Weight Management Centre


Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. If you are overweight, losing excess weight can curb inflammation in the body. It can also ease joint pain, increase your energy level and improve risk factors such as high cholesterol, elevated blood glucose (sugar) and high blood pressure.

Assessing Your Body Weight

Many people rely on the bathroom scale to tell them how healthy – or unhealthy – their weight is. But to get a more accurate picture of your health, there are other numbers you need to consider.

As useful as the scale may be, it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about your weight. Determining how much body fat you have – and where you carry it – is important not only for weight control, but also for identifying health risk.


Body mass index (BMI)

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 65, BMI is a height and weight formula that gives a pretty reliable snapshot of your body fat. The BMI is a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height. Doctors and dietitians use BMI to classify body weight and assess one’s risk for disease.

Calculate your BMI.

Body mass index (BMI)
BMI = Weight (kg) / Height (m2)
  Weight classification Risk of health problems     
< 18.5  Underweight Increased  
18.5 – 24.9 Healthy Weight Least  
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight Increased  
≥30.0 Obese High  


A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is defined as healthy or normal weight and linked with a lower risk of health problems. As your BMI goes up, so does your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and some forms of cancer. If your BMI falls between 25 and 29.9 you’re classified as overweight; a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.

BMI values less than 18.5 are considered underweight and increase a person’s risk for conditions such as osteoporosis, nutrient deficiencies and eating disorders.

The BMI is not without drawbacks. For starters, it doesn’t tell you where you’re carrying your body fat, which is important in determining obesity-related health risk. It also doesn’t distinguish between body fat weight and muscle weight. Athletes and heavily muscled people may have a high BMI but very little fat (that’s because muscle weighs more than fat on the scale).

Waist circumference


If you want to know where your fat is located, and how that fat is affecting your health, you need to measure your waist. Excess fat around the abdomen is associated with greater health risk than fat located on the hips and thighs.

A waist circumference of 37 inches (94 cm) or greater for men and 31.5 inches (80 cm) or greater for women increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome and some cancers.

Waist Circumference
< 94 cm (<37 inches) Lower    
≥ 94 cm (≥37 inches) Increased    
< 80 cm (<31.5 inches) Lower    
≥ 80 cm (≥31.5 inches) Increased    


Lower thresholds for waist circumference are recommended for Asian populations. That’s because studies suggest health risk increases among many Asian populations at lower levels of body weight than it does in Caucasian populations.

Waist circumference is a good measure of visceral fat, the type of deep fat that packs itself around the organs and secretes chemicals that cause inflammation throughout the body and that increase the body’s resistance to the hormone insulin.

Measure your waist at the narrowest part of your trunk, about one inch above your belly button, without holding the tape too tightly or too loosely.

Setting a Healthy Weight Goal

bathroom scales white background personal objective

If your BMI is over 25, determine what you need to weigh in order to achieve a BMI of 25. Also consider your weight history over the past 10 to 20 years. Doing so will help maintain perspective when determining your weight goal.

Be realistic when determining how much weight you want to lose. Consider your lifestyle and what changes you’re willing to make. There’s no sense in setting your sights on a weight that’s impossible to achieve because your current lifestyle won’t permit it.

The following questions, along with your BMI results, will help you determine a body weight that is right for you.

1.   What is your current weight?_____________________________

      How long have you been at this weight?____________________

2.   What did you weigh: 1 year ago?________ 5 years ago?_______

      10 years ago?_________ 20 years ago?_______ (if applicable)

3.   At what weight did you feel your best?________

      (e.g. You felt healthy, energetic and had high self-esteem.)

4.   If there were no obstacles in your life, what would you like to weigh?

      (This is your idealistic weight goal.)___________

5.   If you were to be realistic about your lifestyle, what weight would you be satisfied to achieve and maintain? ___________

      What will your BMI be at this weight?____________________________

6.   Express your weight goal as a 3 to 5 pounds weight range (e.g. 130 to 135 pounds). It’s important to allow a little leeway for natural day-to-day weight fluctuations, not to mention a few pounds you might gain on a holiday.

      My realistic goal weight range is ______ lbs. to _______ lbs.

Another smart approach is to make your goal about your waist circumference rather than your body weight. For example, if you are a female with a waist measurement of 36 inches, a commendable goal is to reach a healthy waist size of 30 inches.

Tips to Achieve a Healthy Weight


To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Theoretically, one pound of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one to two pounds per week, most people need to cut 500 to 1,000 calories per day by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of both.

Start by adopting 10 keys to a healthy diet. Eating more whole, minimally processed foods and fewer processed ones will also help you reduce your calorie intake. In general, for healthy weight loss women should consume 1200 to 1600 calories per day depending on activity level; men 1800 to 2200.

Make small calorie cuts each day

Identify areas in your diet where you can trim calories such as replacing cream in your coffee with milk, using a smaller plate at dinner, or opting for water instead of a sugary beverage. To get you started, here are examples of easy calorie-cutting tips.


