You know you've eaten a few too many burgers and bowls of ice cream this month. But how much damage has that really done to your body? Calculating your body mass index, or BMI, can help you see what kind of shape you're in.
It's calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in meters. Then divide it by your height in meters again. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you're at a normal or healthy weight. If your BMI is between 25 and 29.9, you're overweight. If your BMI is 30 or higher, you're obese.
Note that BMI doesn't account for body shape, muscle mass or bone density. So, if you're an athlete or a body builder, you may have a high BMI even though you're physically fit.
Now that you have your number, you can take steps to lower it. Here are some easy ways to decrease your BMI. Just remember to always consult your health care provider before starting a new food and exercise regimen.
Get more sleep
You're not just grumpy when you don't get enough sleep. Research has found that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, too. Getting enough shut-eye helps prevent weight gain that results from late-night snacking and lets the body actively burn more calories. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night to maintain a healthy weight and improve your well-being. Get tips on how to get a better night's sleep.
Watch your calories
To lower your BMI, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. Don't get overwhelmed. Start by lowering your calories by 500 each day, which can result in about a pound of weight loss per week. One way to do that is to not eat in front of the television. Research from the University of Massachusetts found that you'll eat up to 288 calories more while watching TV. Instead, eat at the table and trade one hour of TV for a casual walk. Combined, you'll burn 527 calories.
Brush those chompers
Have you ever brushed your teeth and then had a sip of orange juice? The beverage probably tasted sour. That can work to your advantage when you're trying to avoid post-dinner munching. Try brushing your teeth earlier in the evening instead of right before bedtime. After you brush your teeth, you're less likely to snack on empty calories later in the evening.
Keep a food diary
Record everything you drink and eat. Many apps and websites can help, or you can use tried-and-true pen and paper. Note trouble spots that you'll need to address, like that midafternoon snack. This process will make you feel more accountable for what you eat every day. You may think you're eating healthy. But writing down every bite makes you aware of those extra calories you consume without even realizing it. Just an extra handful of nuts could cost you more than 100 calories.
Dream of candy
Say it ain't so. Feel free to daydream about the chocolate bar or gummy bears you saw at the supermarket checkout line. Just don't buy them. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that by fantasizing about your favorite treats, your consumption of that treat may be reduced because your brain has already "experienced" them on some level.
Prep your meals
Meal prep prevents you from grabbing takeout on the way home from work. On Saturday afternoon, scan cookbooks, magazines and websites to figure out what healthy foods and recipes you'll eat in the coming week. On Sunday, grocery shop armed with a list. Then spend the rest of the weekend doing food prep, like cooking/freezing meals or chopping up vegetables. Read how one woman stopped dieting and started cooking good food.
Watch little bites
Yes, it may just be a taste here and there. But the calories from those bites and licks add up. A free sample of pizza at the grocery store. A nibble of the cookies your colleague brought into work. A lick of your son's ice cream at the diner. Your best bet is not to eat it if you're not hungry or the food isn't on your meal plan.
Make hydration fun
Drinking ice-cold water can help you burn more calories throughout the day, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism—up to 490 calories a week! Other research shows that drinking water before a meal can help you eat less. Just monitor how much you're guzzling down. Consider buying a reusable water bottle that's at least 20 fluid ounces. That way you know exactly how much water it holds, and you can refill it as many times as you need to do so. Add fresh lemon, cucumber, mint or any other fruit or veggie. Not only does it make the flavor more interesting, but you're more likely to drink it when you take the time to do something special.
Become more active
Dieting will only take you so far. Exercise helps you build lean muscle tissue and lose more fat, which helps change your body composition. Get more active. It doesn't take much. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work if possible, ride a bike, play outdoors with the kids or walk the dog. Find out How to Start a Walking Plan.