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Weight Management

Active at Any Size

Weight and Waist Measurement

Weight Cycling

Weight Loss for Life

Your Weight as You Quit Smoking

Active at Any Size

Do you feel that you can barely do any activity at all?
That you cannot exercise, play sports, or become more fit?

Very large people face special challenges in trying to be active. You may not be able to bend or move in the same way that other people can. It may be hard to find clothes and equipment for exercising. You may feel self-conscious being physically active around other people.

Facing these challenges is hard—but it can be done!

The information in this booklet may help you start being more active and healthier—no matter what your size!

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Why should I be active?

Being physically active may help you live longer and protect you from:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease and stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • osteoporosis (a disease leading to weak bones that may break easily)

If you have any of these health problems, being physically active may help control or improve your symptoms.

Regular physical activity helps you feel better because it:

  • lowers your stress and boosts your mood
  • increases your strength
  • helps control blood pressure and blood sugar
  • helps build healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • helps your heart and lungs work better
  • improves your self-esteem.

Being physically active can be big fun!

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How do I get started?

Appreciate Yourself!

If you cannot do an activity, don’t be hard on yourself. Feel good about what you can do. Be proud of pushing yourself up out of a chair or walking a short distance.

Pat yourself on the back for trying even if you can’t do it the first time. It may be easier the next time!

To start being more active and keep at it:

  • Start slowly. Your body needs time to get used to your new activity.
  • Warm up. Warm-ups get your body ready for action. Shrug your shoulders, tap your toes, swing your arms, or march in place. You should spend a few minutes warming up for any physical activity—even walking. Walk more slowly for the first few minutes.
  • Cool down. Slow down little by little. If you have been walking fast, walk slowly or stretch for a few minutes to cool down. Cooling down may protect your heart, relax your muscles, and keep you from getting hurt.
  • Set goals. Set short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal may be to walk 5 minutes on at least 3 days for 1 week. It may not seem like a lot, but any activity is better than none. A long-term goal may be to walk 30 minutes on most days of the week by the end of 6 months.
  • Get support. Get a family member or friend to be physically active with you. It may be more fun, and your buddy can cheer you on.
  • Track progress. Keep a journal of your physical activity. You may not feel like you are making progress but when you look back at where you started, you may be pleasantly surprised!
  • Have fun! Try different activities to find the ones you really enjoy..

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What physical activities can a very large person do?

Do I need to see my health care provider before I start being physically active?

You should talk to your health care provider if you:

—have a chronic health problem such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or arthritis

—have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or personal or family history of heart disease, or

—are a woman over age 50 or a man over age 40.

Most very large people can do some or all of the physical activities in this booklet. You do not need special skills or a lot of equipment. You can do:

  • Weight-bearing activities, like walking and golfing, which involve lifting or pushing your own body weight.
  • Non-weight-bearing activities, like swimming and water workouts, which put less stress on your joints because you do not have to lift or push your own weight. If your feet or joints hurt when you stand, non-weight-bearing activities may be best for you.
  • Lifestyle activities, like gardening, which do not have to be planned.

Physical activity does not have to be hard or boring to be good for you. Anything that gets you moving around—even for only a few minutes a day—is a healthy start to getting more fit.

Chances are your health care provider will be pleased with your decision to start an activity program. It is unlikely that you will need a complete medical exam before you go out for a short walk!

Gentle physical activity is healthy.

You do not have to push yourself to benefit from physical activity. Thirty minutes of gentle physical activity (like walking) can be just as healthy as 15 minutes of intense physical activity (like fast dancing).

Walking (weightbearing)

The walking that you do during the day (like doing chores around the house or in the yard) can help you be more fit. But regular, steady walking that makes you breathe heavier can help you to be healthier. It will give your heart and lungs—as well as your leg muscles—a good workout.

If you are not active now, start slowly. Try to walk 5 minutes a day for the first week. Walk 8 minutes the next week. Stay at 8–minute walks until you feel comfortable. Then increase your walks to 11 minutes. Slowly lengthen each walk by 3 minutes—or walk faster.

Tips for walking:

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes with a lot of support. If you walk often, you may need to buy new shoes every 6 to 8 months.
  • Wear garments that prevent inner thigh chafing, such as tights or spandex shorts.
  • Make walking fun. Walk with a friend or pet. Walk in places you enjoy, like a park or shopping mall.

