According to the National Institute of Health, in the United States, 35 percent of adults are obese and 17 percent of children are affected by obesity. Obesity describes someone whose body weight, or more accurately body fat, is greater than what is considered healthy for a given height. Looking at body mass index (BMI) can help you estimate if you’re at a healthy or unhealthy weight.

If you want to lose weight, then diet and exercise are key. The first step is correcting your “energy balance,” or calories in versus calories out. Eating less and exercising more will result in weight loss. Exercise can be as simple as walking 30 minutes a day, or may include a more intense training regimen.

Safe vs. fad diets

While some diets that promise fast weight loss may sound promising, they are often unhealthy and involve strict rules that are hard to follow. Some popular fad diets to avoid include the cabbage diet, the grapefruit diet, and the Master Cleanse diet. Losing weight too quickly (more than three pounds a week) can also increase your risk for gallstones.

Following a diet with these guidelines can result in weight cycling, also known as yo-yo dieting. Repeatedly losing and gaining weight can actually increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases, even if you’re not overweight.

A safe diet will focus on realistic expectations and balance. A safe diet will talk about portion size, eating more vegetables and other high volume foods to feel full, and adding exercise to your daily routine.

Tips and tricks for dieting

Luckily, we live in an age where helpful hints for weight loss are all around us. It’s important to remember that a healthy diet and exercise program are lifelong changes. Some steps you can take to incorporate a healthy lifestyle include:

Various medications are only effective when paired with a healthy diet and exercise. Make sure to contact your doctor to see if these are right for you.

While you can use your BMI to provide a general idea of whether you’re over or underweight, relying on this measurement is not accurate for specific groups of people. Athletes, for example, may be considered overweight by their BMI classification, but their weight is not due to fat. Therefore, they’re at a healthy weight. Other groups, such as older adults, may have a normal BMI, but still be considered overweight because they’ve lost lean body mass and fat makes up most of their weight. Calculating body fat requires calipers or equipment for accuracy, but you can get an idea using this calculator.