SIU School of Medicine

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Division of General Internal Medicine

Guidelines for Proper Nutrition & Weight Control

What causes obesity?
How much should I weigh?
How many calories do I need?
What diet do you recommend to lose weight?
Can I drink wine/beer/alcohol on a weight loss diet?
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Tips to help you reach healthy weight goals
Did you know...?

What causes obesity?

While the balance of calories eaten and calories used in daily activities still determines our weight in the end, there are a number of factors which contribute to obesity. These include:

Genetics
Culture
Physical inactivity
Emotional or psychological factors
Stress
Gender
Age
High fat/high calorie diet
Medical problems/medications

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How much should I weigh?

Your physician may calculate a BMI, or body mass index, a number which takes into account height and weight. Or, click here to view our BMI calculator. An ideal BMI falls generally between 18.5 – 25. A BMI less than 18.5 is considered underweight. A BMI between 25-30 is considered to be overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered to be obese.

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How many calories do I need?

Health care professionals may use a formula called the Harris-Benedict equation to give an estimate of caloric needs. This equation will result in the basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories to maintain body functions, such as heart rate, respiration, brain function and maintaining body temperature. Click here to view our BMR calculator.

These figures are based on averages within the population. Muscular individuals may need more calories than this equation estimates. Obese individuals may need fewer calories.

You can more simply estimate that women require approximately 2000 calories per day, and men require 2500 calories per day to maintain weight. Subtract 500 calories per day and increase activity for weight loss.

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What diet do you recommend to lose weight?

We do not recommend a specific diet for weight loss. We emphasize a healthy, well balanced diet of 3 meals per day of a variety of foods. The USDA Food Pyramid is a great basic guide to help you choose healthy foods. Most overweight individuals can usually find a number of problem areas in their diet habits to modify to achieve successful weight loss. These can include eliminating fried foods, high fat and high sugar snacks, and sugared drinks and sodas, serving proper portion sizes, avoiding second portions, and avoid eating between meals.

Food Pyramid

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Can I drink wine/beer/alcohol on a weight loss diet?

Alcohol is absorbed very rapidly after ingestion. Because it is a toxin and your body has no way to store it, your body makes alcohol a first priority to use as an energy source instead of carbohydrates and fats. As a result, the excess carbohydrates and fats which you just ate, and which were not used as energy, are stored as fat. This results in a slower weight loss. While alcohol of any kind is not recommended for weight reduction, know that your effort will be hindered by alcohol and limit consumption to rare occassions.

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What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet refers to the diet pattern of the Mediterranean region of Europe, (southern France, Italy and Greece), in the early 1960’s and earlier which was predominantly a diet of farm fresh foods.  The diet pattern was noticeable because the incidence of coronary heart disease was very low during this time period, and life expectancy was very high.  The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the following:

  • An abundance of food from plant sources including fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grain breads and cereals.
  • Minimally processed foods
  • Fresh fruit as a dessert
  • Olive oil as primary source of fat for cooking
  • Total daily fat intake of 25 – 35% of total calories
  • Dairy products, (low fat), consumed in moderation
  • Fish and poultry consumed in moderate amounts (Fish is favored over poultry because of the heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids present in fish.  Aim for 6 ounces per week).
  • Red meat consumed in very low amounts, (a few times per month)
  • No more than 4 whole eggs consumed per week
  • Wine in low to moderate amounts, (2 3-oz glasses of wine for men and 2 3-oz glass of wine for women)
  • Lots of daily physical activity, (they were farmers, and their activity was strenuous)

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Tips to help you reach healthy weight goals

  • Eat 3 meals per day. Eat 3 meals per day.
  • Avoid fried and fatty foods, and high sugar snacks and drinks.
  • Eat single portions. Eat single portions. 
  • Focus primarily on lean protein, fruits and vegetables.
  • Think of chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables as the main food groups in your diet.
  • For snacks try lite popcorn, and vegetables and low fat dip.
  • Exercise! Exercise!  Exercise! 

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Did you know...?

  • If you eat 15 chips per day, (equivalent to 1 small bag, or 150 calories), you will gain 15 lbs. in one year.
  • One lb. of weight is equal to 3500 calories.  If you reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories per day, you will lose1 lb per week.
  • Using the USDA Food Pyramid as a guide, if you eat the smallest number of servings from each food group you will consume about 1200 calories.  If you eat the largest number of servings from each food group you will consume about 2000 calories.

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