To learn more, read the brochure Walking...A Step in the Right Direction from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). (Available in English and Spanish)

Where to work out.

You can do many activities in your home. But there are other fun ways to be active in health clubs, in recreation centers, or outdoors. It may be hard to be physically active around other people. Keep in mind that you have just as much right to be healthy and active as anyone else.

Dancing (weight-bearing or non-weight-bearing)

Dancing may help:

  • tone your muscles
  • improve your flexibility
  • make your heart stronger
  • make your lungs work better.

You can dance in a health club, in a nightclub, or at home. To dance at home, just move your body to some lively music!

Dancing on your feet is a weight-bearing activity. Dancing while seated lets you move your arms and legs to music while taking the weight off your feet. This may be a good choice if you can’t stand on your feet very long.

See the list of additional resources at the end of this booklet for seated workout videos.


Water Workouts (non-weight-bearing)

Exercising in water helps you feel:

Flexible. You can bend and move your body in water in ways you cannot on land.

Strong. Working against the water will help your body get stronger.

At less risk of injury. Water makes your body float. This keeps your joints from being pounded or jarred and helps prevent sore muscles and injury.

Refreshed. You can keep cooler in water—even when you are working hard.

You do not need to know how to swim to work out in water—you can do shallow-water or deep-water exercises without swimming.

For shallow-water exercise, the water level should be between your waist and your chest. If the water is too shallow, it will be hard to move your arms underwater. If the water is deeper than chest height, it will be hard to keep your feet touching the pool bottom.

For deep-water exercise, most of your body is underwater. This means that your whole body will get a good workout. For safety and comfort, wear a foam belt or life jacket.

Many swim centers offer classes in water workouts. Check with the pools in your area to find the best water workout for you.

See the list of additional resources at the end of this booklet to learn more about water exercises.

Weight training rule of thumb.

If you cannot lift a weight 6 times in a row, the weight you are lifting is too heavy. If you can easily lift a weight 15 times in a row, your weight is too light.

Weight Training (weight-bearing or non-weight-bearing)

Weight training builds strong muscles and bones. Getting stronger can also help prepare you for other kinds of physical activity. You can weight train at home or at a fitness center.

You do not need benches or bars to begin weight training at home. You can use a pair of hand weights or even two soup cans.

Make sure you know the correct posture and that your movements are slow and controlled.

Before you buy a home gym, check its weight rating (the number of pounds it can support) to make sure it is safe for your size. If you want to join a fitness center where you can use weights, shop around for one where you feel at ease.

To learn more about weight training, see the list of additional resources at the end of this booklet.

Photograph courtesy of Bicycles by Haluzak, Santa Rosa, CA

Bicycling (non-weight-bearing)

You can bicycle indoors on a stationary bike, or outdoors on a road bike. Biking does not stress any one part of the body—your weight is spread between your arms, back, and hips.

You may want to use a recumbent bike. On this type of bike, you sit low to the ground with your legs reaching forward to the pedals. This may feel better than sitting upright. The seat on a recumbent bike is also wider than the seat on an upright bike.

For biking outdoors, you may want to try a mountain bike. These bikes have wider tires and are heavy. You can also buy a larger seat to put on your bike.

Make sure the bike you buy has a weight rating at least as high as your own weight..

To learn more about bicycling, see the list of additional resources at the end of this booklet.

Questions to ask when choosing a fitness center.

—Can the treadmills or benches support people who are large?

—Do the fitness staff know how to work with people of larger sizes?

—Can I take time to see how I like the center before I sign up?

—Is the aim to have fun and get healthy—not to lose weight?

Stretching (weight-bearing or non-weight-bearing)

Stretching may help you:

  • be more flexible
  • feel more relaxed
  • improve your blood flow
  • keep your muscles from getting tight after doing other physical activities.

You do not have to set aside a special time or place to stretch. At home or at work, stand up, push your arms toward the ceiling, and stretch. Stretch slowly and only enough to feel tightness—not until you feel pain. Hold the stretch, without bouncing, for about 30 seconds. Do not stretch cold muscles.

Yoga and tai chi are types of stretching. They help you breathe deeply, relax, and get rid of stress.

Your local fitness center may offer yoga, tai chi, or other stretching classes. You may want to start with “gentle” classes, like those aimed at seniors.

Applaud yourself!

If you can do only a few or none of these activities, it’s OK. Remember to appreciate what you can do, even if you think it’s a small amount. Just moving any part of your body—even for a short time—can make you healthier.

Lifestyle Activities

Lifestyle physical activities do not have to be planned. You can make small changes to make your day more physically active and improve your health. For example,

  • Take 2- to 3-minute walking breaks at work a few times a day.
  • Put away the TV remote control—get up to change the channel.
  • March in place during TV commercials.
  • Sit in a rocking chair and push off the floor with your feet.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Doing chores like lawn mowing, leaf raking, gardening, and housework may also improve your health.

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Safety Tips

Drink plenty of water.

Water helps every cell and organ in your body work. It cushions your joints, helps keep you regular, and keeps your body cool.

Try these tips for safe physical activity.

Stop your activity right away if you:

  • have pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest or left neck, shoulder, or arm
  • feel dizzy or sick
  • break out in a cold sweat
  • have muscle cramps
  • feel pain in your joints, feet, ankles, or legs. You could hurt yourself if you ignore the pain.

Ask your health care provider what to do if you have any of these symptoms.

Slow down if you feel out of breath. You should be able to talk during your activity, without gasping for breath.

Drink lots of water before, during, and after physical activity (even water workouts) to replace the water you lose by sweating.

Do not do hard exercise for 2 hours after a big meal (but taking a walk is OK). If you eat small meals, you can be physically active more often.

Wear the right clothes:

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting tops so you can move easily.
  • Wear clothes made of fabrics that absorb sweat and remove it from your skin.
  • Never wear rubber or plastic suits. Plastic suits could hold the sweat on your skin and make your body overheat.
  • Women should wear a good support bra.
  • Wear supportive athletic shoes for weight-bearing activities.
  • Wear a knit hat to keep you warm when you are physically active outdoors in cold weather. Wear a tightly woven, wide-brimmed hat in hot weather to help keep you cool and protect you from the sun.
  • Wear sunscreen when you are physically active outdoors.

Healthy, fit bodies come in all sizes. Whatever your size or shape, get physically active now and keep moving for a healthier life!

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Organizations and Programs


Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, Inc.

National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Body Positive

Big Folks Exercise and Fitness Resources Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Healthy Living with Bliss.

Body Mass Index

Today, 64.5 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. How do you know if you are among them? Two

simple measures, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, provide useful estimates of overweight, obesity, and body fat distribution.

BMI measures your weight in relation to your height, and is closely associated with measures of body fat. You can calculate your BMI using this formula:

BMI equals weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared

For example, for someone who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds, the calculation would look like this:

BMI equals 220 pounds times 703 inches divided by 67 inches squared equals 154,660 divided by 4489 equals 34.45

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

You can also find your weight group on the chart below. The chart applies to all adults. The higher weights in the healthy range apply to people with more muscle and bone, such as men. Even within the healthy range, weight gain could increase your risk for health problems.

Body Mass Index chart

Find your weight on the bottom of the graph. Go straight up from that point until you come to the line that matches your height. Then look to find your weight group. The higher your BMI is over 25, the greater chance you may have of developing health problems.

* Without shoes **Without clothes

Because BMI does not show the difference between fat and muscle, it does not always accurately predict when weight could lead to health problems. For example, someone with a lot of muscle (such as a body builder) may have a BMI in the unhealthy range, but still be healthy and have little risk of developing diabetes or having a heart attack.

BMI also may not accurately reflect body fatness in people who are very short (under 5 feet) and in older people, who tend to lose muscle mass as they age. And it may not be the best predictor of weight-related health problems among some racial and ethnic groups such as African American and Hispanic/Latino American women. But for most people, BMI is a reliable way to tell if your weight is putting your health at risk.

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Waist circumference

Excess weight, as measured by BMI, is not the only risk to your health. So is the location of fat on your body. If you carry fat mainly around your waist, you are more likely to develop health problems than if you carry fat mainly in your hips and thighs. This is true even if your BMI falls within the normal range. Women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches or men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches may have a higher disease risk than people with smaller waist measurements because of where their fat lies.

To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hip bone. Be sure that the tape is snug, but does not compress your skin, and is parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale, and measure your waist.

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How does overweight or obesity affect my health?

Extra weight can put you at a higher risk for many health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Extra weight can put you at higher risk for these health problems:

  • type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar)

  • high blood pressure

  • heart disease and stroke

  • some types of cancer

  • sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)

  • osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)

  • gallbladder disease

  • liver disease

  • irregular menstrual periods

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What should I do if my BMI or waist measurement is too high?

If your BMI is between 25 and 30 and you are otherwise healthy, try to avoid gaining more weight, and look into healthy ways to lose weight and increase physical activity. Talk to your health care provider about losing weight if

  • your BMI is 30 or above, or

  • your BMI is between 25 and 30 and you have:

    • two or more of the health problems listed above or

    • a family history of heart disease or diabetes, or

    your waist measures over 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men)-even if your BMI is less than 25-and you have:

    • two or more of the health problems listed above or

    • a family history of heart disease or diabetes.

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What Is Weight Cycling?

Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight cycling is the result of dieting, it is often called "yo-yo" dieting. A weight cycle can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle).

Some research links weight cycling with certain health risks. To avoid potential risks, most experts recommend that obese adults adopt healthy eating and regular physical activity habits to achieve and maintain a healthier weight for life. Non-obese adults should try to maintain their weight through healthy eating and regular physical activity.

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If I regain lost weight, won't losing it again be even harder?

A person who repeatedly loses and gains weight should not have more trouble trying to reach and maintain a healthy weight than a person attempting to lose weight for the first time. Most studies show that weight cycling does not affect one’s metabolic rate—the rate at which the body burns fuel (food) for energy. Based on these findings, weight cycling should not affect the success of future weight-loss efforts. Metabolism does, however, slow down as a person ages. In addition, older people are often less physically active than when they were younger. Regardless of your age, making regular physical activity as well as healthy eating habits a part of your life will aid weight loss and improve health overall.

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Will weight cycling leave me with more fat and less muscle than if I had not dieted at all?

Weight cycling has not been proven to increase the amount of fat tissue in people who lose and regain weight. Researchers have found that after a weight cycle, those who return to their original weights have the same amount of fat and lean tissue (muscle) as they did prior to weight cycling.

Some people are concerned that weight cycling can put more fat around their abdominal (stomach) area. People who tend to carry excess fat in the stomach area (apple-shaped), instead of in the hips, thighs, and buttocks (pear-shaped), are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Studies have not found, however, that after a weight cycle, people have more fat around their stomachs than they did before weight cycling.

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Is weight cycling harmful to my health?

Some studies suggest that weight cycling may increase the risk for certain health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. For adults who are not obese and do not have weight-related health problems, experts recommend maintaining a stable weight to avoid any potential health risks associated with weight cycling. Obese adults, however, should continue to try to achieve modest weight loss to improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related diseases.

Losing and regaining weight may have a negative psychological effect if you let yourself become discouraged or depressed. Weight cycling should not be a reason to “feel like a failure.” Instead it is a reason to refocus on making long-term changes in your diet and level of physical activity to help you keep off the pounds you lose.

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Is staying overweight healthier than weight cycling?

It is not known for certain whether weight cycling causes health problems. The diseases associated with being obese, however, are well known. These include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Certain types of cancer

  • Arthritis

  • Gallbladder disease.

Not every adult who is overweight or obese has the same risk for disease. Whether you are a man or woman, the amount and location of your fat, and your family history of disease all play a role in determining your disease risk. Experts agree, however, that even a modest weight loss of 10 percent of body weight over a period of six months or more can improve the health of an adult who is overweight or obese.

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Further research on the effects of weight cycling is needed. In the meantime, if you are obese or are overweight and suffer from weight-related health problems, try to improve your health by achieving a modest weight loss. Although weight cycling may have some effect on disease risk, the serious health problems resulting from obesity are clearly understood. If you need to lose weight, you should be ready to commit to lifelong changes in your eating and physical activity behaviors.

If you are not obese or overweight with weight-related health problems, maintain your weight. Focus on adopting healthful eating habits and enjoying regular physical activity to manage weight and promote health for life.

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There are many ways to lose weight, but it is not always easy to keep the weight off. The key to successful weight loss is making changes in your eating and physical activity habits that you can keep up for the rest of your life. The information presented here may help put you on the road to healthy habits.

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Can I benefit from weight loss?

Some weight-related health problems:


heart disease or stroke

high blood pressure

high cholesterol

gallbladder disease

some types of cancer

osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)

sleep apnea (interrupted
breathing during sleep).

Health experts agree that you may gain health benefits from even a small weight loss if:

  • you are obese based on your body mass index (BMI) (see BMI chart below),
  • you are overweight based on your BMI and have weight-related health problems or a family history of such problems, or
  • you have a waist that measures more than 40 inches if you are a man or more than 35 inches if you are a woman.

A weight loss of 5 to 15 percent of body weight may improve your health and quality of life, and prevent these health problems. For a person who weighs 200 pounds, that means losing 10 to 30 pounds.

Even if you do not need to lose weight, you still should follow healthy eating and physical activity habits to help prevent weight gain and stay healthy as you age.

body mass index chart

Find your weight on the bottom of the graph. Go straight up from that point until you come to the line that matches your height. Then look to find your weight group.

* Without shoes ** Without clothes

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How can I lose weight?

Calories needed to maintain weight

about 1,600 calories a day for inactive women

about 2,200 calories a day for inactive men and active women

about 2,800 calories a day for active men.

Your body weight is controlled by the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you use each day. To lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than you use. You can do this by creating and following a plan for healthy eating and a plan for regular physical activity.

You may also choose to follow a formal weight-loss program that can help you make lifelong changes in your eating and physical activity habits. See below for more information on weight-loss programs.

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Your plan for healthy eating

The Nutrition Facts label from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is found on most packaged foods. It tells you how many calories and how much fat, protein, carbohydrate, and other nutrients are in one serving of the food. For more information on the Nutrition Facts label, see “Other Resources” at the end of this brochure.

A weight-loss “diet” that limits your portions to a very small size or that excludes certain foods may be hard to stick to and not work over the long term. Instead, a healthy eating plan takes into account your likes and dislikes, and includes a variety of foods that give you enough calories and nutrients for good health.

Make sure your eating plan contains:

  • Appropriate calorie level. The calorie level of your eating plan should let you lose about 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. This means eating about 300 to 500 fewer calories a day than the levels needed to maintain weight. You can find out how many calories are in the foods you eat by reading the Nutrition Facts labels on food packaging.

  • Enough vitamins and minerals. It may be hard to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need on a low-calorie eating plan. If you eat less than 1,600 calories a day, you may want to add fortified foods such as breakfast cereal to your plan, or take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.

  • Enough protein. If you are a woman aged 19 years and older, you should get about 46 grams of protein each day. If you are a man of the same age, you should get about 56 grams a day. Enough protein is important to make repairs to the body and prevent muscle breakdown.

  • Enough carbohydrates. About 55 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If you eat 1,500 calories a day, that means eating about 200 grams of carbohydrates. Although popular low-carbohydrate diets may suggest lower levels, you need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates each day to prevent fatigue and nausea.

  • No more than 30 percent of calories, on average, from fat per day. Limiting fat may help you limit calories, which in turn may help you lose weight. Limiting fat to 30 percent of calories would mean that if you eat 1,500 calories a day, you should eat no more than 50 grams of fat.

  • The Food Guide Pyramid from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help you make your daily food choices and tell you how many servings you should eat from each food group to meet your nutritional needs. The number of servings is based on your age and the amount of physical activity you do. For more information on the Food Guide Pyramid, see “Other Resources” at the end of this brochure.

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Your plan for regular physical activity

Regular physical activity may help you lose weight and keep weight off. It may also improve your energy level and mood, and lower your risk for developing diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Any amount of physical activity is better than none. Experts recommend doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most or all days of the week for good health. To lose weight or maintain a weight loss, you may need to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, as well as follow your healthy eating plan.

