You don't have to reduce your BMI to a specific number in order to improve your health. Depending on your starting weight, doctors recommend losing 5 to 10% of your weight within six to twelve months.
To lose weight successfully, it helps to make a plan that suits your own goals and life situation. Some people want to lose weight because they feel uncomfortable in their body, others mainly want to improve their physical fitness, and some are motivated by health reasons.
Weight loss recommendations usually involve a combination of getting more exercise and changing your diet. Various weight loss programs can help you lose weight; some have been scientifically tested and recommended by medical societies. But people often have to pay for these programs themselves because they're considered to be “lifestyle measures” rather than treatment. In Germany, some statutory health insurers pay for part of the costs of participating in a weight loss program.
The programs usually include elements of behavioral therapy too. For example, they teach you how to
- make your dietary changes flexible enough for you to stick to them in everyday life,
- integrate more physical activity into your daily routine, and
- handle situations you can’t change yourself (for example, at work).
If a diet and exercise program isn’t enough, using a medication too can help you lose weight.
Keeping the weight off over the long term is usually harder than losing it in the first place. This has to do with your metabolism, hormones, and central nervous system: They tend to keep the body in balance rather than helping it to lose weight. Weight loss also reduces your muscle mass. As a result, your body needs less energy, and fewer calories. That means that the more weight you lose, the harder it is to keep off the weight, or to lose even more. A lot of people also have a hard time making long-term changes to habits and behaviors that have developed over many years.
After you have lost weight, sticking to a balanced diet and continuing to get enough exercise increases your chances of keeping off the weight or gaining only a little in the long run. The most important thing is to generally avoid taking in more calories than you burn.
For people who are severely overweight (class 2 or 3), surgical treatment may be an option. The standard techniques include gastric bypass surgery and gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy). It is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of surgery before making a decision: These procedures can lead to various complications and side effects, and you have to make quite a few changes in everyday life afterwards.