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The Smart Way to Watch Your Weight

The Smart Way to Watch Your Weight (ARA) - Along with swimsuit season comes its eternal dance partner, dieting. New books line the shelves and it seems everyone has a plan for weight loss. Eating certain foods, avoiding certain foods, pills and even surgery are touted as the sure-fire way to shed unwanted pounds. But are any of these methods really right for you?

It's a concern that is on the minds of many Americans. Today 61 million people are considered obese, and the numbers are growing each year. With so much conflicting information in the diet industry, many consumers are at a loss when it comes to choosing the best -- and safest -- method for controlling their weight.

While medication and surgery can be an effective way to help obese people, it's not the right course of action for everyone. The American College of Physicians (ACP) has developed guidelines to help obese adults find the right path for their needs, based on a person's body mass index, or BMI, a calculation based on a person's height and weight.

"BMI should be considered another vital sign," says Dr. Vincenza Snow, director of clinical programs at ACP. "Patients should know their BMI like they know their age, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, and doctors should track their patients' BMI like they follow blood pressure."

According to the guidelines published in a recent issue of "Annals of Internal Medicine", people with a BMI over 30 might consider weight loss drugs if an appropriate trial of diet and exercise has failed. Surgery, such as gastric bypass, is an option for those with a BMI over 40 who also have obesity-related health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea.

"For people with a BMI over 40, surgery can be very effective," says Dr. Snow. "However, to maintain that weight loss, patients need to continue with diet and exercise. Lifestyle modification is still considered the best way to safely lose weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can have a significant positive impact on ones health."

For those people who are using medication to help them lose weight, a healthy lifestyle is still a large component of their success. In fact, without those lifestyle changes, most of the weight they lost will be regained. "It's a common misconception that people using medication to help them lose weight only have to take a pill," says Dr. Snow. "In fact, in all the weight loss drug trials, participants were also part of diet and exercise programs. Healthy eating and activity is an essential component of medication-managed weight loss and has a direct effect on each patient's success."

The ACP developed these guidelines to make it easier for both patients and doctors to discuss and monitor weight and lifestyle habits. The ACP is the nation's largest medical specialty society, comprised of 116,000 internal medicine physicians. Internists are often the best choice for a primary-care provider for adults ages 18 and over, as their training is specific to the adult anatomy.

"The BMI is a very good indication of a person's risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and other conditions," says Dr. Snow. "Knowing your BMI can help with setting reasonable goals and with tracking your progress."

But as with any calculation, accuracy counts. It may be wise to measure your weight and height before calculating your BMI, as people tend to overestimate their height and underestimate their weight.

To calculate your BMI, visit

Courtesy of ARA Content

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