You can get your daily 30 minutes or more all at once, or break it up into shorter sessions of 20, 15, or even 10 minutes. Try some of these moderate-intensity physical activities:

  • walking (15 minutes per mile or 4 miles per hour)
  • biking
  • tennis
  • aerobic exercise classes (step aerobics, kick boxing, dancing)
  • energetic house or yard work (gardening, raking, mopping, vacuuming).

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What types of weight-loss programs are available?

There are two different types of weight-loss programs—clinical and non-clinical. Knowing what a good program will offer and what to watch out for may help you choose a weight-loss program that will work for you.

Non-clinical program

What it is: A non-clinical program may be commercially operated, such as a privately owned weight-loss chain. You can follow a non-clinical program on your own by using a counselor, book, website, or weight-loss product. You can also join others in a support group, worksite program, or community-based program. Non-clinical weight-loss programs may require you to use the program’s foods or supplements.

What a safe and effective program will offer:

  • Books, pamphlets, and websites that are written or reviewed by a licensed health professional such as a medical doctor (M.D.) or registered dietitian (R.D.).

  • Balanced information about following a healthy eating plan and getting regular physical activity.

  • Leaders or counselors who show you their training credentials. (Program leaders or counselors may not be licensed health professionals.)

Program cautions:

  • If a program requires you to buy prepackaged meals, find out how much the meals will cost—they may be expensive. Also, eating prepackaged meals does not let you learn the food selection and cooking skills you will need to maintain weight loss over the long term.

  • Avoid any diet that suggests you eat a certain formula, food,
    or combination of foods for easy weight loss. Some of these diets may work in the short term because they are low in calories. But they may not give you all the nutrients your body needs and they do not teach healthy eating habits.

  • Avoid programs that do not include a physical activity plan.

  • Talk to your health care provider before using any weight loss product, such as a supplement, herb, or over-the-counter medication.

Clinical program

What it is: A clinical program provides services in a health care setting, such as a hospital. One or more licensed health professionals, such as medical doctors, nurses, registered dietitians, and/or psychologists, provide care. A clinical program may or may not be commercially owned.

Clinical programs may offer services such as nutrition education, physical activity, and behavior change therapy. Some programs offer prescription weight-loss drugs or gastrointestinal surgery.

Prescription weight-loss drugs
If your BMI is 30 or more, or your BMI is 27 or more and you have weight-related health problems, you may consider using prescription weight-loss drugs. Drugs should be used as part of an overall program that includes long-term changes in eating and physical activity habits. Only a licensed health care provider can prescribe these drugs. See “Additional Reading” for more information about prescription medications for the treatment of obesity.

Gastrointestinal surgery
If your BMI is 40 or more, or your BMI is 35 or more and you have weight-related health problems such as diabetes or heart disease, you may consider gastrointestinal surgery (also called bariatric surgery). Most patients lose weight quickly, and many keep off most of their weight with a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity. Still, surgery can lead to problems that require more operations. Surgery may also reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals in your body and cause gallstones. See “Additional Reading” for more information about gastrointestinal surgery.

What a safe and effective program will offer:

  • A team of licensed health professionals
  • A plan to help you keep weight off after you have lost it.

Program cautions:

  • There may be side effects or health risks involved in the program that can be serious. Discuss these with your health care provider.

For more detailed information about choosing a safe and successful weight-loss program, see “Additional Reading” at the end of this brochure.

It is not always easy to change your eating and physical activity habits.

You may have setbacks along the way.

But keep trying—you can do it!

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Additional Reading

Fact sheets offering related information from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN) are listed below

Active at Any Size describes the benefits of being physically active no matter what a person’s size, and presents a variety of activities that large people can enjoy safely.

Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-loss Program provides a list of things to look for when choosing a safe and effective weight-loss program, as well as a list of questions to ask program providers.

Gastrointestinal Surgery for Severe Obesity describes the different types of surgery available to treat severe obesity. It explains how gastrointestinal surgery promotes weight loss and the benefits and risks of each procedure.

Just Enough for You describes the difference between a portion—the amount of food a person chooses to eat—and a measured serving. It offers tips for judging portion sizes and for controlling portions at home and when eating out.

Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity presents information on medications that suppress appetite or reduce the body’s ability to absorb dietary fat. The types of medications and the risks and benefits of each are described.

