Chapter 4. Where to Start
It's official. Welcome to a Healthier You! Let's get started, but first things first.
Before you can begin making lifestyle changes and get on your way to a Healthier You, assess where you currently are. Ask yourself: "What is a healthy weight for me?" "How physically active am I?" "How many calories do I need?"
This chapter will help answer these questions. You can write the answers to the questions on the worksheet, "My Personal Profile," on page 89. This will help you set goals and track your progress. You'll have different prompts after each question to let you know when to write information down in "My Personal Profile." That way, you will have all of your information in one place. To make it easy for you, tear out the worksheet in part III, "Making a Healthier You Happen"—that way you can copy them so every family member and friend has one. As you reach your goals, you will be able to see them and celebrate your successes together along the way!
On the other hand, along the way to a Healthier You, let's say you think you are not reaching your goals fast enough. You may begin to feel a little discouraged. By tracking your goals and progress, you'll have an opportunity to go back and review them, look at the changes you have been making, and begin to understand what obstacles may be blocking you from reaching your goals.
Human nature craves immediate results. Know this and be realistic in setting goals. You may need to make adjustments to how much you are eating, what kinds of foods you are eating, how much physical activity you are getting, or how much time you have allowed yourself to reach your goal.
For example, let's say your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. Typically, you measure your progress on a scale. Some weeks, you may lose 1 pound and some weeks you may even lose 2. Perhaps a week goes by and you don't see any weight loss. You start getting down on yourself and start doubting whether your plan works. Because you may be replacing fat with muscle and muscle weighs more than fat, you are not seeing the results you want on the scale. But, are your pants feeling a bit looser? Rest assured—you are making progress. The way your clothes fit may be a better measure than the scale from time to time. Even when your head tells you one thing, your body may be telling you something else. Give your body some time to adjust. Sometimes, it takes time for results to show on the outside—even if you may be making a difference on the inside.
Remember—we'll say this over and over again—this book is not a diet book, it's a lifestyle plan. A Healthier You shows the steps you can take to get you on your way.
Many Americans are overweight. Almost two-thirds of us are. Where do you fit in?
Note: If your weight and height is not on this chart, please use the equation on page 89 to figure out your BMI.
Write down your current BMI in "My Personal Profile." Look at the BMI chart again and determine what a healthy weight range would be, based on your height. Write that down in My Personal Profile," too. For example, if you are 5'7", your healthy weight could range between 121 and 153 pounds.
If you are underweight: If your BMI is less than 19, you may need to gain weight. If you do, use "My Healthy Eating Plan" to do so (more about this in chapter 7). And, don't forget to include physical activity. If you have recently lost 10 pounds or more without trying to lose weight, you may want to check with your health care professional.
If you are at a healthy weight: You may be at a "healthy weight," but not eating the right foods that give your body all the good nutrients you need to be healthy. For example, you may be at a healthy weight, but you may also not be eating enough fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Being physically active is important even if you are at a healthy weight. This book is a starting point for finding your way to a Healthier You whatever your weight.
If you are at an unhealthy weight (obese or
overweight): You should consider losing weight
If you are an athlete or muscular: The BMI chart may not be the best tool for you to determine your weight status. You may want to measure your waist size (see page 14) or to consult your health care provider to determine whether you are at a healthy weight.
Are you an apple or a pear? Extra fat in our belly area may put our health at risk, even if we are at a healthy weight. Men who have a waist size greater than 40 inches, and women who have a waist size greater than 35 inches, are at higher risk of diabetes, problems with cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, and heart disease because of excess abdominal fat. If your waist size is larger than these amounts, you should consider losing weight. Write your waist size in "My Personal Profile."
Remember: Eating right and being physically active aren't just a "diet" or a "program"— they are keys to a healthy lifestyle. With healthful habits, you may reduce your risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers, and may increase your chances for a longer life.
What about my kids? If you have children, you may be reading this book, to try to get helpful information for improving their lifestyle and nutrition. The BMI chart on page 12 should be used only to determine the weight status of adults. For kids, we use growth curve charts. Doctors use these to chart the height, weight, and age of children as they grow and develop. Chapter 12, "Healthier Children," will give you the information you need when talking to your kids about food and physical activity, and part IV, "Recipes and Resources," will help you make healthy choices when buying food and preparing meals.
So, now that you've determined whether or not you are at a healthy weight, how many calories are right for you? For now, we want to assess how many calories you need. A calorie is a scientific way to measure energy. You need to know about how physically active you are currently to estimate how many calories you need daily. Later on in the book, we'll discuss strategies for making small changes that will help you reach your healthy weight.
A Healthier You is about healthy eating and enough physical activity. The two go hand in hand. Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. Physical activity helps your body function, and it helps you control your body weight by burning up some of the calories you take in as food and beverages each day.
What is my current physical activity level? You need to find out your physical activity level to determine your estimated daily calorie needs. Find out whether you are sedentary, moderately active, or active. Be honest with yourself. For the purposes of using the table on the next page to determine your calorie needs, we define sedentary, moderately active, and active as follows:
If you need more information, see chapter 10, "Making Physical Activity Part of a Healthier You."
Go to "My Personal Profile" on page 89, and fill out the section on your physical activity level.
Find your estimated daily calorie needs below. The calorie ranges shown are to accommodate needs of different ages within the age group.
For children and adolescents, more calories are needed at older ages. For example, a moderately active 13-year-old girl should aim for 2,000 calories, but a moderately active 9-year-old girl should aim for 1,600 calories.
For adults, fewer calories are needed at older ages. For example, an active 31-year-old man should aim for 3,000 calories, but an active 50-year-old man should aim for 2,800 calories.
You have estimated the number of calories that you need each day based on your gender, age, and current physical activity. You are probably thinking to yourself, "If I am more active, I can eat more." But let's hold off on that concept for now. Right now, you are assessing your current habits—both food and physical activity. And you'll figure out what works for you and what changes you need to make to be a Healthier You.
Now, go to "My Personal Profile" on page 89, and write down your estimated calorie needs. At this point, you should have "My Personal Profile" filled in with your BMI, risk factors, physical activity level, healthy weight range, estimated daily calories, and goal. Below is a sample of a completed Personal Profile sheet: