One day it’s eat this; the next, don’t eat that. But there’s one single thing that you can do to truly improve your health (besides not smoking): Reach and maintain a healthy weight. It’s not just about looking good (although that’s a happy by-product). Getting to, and staying at, a healthy weight results in increased energy and an improved sense of well-being. Even more importantly, it dramatically decreases your risk for a host of medical problems — including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoarthritis — and can even reverse some of those conditions.
The body mass index, or BMI, which is a ratio of height to weight, is the general guide for determining healthy weight. This measure does have its limitations, however, especially for people who eat healthfully and are extremely active, since it’s possible to have a high BMI and yet low body fat. A personal trainer, for instance, may be in great shape but, due to muscle weight, may have a BMI that slightly exceeds what’s recommended. And recent research published in the journal Obesity suggests that people with higher-than-normal (but not extremely high) BMIs may actually live longer than their lower-weight counterparts. So rather than focusing on a number on the scale, keep in mind that if you eat the right foods, in the right amounts, and get the right exercise, your body will find the right weight for you.
As you go for that healthy weight, take an honest look at your eating habits, examine your mental outlook when it comes to weight, and understand how excess weight affects your body and its ability to engage in physical activity. Once you know how you got where you are and what it’s doing to you, it will be easier to make the changes that will lead to a healthier you. You can calculate your BMI here.