Tips on Getting to a Healthy Weight

January 24, 2014

If you made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, there's a good chance that like 80 percent of Americans, you're struggling.

In honor of National Healthy Weight Week, we spoke with Dr. Judith Korner, Associate Professor of Medicine at CUMC, about the best ways to determine if you are at a healthy weight and to lose pounds if you are overweight.

Determining If You Are at a Healthy Weight

Finding out your body mass index (BMI) is definitely the place to start, says Dr. Korner. There are many guidelines to help you determine what is overweight and what is obese.

But Dr. Korner notes that BMI must be taken in context: For example, how much you exercise is a factor. "You could have a high BMI," she says, "but if you are very physically active, that higher number may be due to muscle."

Dr. Korner added that often, when a person is trying to lose weight, the scale can be deceiving. "People will say, 'I don't understand—my waist is smaller but my weight has stayed the same.' But if your clothes fit differently and the scale flashes the same number, that's actually a good sign. You are gaining muscle mass."

The Most Effective Non-Surgical Ways to Lose Weight

For people struggling with obesity, the advice simply to eat less and exercise more may not be enough, because losing weight can be extremely difficult.

Dr. Korner advised individuals who are struggling to consider a support group, where people can share ideas about dieting or participate in a weight-loss program.

She added that she does not recommended trying a low-calorie diet to lose weight. If you do try to eat very few calories per day—800 or fewer—you must have medical supervision, because there can be dangerous side effects such as electrolyte abnormalities.

CUMC Weight-Loss Resources

The Medical Weight Control Center at Columbia University Medical Center offers counseling with a board-certified endocrinologist or registered dietitian; it also offers individual and group counseling sessions.

These group sessions are 12-week programs that are not simply people coming together and talking about their weight-loss issues. Dr. Korner emphasized that "a real curriculum is followed" to help people achieve their weight loss goals.

Related: Weight-Loss Surgery for Teens

Considering Bariatric Surgery

There is also a Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery here at CUMC. To help you determine if bariatric surgery may be a good option for your health, Dr. Korner talks about the benefits of bariatric surgery and who should consider it in this video:

What are the benefits of bariatric surgery and who should consider the procedure?

The most important thing to remember about maintaining a healthy weight is that everyone's needs are different. A program that works for you may not work for someone else, because you have a unique metabolism and activity level.

"If what you are doing isn't working," Dr. Korner says, "it's time to think outside the box and try something else."