height. You can use an online tool to calculate your BMI. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. Someone with a BMI of 30 or greater is considered to have obesity.
Another important measure is your waist size. Women with a waist size of more than 35 inches, and men with a waist size of more than 40 inches, may be more likely to develop health problems. Men are more likely than women to carry extra weight around their abdomen, or belly. Extra fat, especially in the abdomen, may put people at risk for certain health problems, even if they are not overweight.
Extra weight may increase your risk for
Learn the health risks of being overweight or having obesity during pregnancy.
Many factors, including consuming more calories than you need from food and beverages, lack of sleep, and low levels of physical activity, may play a part in gaining excess weight. Here are some factors that may influence weight and overall health.
The world around you. Your home, community, and workplace all may affect how you make daily lifestyle choices. Food and beverages high in fat, added sugar, and calories are easy to find and sometimes hard to avoid. And they often cost less than healthier choices like fruits and vegetables. On top of that, smartphones and other devices may make it easy for you to be less active in your daily routine.
Families. Overweight and obesity tend to run in families, suggesting that genes may play a role in weight gain. Families also share food preferences and habits that may affect how much, when, and what we eat and drink.
Medicines. Some medicines, such as steroids, and some drugs for depression and other chronic health problems, may lead to weight gain. Ask your health care professional or pharmacist about whether weight gain is a possible side effect of medicines you are taking and if there are other medicines that can help your health without gaining weight.
Emotions. Sometimes people snack, eat, or drink more when they feel bored, sad, angry, happy, or stressed—even when they are not hungry. Consider whether it might be your emotions making you want to eat, and try doing something else to help you cope with negative feelings or celebrate your good mood. That can help you feel better and avoid weight gain.
Lack of sleep. In general, people who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep.2 There are several possible explanations. Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise. They may take in more calories simply because they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat. Lack of sleep may also disrupt the balance of hormones that control appetite. Researchers have noticed changes in the brains of people who are sleep deprived. These changes may spark a desire for tasty foods.3 Learn more about sleep deprivation and deficiency and strategies for getting enough sleep.
Being aware of food portion size, the kinds of foods and beverages you consume, and how often you have them may be a step to help you make healthier food choices.
Visit MyPlate.gov to learn more about what kinds of food and drinks to consume and what kinds to limit so you can have a healthy eating plan.
Consume more nutrient-rich foods. Nutrients—like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber—nourish our bodies by giving them what they need to be healthy. Adults are encouraged to consume some of the following foods and beverages that are rich in nutrients
If you’re sensitive to milk and milk products, try substituting
Consume less of these foods and beverages. Some foods and beverages have many calories but few of the essential nutrients your body needs. Added sugars and solid fats pack a lot of calories into food and beverages but provide a limited amount of healthy nutrients. Salt does not contain calories, but it tends to be in high-calorie foods. Adults should aim to limit foods and drinks such as
Easy snack ideas. Instead of sugary, fatty snacks, try
These tips may help you stay on track with your plan to eat healthier.
How much you should consume each day depends on your weight, sex, age, metabolism, and how active you are. In general, men need more calories than women. Younger adults need more calories than adults in midlife and older. At all ages, adults who get more physical activity need more calories than those who are less active.
Keeping your food and beverage portions in check may help you reach or stay at a healthy weight. To learn more about a healthy eating plan and the amounts of food and beverages that are right for you, visit MyPlate.gov.
Talk with your health care provider about what a healthy weight is for you. If you are overweight or have obesity, your health care professional may recommend weight loss. Consider getting help through a structured weight loss program.
Experts recommend beginning with a weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight over a period of 6 months.4 So if you weigh 200 pounds, that would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds. Modest weight loss has been shown to improve health, and it may bring you other benefits such as better mood and more energy.
Use a diary to track the foods and beverages you consume. Keep a food and beverage diary that lists everything you consume in a day. The diary helps you
More adults are using different ways to track health habits, including what and how much they eat and drink, sleep, and weigh. Using apps on mobile phones, tablets, and other devices has become a popular way to track and improve health. These apps have many features. If you are interested, look for apps that best fit your health goals and lifestyle habits.
If you prefer keeping a written diary, check out the sample food and beverage diary below. It includes a section for writing down what the time was and what your feelings were when you consumed the food or beverage. Writing down your feelings may help you identify your eating triggers. For example, you may notice that you sometimes overeat when you are with a big group, simply because everyone around you is consuming large amounts of food and beverages. The next time you share a meal with a group, think about your triggers and try to limit how much you consume by eating more slowly.