  • Eat half of a medium sized bagel instead a whole bagel. Save 142 calories.
  • Eat one medium orange instead of drinking 12 ounces of orange juice. Save 106 calories.
  • Pour ½ cup of granola into a small mug rather than 1 cup into a bowl. Save 200 calories.
  • Make an omelet with 4 egg whites instead of two whole eggs. Save 87 calories.

Lunch and dinner

  • Skip the cheese on your turkey or ham sandwich. Save 115 calories.
  • Spread your bread with mustard instead of 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise. Save 90 calories.
  • Cut an 8-ounce (240 gram) steak in half and save the other portion for another meal. For a New York strip loin, save 300 calories.
  • Top a baked potato with plain non-fat yogurt and salsa instead of regular sour cream. Per 1/3 cup (75 ml), save 100 calories.
  • Reduce your portion of cooked rice or pasta by ½ cup (125 ml). Save 100 calories.
  • Enjoy your salad without the croutons. Per 1/3 cup (75 ml), save 60 calories.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over cooked vegetables instead of adding butter. Per tablespoon, save 100 calories.


  • Substitute 14 potato chips with 2 cups (500 ml) plain air popped popcorn. Save 90 calories.
  • Munch on ½ cup (125 ml) of fresh grapes instead of ½ cup of raisins. Save 150 calories.
  • Say no to buttery topping at the movie theatre. For a large popcorn, save 300 calories.
  • Swap rich ice cream for frozen sorbet. Per 1/2 cup (125 ml), save 140 calories.


  • In coffee, use 2% milk instead of half and half (10% milkfat). Save 80 calories per ¼ cup.
  • When thirsty, drink a glass of water instead of fruit juice. Per 8 ounces (250 ml), save 120 calories.

Also determine how you can burn off extra calories each day. Use a pedometer to track your daily steps.  Aim to increase your daily total by 2,000 steps (equivalent to 100 calories). For weight loss, aim for 12,000 to 15,000 steps per day.

Manage portion size

By reducing the portion size of your meals, you can lose excess weight without disrupting your lifestyle. Unlike a crash diet you can't stick to long term, downsizing your portions is a sustainable change to your eating habits.

Eating right-size portions requires knowledge, awareness, time and constant vigilance. The following tips will get you started.

Use the plate model. To control your portion size, divide your plate into four sections, or quarters. Fill one quarter with protein such as meat, chicken, fish or tofu. Fill another quarter with a starchy food like cooked brown rice, pasta, sweet potato or quinoa. Fill the remaining half of your plate with vegetables. Instead of filling a dinner plate, serve your meal on a luncheon-sized plate (7 to 9 inches in diameter).

Serve several courses. Prolong your meal by dividing it into a few courses. Start with a broth based soup; serve salad separately from the rest of the meal; offer fruit afterwards instead of an extra portion of meat or potato. Doing so stretches mealtime, makes less food seem like more and gives your brain time to register you've had enough to eat.

Keep seconds out of sight. Don't serve family style. Seeing dishes of food on the table encourages overeating. Keep seconds out of sight. Ideally, cook only one serving for the family. If there's extra food sitting on the stove, you'll be tempted to go back for seconds.  

Don't rush your mealPut your knife and fork down after every bite to slow your eating pace. Take sips of water between bites. Eating slowly helps you eat less food and gives your brain time to register fullness.

Ban eating distractions.  Eating in front of the television, while reading, while checking emails, or while driving makes you more likely to overeat. Reserve the kitchen or dining room table for meals and pay attention to the fact you are eating.

Share an entrée Restaurant portions are often very large, delivering double or triple the calories you'd serve yourself at home. When dining out, order two appetizers instead of a main course, or split an entrée between two people.

Read nutrition labels.  Read labels on food packages to become familiar with serving sizes of breakfast cereals, crackers, snack foods, even salad dressing and peanut butter. Measure your foods in a measuring cup or with measuring spoons.

Track your progress


When you’re losing weight, it’s incredibly motivating to watch your progress. Seeing the results of your efforts provides impetus to keep on going.

Keep a food diary. Journaling what – and how much – you eat provides awareness, focus and motivation. It will make you think twice about reaching for seconds or eating sweets after dinner. If you prefer, use a calorie and diet tracker on your smart phone or tablet.

A food diary should include the time you ate, the foods consumed, and the portion sizes eaten. Include beverages, sweeteners and condiments. Document your hunger level prior to and after eating. Did you let yourself get too hungry before eating? Did you stop eating when you felt satisfied and no longer hungry, or full?

Record your food intake after each meal. Don’t wait until the end of the day when you’re more likely to forget a few foods. Carry your food diary with you. Look back and evaluate your food diary. Take notice of what you’re doing well at and what you need to work on.   

Weigh-in weekly. Weighing-in once a week gives you feedback about how well you are doing. Pick the same day of the week, preferably first thing in the morning when you’re naturally your lightest.

Don’t get into the habit of weighing yourself everyday. It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate daily from fluid retention, even a bout of constipation. You won’t see progress if you weigh-in daily; doing so can cause you to feel frustrated and disappointed.

Frequent weighing is also a key to maintaining a weight loss. It allows you to catch small increases in weight very quickly and take corrective action to prevent further weight gain.

Measure monthly. Document your waist circumference, chest and hip measurements every four weeks.

  • Your Waist: Without holding the tape too tightly or too loosely, measure your waist circumference. Your waist is the narrowest part of your trunk, about one inch above your belly button.
  • Your Hips: Measure your hips around the fullest part of your buttocks with your heels together.
  • Your Chest/bust: Take your measurement around the fullest part of your chest.

Be physically active


A combination of exercise and a calorie-reduced diet is the most effective approach to weight loss. Burning extra calories through exercise allows you to eat a little more food while losing weight. Exercise such as resistance training, spinning classes and yoga also help you preserve muscle mass while losing weight. Losing muscle results in a slower resting metabolism – the number of calories your body burns at rest – which can slow down the rate of weight loss.

Regular physical activity also boosts self-esteem. People who exercise tend to feel good about themselves, a positive feeling that carries over to one’s eating habits. While regular exercise is an important component of a weight loss program, research suggests is likely the best predictor of weight loss maintenance.1-3

How much exercise?

Healthy adults are advised to get at least 150 minutes a week (e.g. 30 minutes, five days a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, bicycling on flat terrain and playing doubles tennis. Vigorous exercise includes hiking, jogging, bicycling fast, playing soccer and singles tennis.

Include resistance training at least twice a week to improve joint function, bone density and muscle strength. Examples include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, push-ups and chin-ups.

For weight loss, you may need to exercise more. Ramping up your exercise to 300 minutes per week can help you lose more total body fat and abdominal fat.4

Staying committed

The decision to get and stay physically fit requires a lifelong commitment. Exercising must become something you do naturally everyday, like brushing your teeth. And you need to be patient. Don’t try to do too much too soon, or you’ll give up before you get a chance to reap the rewards. Practice the following tips to help you stay motivated and committed to your exercise program.

Add variety. Keep your exercise program interesting by planning different types of exercises you enjoy – a power walk with a friend, a Zumba class at the gym and a hike on the weekend.

Schedule your workouts. Schedule your exercise in your calendar just like you would any other appointment and stick to these times. If you can, schedule exercise on the same days and at the same times so that workouts become a natural part of your life, not something that happens only if you get around to it.

Find a workout partner. You’ll be more likely to exercise if you do it with a friend or family member. Even if you don’t feel like exercising, having someone to walk, jog or bike with will increase your motivation and make the time fly by. Or, try a group exercise class. Working out with people who share a common goal can be a big motivator.

Consult an expert.


Consider consulting a Registered Dietitian to help you achieve your weight goal healthfully and safely.  A dietitian can develop a nutritious weight loss plan that suits your lifestyle and food preferences as well as offer ongoing coaching.  

Or, you might decide to join an organized weight loss program at your office or the gym. Whether you’re shopping for a weight loss book, a group program or a dietitian, ask the following questions before spending money:

  • Does the program exclude any food group? If it does, the diet will be lacking certain nutrients and a vitamin supplement may be required. A sound weight loss program should be balanced and include foods from all four foods groups.
  • Does the program rely on specially purchased foods? It’s true a diet based on pre-packaged meals requires little effort, but it doesn’t teach you how to eat in the real world. To be successful over the long term, you need to learn healthy eating skills – label reading, low fat cooking, portion control and navigating restaurant menus.
  • Does the program promote a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week? Rapid weight loss programs can be unsafe and should only be undertaken with a doctor’s supervision.
  • Does the program promote exercise? A good program should encourage exercise and other lifestyle habits that will help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • Does the program offer one-on-one or group sessions? Some people prefer the motivation that comes from being with people who share similar concerns. Others do better if they get the one-on-one support that comes from a personal nutrition coach.
  • Does the program emphasize weight maintenance? Will you learn strategies that help you keep the weight off – how to deal with social pressures, momentary lapses, emotional eating, and so on?
  • How much does the program really cost? $49 per month may sound inexpensive, but once you add in all the extras such as food, meal replacements and vitamin supplements the price tag can be steep. Avoid surprises by asking ahead.
  • What are the qualifications of the counsellors? Ask about training, experience and credentials. A reputable person usually has a background or an affiliation with an accredited university offering programs in nutrition, kinesiology or medicine.


  1. Donnelly JE, Smith B, Jacobsen DJ et al. The role of exercise for weight loss and maintenance. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Dec;18(6): 1009-29.
  2. Wing RR and S Phelan. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1 Suppl): 222S-225S.
  3. Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ et al. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):441-7.
  4. Friedenreich CM, Neilson HK, O'Reilly R et al.  Effects of a High vs Moderate Volume of Aerobic Exercise on Adiposity Outcomes in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Oncol. 2015 Sep 1;1(6): 766-76.