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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Obesity Overweight

Too much body fat, especially if most of it is around the waist, increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. For adults, the body mass index (BMI) is a number that is used to define who is obese. The BMI is calculated using a person's weight and height. Higher BMI may indicate higher risk for obesity-related disease.

Too much body fat increases the risk of heart disease because it increases how hard the heart has to work and increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. A proper diet and an exercise program should be continued throughout an adult's life. Diet and exercise are key to weight loss.

  Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Weight (in pounds)  
  (feet) (inches)

Your calculated Body Mass Index is


  • BMI below 18.5 - underweight
  • BMI 18.5 - 24.9 - normal
  • BMI 25 - 29.9 - overweight
  • BMI over 30 - obese

Master the Math of Weight Loss

  • Weight loss = calories IN versus calories OUT
  • Know the Math: 3500 calories = 1 pound
  • Create a 500 calorie deficit daily to lose 1 pound per week.
  • Eliminate 500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories per week or 1 pound per week

Main Goals for Weight Management

  • Eat food low in calories
  • Downsize portions
  • Burn calories with activity (as approved by a physician)

Lifestyle Changes for Weight Management

  • Aim for progress, not perfection. It does not have to be all or nothing. Daily lifestyle changes are the key.
  • Keep a food diary to improve your self-awareness. Being aware of your patterns leads to positive lifestyle change.
  • Drink more water - at least 64 ounces (8 glasses) every day. Water is essential for the fat burning process. Often, people confuse hunger with being thirsty.
  • Decrease liquid calories. Choose non-caloric beverages like water, sparkling water, flavored waters and decaffeinated teas.
  • Eat more vegetables. Incorporate extra vegetables at lunch and dinner. Veggies also make great between-meal snacks.
  • Identify your favorite fruits and have 2-3 servings each day. Don't forget berries!
  • Be aware of portion sizes. Use measuring cups and spoons if you need to.
  • Increase daily activity - use a cordless phone and walk while talking; park farther away from your destination; take short walk breaks during the day; use the rest room at the far end.
  • People don't plan to fail but fail to plan. Healthy eating takes planning and a well thought-out trip to the store or restaurant.
  • Eat meals or planned snacks every four hours. Getting too hungry leads to mindless snacking and overeating.
  • Pace - do not race! Slow down and enjoy your food. It should take you at least 20 minutes to eat a meal. It takes time for your body to realize that you are full.
  • Increase fiber. Fiber makes you feel full and satisfied. Fiber is plentiful in whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables and beans.
  • Enjoy your food and be mindful when eating. Do not work, watch TV or engage in other activities while eating.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products (skim or low/non-fat yogurts, etc.) over full fat.
  • Don't deprive yourself of your favorites. All foods can fit! Cut down - not out.
  • Weigh yourself at home at the same time daily.


The Center for Lifestyle Medicine can help you manage your weight; evaluate and manage your risk factors for major life-threatening chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke; and recommend ways to change your behavior that suits your needs and personality. The Center for Lifestyle Medicine team includes physicians, dietitians and a health psychologist. For an appointment, call 312-695-2300.

Last UpdateMarch 16, 2011