Ideas to support your weight-loss efforts. In addition to keeping a diary, focusing on behaviors related to your eating and physical activity level can help jump-start your weight-loss efforts. It can also help you maintain weight loss for the long term. These ideas may help you lose weight.
Consuming food and beverages
Experts recommend (PDF, 14.4 MB) that you should move more and sit less throughout the day. You can gain some health benefits if you sit less and do any amount of physical activity. Learn more about the benefits of getting more active.
Keep reminding yourself: Some physical activity is better than none.
Being physically active may help you start feeling better right away. It can help
Once you are more active, keep it up with regular activities. That will improve your health even more. Studies suggest that, over time, physical activity can help you live a longer, healthier life. It may
Experts recommend two types of physical activities: aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Aerobic activity. Aerobic activities—also called endurance or cardio activities—use your large muscle groups (chest, legs, and back) to speed up your heart rate and breathing.
Aerobics can be moderate or vigorous. How can you tell what level your activity is? Take the “talk test” to find out. If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily—but you can’t sing—then you’re doing moderate-intensity activity. If you can only say a few words before pausing for a breath, then you’re at the vigorous level. Start with moderate-intensity activities and then work up to vigorous-intensity activities to avoid injuries.
Choose aerobic activities that are fun for you. You’re more likely to be active if you like what you’re doing. Try getting a friend, family member, or coworker to join you. That may help you enjoy activity and stick with it.
Try one of these activities or any others you enjoy
Regular aerobic activity can help you
Muscle-strengthening activity. Strength training (or resistance training) works your muscles by making you push or pull against something—a wall or floor, hand-held weights, an exercise bar, exercise bands, or even soup cans.
Try these options
Doing regular activities to strengthen your muscles may help you
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week (a total of 2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. You can spread your activity throughout the week—whatever works best for you. Studies show that if you spread activity across at least 3 days a week, you can improve your health, reduce your risk of injury, and keep yourself from becoming too tired.
If you increase your aerobic activity to 300 minutes a week—instead of the recommended 150 minutes—you may even lower your risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, if you do more than 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, you may even reduce your risk for several cancers.
You should also aim for at least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. To avoid injury, allow at least 1 day of rest for your muscles to recover and rebuild before working the same muscle groups again.
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from regular physical activity. Even modest amounts of physical activity can improve your health.
If you have been inactive for a while (PDF, 13.8 MB) , you may want to start with easier activities, such as walking at a gentle pace. For example, you could start by walking 5 minutes at a time, several times a day, 5 to 6 days a week. You could gradually increase your time to 10 minutes per session, 3 times a day, and slowly increase your walking speed. Building up slowly lets you work up to more intense activity without getting hurt.
Be sure to increase your muscle-strengthening activities gradually. Start out 1 day a week at a light or moderate intensity. Over time, increase to 2 days a week, and then possibly to more than 2 days. Increase the intensity until it becomes moderate or greater.
Make a plan to stay on track. You may want to try the Move Your Way interactive activity planner that lets you set your own weekly goals, choose the activities you want to do, and get personalized tips to help you stay motivated.
You can keep an activity log to track your progress, such as the sample log below or an app on your mobile device. After you do an activity, write down how you were feeling while you were active. As you become more fit over time, try to slowly increase your pace, the length of time you are active, and how many days of the week you are active.
Try these activities to add more movement to your daily life.
Many people feel stress in their daily lives. Stress can cause you to overeat, feel tired, and not want to be active. Healthy eating and regular physical activity may help offset the effects of stress.
Try some of these other ideas to help relieve stress and stay on track with improving your health.
There are apps that give helpful tips on stress management practices and help you monitor the situations that prompt stress. Check them out to see if one works for you.
A balanced eating plan, regular physical activity, stress relief, adequate sleep, and other behaviors may help you stay healthy for life!
 Hales CM, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015–2016. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. NCHS Data Brief No. 288. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf [PDF – 603 KB]. Published October 2017. Accessed April 15, 2019.
 Sleep deprivation and obesity. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sleep/. Accessed August 7, 2019.
 Hicklin T. Molecular ties between lack of sleep and weight gain. NIH Research Matters. March 22, 2016. www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/molecular-ties-between-lack-sleep-weight-gain. Accessed August 7, 2019.
 Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S102–S138. https://europepmc.org/articles/pmc5819889. Accessed April 15, 2019.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Delia West, Ph.D., University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health
2 thoughts on “Health Tips for Adults | NIDDK – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)”
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