Walking…A Step in the Right Direction offers tips for getting started on a walking program and illustrates warm-up stretching exercises. It also includes a sample walking program.

Weight and Waist Measurement explains two simple measures—body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference—to help people determine if their weight and/or body fat distribution are putting their health at risk.

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Will I gain weight if I stop smoking?

Not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. Among people who do, the average weight gain is between 6 and 8 pounds. Roughly 10 percent of people who stop smoking gain a large amount of weight—30 pounds or more.

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What causes weight gain after quitting?

When smokers quit, they may gain weight for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Feeling hungry. Quitting smoking may make a person feel hungrier than usual. This feeling usually goes away after several weeks.

  • Having more snacks and alcoholic drinks. Some people eat more high-fat, high-sugar snacks and drink more alcoholic beverages after they quit smoking.

  • Burning calories at normal rate again. Smoking cigarettes makes the body burn calories faster. After quitting smoking, the body’s normal rate of burning calories returns. When calories are burned more slowly again, weight gain may take place.

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Can I avoid weight gain?

To help yourself gain only a small amount or no weight when you stop smoking, try to:

  • Accept yourself

  • Get regular moderate-intensity physical activity

  • Limit snacking and alcohol

  • Consider using medication to help you quit.

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Accept yourself

Do not worry about gaining a few pounds. Instead, feel proud that you are helping your health by quitting smoking. Stopping smoking may make you feel better about yourself in many ways.

Stopping smoking may help you have:

  • more energy

  • whiter teeth

  • fresher breath and fresher smelling clothes and hair

  • fewer wrinkles and healthier-looking skin

  • a clearer voice.

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Get regular moderate-intensity physical activity

Regular physical activity may help you avoid large weight gains when you quit smoking. It may help you look and feel good, and fit into your clothes better. You will likely find that you can breathe easier during physical activity after you quit smoking.

Try to get 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week, preferably every day. The ideas below may help you to be active every day.

Ideas for being active every day

  • Take a walk after dinner.

  • Sign-up for a class such as dance or yoga. Ask a friend to join you.

  • Get off the bus one stop early if you are in an area safe for walking.

  • Park the car farther away from entrances to stores, movie theatres, or your home.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sure the stairs are well lit.

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Limit snacking and alcohol

Having more high-fat, high-sugar snacks and alcoholic drinks may lead to large weight gains when you quit smoking. The ideas below may help you make healthy eating and drinking choices as you quit smoking.

Healthy eating and drinking choices as you quit smoking

  • Do not go too long without eating. Being very hungry can lead to less healthy food choices.

  • Eat enough at meal times to satisfy you.

  • Choose healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in juice (not syrup), air-popped popcorn, or fat-free yogurt, when you are hungry between meals.

  • Do not deny yourself an occasional ”treat.“ If you crave ice cream, enjoy a small cone.

  • Choose an herbal tea, hot cocoa made with nonfat milk, or sparkling water instead of an alcoholic beverage.

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Consider using medication to help you quit

Talk to your health care provider about medications that may help you quit smoking. Some people gain less weight when they use a medication to help them stop smoking.

Medications that may help you quit smoking

  • Nicotine replacement therapy

    • patch
    • gum
    • nasal spray
    • inhaler
  • Antidepressant medication

The patch and gum are available without a prescription from your health care provider.

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Will weight gain hurt my health?

A small—or even large—weight gain will not hurt your health as much as continuing to smoke will. The health risks of smoking are dramatic.

Health risks of smoking

  • Death—tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It kills more than 400,000 people in the U.S. each year.

  • Cancer—smoking greatly increases the risk for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Smoking is also linked to cancer of the esophagus, larynx, kidney, pancreas, and cervix.

  • Other health problems—smoking increases the risk for lung disease and heart disease. In pregnant women, smoking is linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies.

By quitting smoking, you are taking a big step to improve your health. Instead of worrying about weight gain, focus on quitting. Once you are tobacco-free, you can work toward having a healthy weight for life by becoming more physically active and choosing healthier foods.

For more information on quitting smoking, contact:

American Cancer Society

American Heart Association

American Lung Association

National Cancer Institute

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Office of the Surgeon General

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Weight Management