Carrying extra body fat doesn’t just affect how you look. It also impacts your health, your emotions and your wallet.

More than one-third of the nation’s adults are obese, and childhood obesity is rapidly rising; in 2012, more than one-third of children and teens were overweight or obese.

Obesity increases risks for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. As a result, it’s estimated to cost an adult $1,429 more in medical bills annually than an adult who maintains a healthy weight. It also can lead to low self-esteem, depression and even bullying in school. These consequences don’t just affect the individual; they also affect the entire family.

The solution involves a two-fold approach, with good nutrition and exercise, since extra body weight occurs as a result of too many calories going into the body versus calories burned. As Abraham Hernandez, Zumba Education Specialist, points out, you won’t have good results doing diet or exercise without the other; it’s like scissor blades — you need to ensure both blades are in good shape, because if one isn’t, the scissors won’t cut properly.

Start with Exercise

A Duke University study showed that more than 30 minutes of exercise, such as a brisk walk, resulted in weight loss, as opposed to 30 minutes, which simply prevents weight gain. To begin an exercise program, compare the amount of calories you’ll burn exercising with the amount of calories you’re consuming — and don’t forget to count what you drink; sugary drinks, from soda to energy drinks, can up your calorie count drastically. The number of calories you put into your body should equal, or fall under, the amount of calories used daily.

Set Fitness Goals

Then, set an attainable, realistic weekly goal for weight loss. Start with “baby steps” if you’re not used to physical activity; take a 20-minute walk, then work up to speed walking, and after a couple weeks, begin a cardio routine, complete with resistance and weighted exercises. Cardio classes, like Zumba, can be easier to stick to because they’re designed to be almost like a party; one hour of Zumba can burn 400 calories.

Become a Label Reader

The second component in weight loss — nutrition — involves a bit more research. Step one involves getting rid of all sugary foods you already have at home. Then, begin to read labels in the grocery store. The first three ingredients are the most important in any food product, so make sure it’s not made of sugar, corn syrup, fructose or something you can’t pronounce. Consumed sugar turns into fat; in less than three minutes, you could negate the hour you spent on the treadmill by eating a doughnut. So start thinking of calories in terms of how many minutes — and hours — of exercise it takes to burn them.

Be Wary of Processed Foods

Generally speaking, a diet consisting mainly of whole (non-processed), organic foods like fruits and vegetables is best. When buying processed foods, avoid hidden sugars and unhealthy oils, as well as number of calories and fat content. While your body needs some dietary fat, you should consume less than 10 percent of your calories from saturated fats, and consumed dietary cholesterol should be less than 300 mg. Aim for more than 2 grams of fiber in grain products.

Eat Smaller Portions, More Frequently

To eat less, avoid buying “family size” portions, which can entice you to eat more. And enjoy small plates of food five times a day. Eating smaller, more frequent meals will help regulate your blood sugar levels and keep you from getting hungry, which often leads to overeating.


Drink plenty of water — about half of your body weight in ounces per day — because dehydration can trick you into feeling hungry.

Allow Yourself to Cheat … A Little

If you feel you need to “cheat” on your diet, choose a small portion of a lower calorie food. For instance, let a piece of dark chocolate melt in your mouth instead of consuming half a bag of M&Ms.

Take It Slow

As you eat, take time between bites to put your fork down and fully chew your food. Your stomach takes about 20 minutes to let your brain know it’s full, so linger over meals.

Find a Weight Loss Buddy

Social support goes a long way in helping reach goals, so find an accountability buddy, who can both cheer for you and also help you maintain your new lifestyle changes.

Weight loss doesn’t have to be hard. It just takes a conscious effort to make a few lifestyle changes regarding the amount of exercise you get and the quality of food you eat. Eat to nurture your body, rather than fill it up. Add exercise into your routine throughout the day; for example, walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes a day helps shed up to 10 pounds a year. Each little step you take toward health adds up, so invest your time and effort into a more physically fit, healthier and happier you.

  • Keep track of your body mass index (BMI) by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. If your BMI is 30 or higher, you’re considered obese. An average BMI ranges from 18.5-24.9 (unless you’re a very muscular athlete, which may skew this calculation).


Centers for Disease Control:

Mayo Clinic:

Readers Digest:

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