Healthy weight management
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight includes healthy eating, physical activity, optimal sleep, and stress reduction. Several other factors may also affect weight gain.
Healthy eating features a variety of healthy foods. Fad diets may promise fast results, but such diets limit your nutritional intake, can be unhealthy, and tend to fail in the long run.
How much physical activity you need depends partly on whether you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight. Walking is often a good way to add more physical activity to your lifestyle.
Managing your weight contributes to good health now and as you age. In contrast, people who have obesity, compared to those with a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions. See examples of programs that can help.
Helping people maintain a healthy weight is part of CDC’s work to achieve health equity.
What Is a Healthy Weight?
A healthy weight is a number that is associated with a low risk of weight-related diseases and health issues. Although healthy weight guidelines have been developed at population levels, each person’s healthy weight range will vary and depend on factors such as age, sex, genetics, body frame, existing medical history, lifestyle habits, and weight as a young adult. Weight is only one of many determinants of health. Body mass index (BMI), which measures weight standardized for height, is often used as a measure of health risk. Although it does not measure body fat or body composition directly, research has shown BMI to correlate closely with other methods that directly measure body fat.
Maintain, Don’t Gain
Maintaining a healthy weight can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many different cancers.
Your weight, waist size, and the amount of weight gained since your mid-20s can have health implications. These factors may strongly influence your chances of developing the following diseases and conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke
- Sleep apnea
Most adults gain on average 1-2 pounds each year. Gaining weight as you age increases the chances of developing one or more chronic diseases.
- In the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, middle-aged women and men who gained 11 to 22 pounds after age 20 were up to three times more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and gallstones than those who gained five pounds or fewer.Those who gained more than 22 pounds had an even larger risk of developing these diseases.
- Another analysis of Nurses’ Health Study data found that adult weight gain can increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, even after menopause. Encouragingly, for women who had never used hormone replacement therapy, losing weight after menopause—and keeping it off—cut their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in half.
What Causes Weight Gain?
- Diet. The quantity and quality of food in your diet has a strong impact on weight.
- Genes. Some people are genetically predisposed to gain weight more easily than others or to store fat around the midsection. Genes do not have to become destiny, however, and studies suggest that eating a healthy diet, staying active, and avoiding unhealthy habits like drinking soda can prevent the genetic predisposition to risk for obesity.  Read more about genetic risk for obesity on the Obesity Prevention Source.
- Physical inactivity. Exercise has a host of health benefits, including reducing the chances of developing heart disease, some types of cancer, and other chronic diseases.  Physical activity is a key element of weight control and health.
- Stress. Chronic stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as elevated cortisol levels causing cravings for “comfort” foods of highly processed snacks or sweets, having lower motivation to prepare balanced meals or even forgetting to eat, and disrupting sleep that can lead to higher intakes of caffeine or high-calorie sugary snacks to boost energy.
- Inadequate sleep. Research suggests that there’s a link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh. In general, children and adults who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep.