Weight management

Weight management means keeping your body weight at a healthy level.


The terms “overweight” and “obese” are used to describe excess body weight. They do NOT mean the same thing.

Overweight can mean being very heavy in weight but not necessarily having a large amount of body fat. Overweight may mean more muscle, which is due to more lean body tissue. An athletic person can weigh more than is recommended based on desirable body weight calculations, but would not be considered obese because most of the weight is from muscle and not from fat.

Obese refers to a large percentage of body fat, no matter what the actual body weight is. People can be obese and weigh an appropriate amount for their height because a large percentage of their weight is from fat.

Weight management for people who have been overweight involves continued physical activity and monitoring of the amount of food eaten.


Anorexia Nervosa and bulimia are eating disorders associated with a negative alteration in body image. Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder of extreme self-imposed limitations of food, resulting in dangerously rapid weight loss to the point of starvation. This disorder is most commonly found in adolescent females, but may also occur in males, children, and adults.

Bulimia is binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting and is frequently associated with anorexia nervosa. Often times there is no significant weight loss and the condition may not come to medical attention until the individual seeks help.

Excessive intentional weight loss can cause a person to be dangerously underweight. For these people, weight management involves maintaining sufficient intake of food to prevent losing the weight that has been gained.


The percentage of body fat can be determined by a registered dietitian or an exercise physiologist. Recommendations on body fat ranges follow:

The average adult woman in the United States has approximately 22 to 25% body fat. A healthy amount is 20 to 21%. A ratio of 30% body fat is considered obese.

Adult men in the United States average 17 to 19% body fat; 25% or higher is considered obese, and a desirable amount is 13 to 17%.

An easy way to determine your own desirable body weight is to use the following formula:

  • Women: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height plus 5 pounds for each additional inch.  
  • Men: 106 pounds of body weight for the first 5 feet of height plus 6 pounds for each additional inch.  
  • For a small body frame, 10% should be subtracted; for a large frame, 10% should be added.


To maintain one’s weight, the following formula can be used:

  • 10 Calories per pound of desirable body weight if the person is sedentary or if they are very obese.  
  • 13 Calories per pound of desirable body weight for low activity level, or after the age of 55 years.  
  • 15 Calories per pound of desirable body weight for moderate activity.  
  • 18 Calories per pound of desirable body weight for strenuous activity.

Activity levels:

  • Low activity: No planned, regular physical activity; occasional weekend or weekly activity is the only type of physical activity (like golf or recreational tennis).  
  • Moderate activity: Participation in physical activity like swimming, jogging, or fast walking, 30 to 60 minutes each time.  
  • Strenuous activity: Participation in vigorous physical activity for 60 minutes or more at least 4 to 5 days per week.


  • Do not eat meat more than once a day. Fish and poultry are recommended above red or processed meats because they are less fattening.  
  • Avoid frying food. Your food absorbs the fats from the cooking oils, increasing your dietary fat intake. It is recommended that you bake or broil food. If you do fry, use polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil.  
  • Cut down on your salt intake, whether it be table salt, or flavors intensifiers that contain salt such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).  
  • Including adequate fiber in your diet is very important. Fiber is found in green leafy vegetables, fruit, beans, bran flakes, nuts, root vegetables, and whole grain foods.  
  • Do not eat more than 4 eggs per week. Although they are a good source of protein, and low in saturated fat, eggs are very high in cholesterol, and should be eaten in moderation for that reason.  
  • Choose fresh fruit for deserts rather than cookies, cake, or pudding.  
  • Too much of anything has its drawbacks, whether it be calories, or a particular type of food. A well balanced diet with creativity and variety are best suited to your needs.  
  • Follow the recommendations of the food guide pyramid.


For weight management to be successful, following is a summary of basic guidelines:

  • Aerobic physical activity will assist in increasing muscle tissue and also in burning calories. Physical activity should be balanced with diet to maintain a desired weight.  
  • Gradual changes in eating habits will help encourage a permanent lifestyle change. Counseling and behavior modification may be necessary.  
  • Eat a healthy well-balanced diet.  
  • Avoid alcohol, or drink in moderation.


A registered dietitian is an excellent resource for individualized weight management. The registered dietitian can provide information on classes and programs available in the community.

The Federal Trade Commission can provide consumer brochures that evaluate commercial weight management programs.

Note: 1 Calorie equals 1000 calories or 1 kcal. See diet and calories.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.