Healthy weight, diet and physical activity to stay fit

To achieve the optimal functions of your body, there are three elements to maintain and always regulate – weight, diet and physical activity. All these three are correlated to one another and are essential in keeping you in good shape and away from fatal diseases and medical conditions. 

However, with all the various advice and recommendations from everywhere, where specifically should you start? Which specific diet is most suited to you based on your goal? And what physical activities can you gradually add to your everyday habits? Let’s answer these one by one. 

Assessing your weight 

A healthy weight is not entirely about being thin or having a fat stomach – it can be measured through the Body Mass Index (BMI). It can be calculated through your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres.

Technically, a high BMI indicates high body fat, and a low BMI means you have too low body fat, simple as that. You may also see the following BMI Index Chart to identify if you have a healthy weight. 

  • Underweight range: when your BMI is less than 18.5. 
  • Normal or healthy weight range: when your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. 
  • Overweight range: when your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9
  • Obese range: when your BMI is 30.0. 

Being underweight is not something to be celebrated, as having a lower weight than normal can put you at risks associated with poor nutrition, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies or anaemia. On the other hand, being overweight or obese is also worse because the likelihood of you getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular heart diseases and other fatal diseases are skyrocketing. 

Moreover, BMI is only used as a screening tool and not for the diagnosis of the actual amount of body fats or the health of a person. If you are unsure or in doubt, healthcare providers are there to guide you. Either way, this is where you should start in keeping your body in check. 

Underweight

Now, if you fall under the underweight range from the BMI, the next step for you is to consume a diet that is high in nutrition and healthy fats. The key is choosing the right food to take because soda, doughnuts and other junk foods can make you gain weight, but these can also give you adverse effects [2]. A balanced amount of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat is an ideal diet for people who are underweight. 

One of the causes of being underweight is genetics. In a study made in London, the researchers examined DNA and other data from over 95,000 participants. One of their findings suggests that 1 in every 2000 people had an extra copy of a patch of genes on chromosome 16. Those with the mutation tended to eat less, have a lower body mass index and be lower weight than standard [3]. 

Some other factors are fast body metabolism, poor nutrition and underlying health conditions. Metabolism refers to how your body converts food into usable energy. It is a process by which calories from the foods and drinks you consume mix with oxygen to make the energy that your body needs to function.

Having a fast metabolism causes you to quickly digest everything you have consumed. Poor nutrition is basically not consuming enough nutrients and essentials that your body needs. While you may be eating a lot but if you have an underlying disease, you may not gain weight. 

Ways to gain weight

There are different strategies to bulk up that are healthy and sustainable. 

Track and increase caloric intake: Tracking your calorie intake is one way to increase your weight gain. The idea is for you to create a calorie surplus where you eat more calories than your body needs. Consume around 700 to 1,000 calories above your maintenance level if you want to gain weight fast. While opting for 300 to 500 calories more than you burn daily is a slow way to gain weight. 

More protein: High-quality proteins from meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts and others are an essential part of everyone’s diet. Taking protein supplements can also help you gain more protein. Protein is important for optimal growth, development and human health. 

Carbs and fat in high amounts: Ideally, you must eat plenty of high-carb and high-fat foods to gain weight. Pair your proteins with carbs and fats at each meal to get the best out of it. Also, stick to eating three meals per day. 

Our brains are one of the hardest workers in our body, sending signals all across our systems so that they function correctly

Eat more energy-dense foods: Consume whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes as these are energy-dense foods and try to add a lot of spices, sauces and condiments to further help you gain weight. It is easier to boost your appetite with a tastier meal [4].

Overweight and obesity

Being overweight or obese can put you at a high risk of developing fatal diseases. Hence, you must begin losing weight, but it can be extremely hard, especially for the majority. This is because many people see losing weight as something of a temporary dietary program rather than a complete change in lifestyle. 

Losing weight can start by slowly removing bad habits like vices, eating at the right time with limitations, regular physical activities, stress management and self-reflection for mental health. Medications and seeking help from a physician can also help you stay fit while becoming healthy throughout your journey [5].

Additionally, weight loss is a gradual process, and you need to be disciplined. You must aim to lose around 1 to 2 pounds every week. In fact, even the slightest weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of your overall body weight can actually give you health improvements, including blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar [6].

Types of diet 

The quality of food plays a major role in keeping your body in good shape and healthy weight. Instead of becoming more conscious of calorie intake, you may start thinking about high-quality food and minimise consuming the low ones. 

  • High-quality foods: These are unrefined, minimally processed foods. This includes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, healthy sources of protein and whole grains.
  • Lower-quality foods: Opposite to what was mentioned, these are highly processed snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined (white) grains and sugar, fried, foods that are high in saturated and trans fats and high-glycemic foods like potatoes [7].

The perfect diet is what actually works for you and your lifestyle. The following are some of the popular types of diet that you can adopt: 

1. The Paleo diet

The Paleo diet, or Palaeolithic diet, revolves around the ideology that you must eat the same foods that your ancestors ate as it aligns with our genetics and promotes good health. This is also commonly known as the caveman, Stone Age or steak and bacon diet. The Paleo diet greatly emphasises eating whole foods, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and you should not eat processed foods, sugar, dairy and grains [8].

When it comes to diets, sometimes going back to the basics is a great choice.
Photograph: Total Shape/Pexels

2. The vegan diet

Basically, the vegan diet prohibits you from eating animal products due to ethical, environmental or health reasons. You are restricted from eating any type of meat, including dairy and eggs. Even animal-derived products are not allowed which includes gelatin, honey, albumin, whey, casein and some forms of vitamin D3.

3. Low-carb diet

For a low-carb diet, you only need to limit your carb intake to 20–150 grams per day. With this practice, you will use more fats as your body’s energy than using carbs. In addition, low-carb diets are found to be helpful in lowering the risks of some diseases, including blood triglycerides, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, insulin levels and blood pressure.

4.  The ultra-low-fat diet

This diet is opposite to the low-carb diet because it limits your consumption of fat to under 10 percent of daily calories. The low-fat diet generally gives off about 30 percent of its calories as fat. Your foods on this diet are mostly plant-based and a few animal products. 

5. Intermittent fasting

Here’s another popular diet, intermittent fasting, which cycles your body between periods of fasting and eating. The concept is rather than limiting you with the food you eat, it controls when you eat them. It’s like building a daily eating pattern based on time. 

There are different methods used under intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 method (skipping breakfast, 8-hour eating period and 16 hours of fasting), the eat-stop-eat method (24-hour fasts and once or twice per week but not consecutively), the 5:2 diet (calorie restriction of 500 to 600 calories for two non-consecutive days and no calorie restrictions for the remaining five days), and lastly, the Warrior Diet (eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and one huge meal at night). 

Physical activity to stay fit 

Becoming fit is becoming healthy inside and out. It helps you feel better and have enough energy for work and leisure time. Staying active will hinder fat accumulation and aid in losing unnecessary weight. Plus, it also makes your muscles healthy and bones strong. Your heart, lungs, bones, muscles and joints are positively affected when you do physical activities. In fact, they can decrease your risk for falls, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers [9].

Here are some physical activities to gradually add to your everyday routine:

  • Aerobic fitness: This type of exercise is easy to follow and can make you breathe faster. Aerobic fitness will make your heart work harder for a while through walking, running, cycling and swimming.
  • Muscle fitness: This type of workout is intended for building stronger muscles and increasing how long you can use them. Weight lifting and push-ups are some examples of muscle fitness. 
  • Flexibility exercise: You can improve your flexibility through exercise. This involves the ability to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. Stretching is also included. 

Summary:

You must juggle maintaining a good weight, eating a balanced diet and staying physically active. The key is to embed all these into your lifestyle. 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7660873/ 
[3] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20852-underweight-you-may-have-skinny-genes/ 
[4] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-gain-weight#Different-strategies-for-gaining-weight 
[5] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html 
[6] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sites/default/files/media/docs/obesity-evidence-review.pdf 
[7] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/best-diet-quality-counts/ 
[8] https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/good-food/paleo-diet-what-it-is-and-why-its-not-for-everyone/2022/04 
[9] https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions

Photograph: KarepaStock/Shutterstock

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.