Update: The cover article in the most recent Consumer Reports "On Health" magazine raises some interesting issues regarding weight loss in a "myth - truth" format. I will summarize some of these issues below:

Myth: You can tell if you need to lose weight by your appearance or by the size of your clothing.Truth: Since many people have a distorted image of what they should look like, this decision should be based on whether your weight poses a health risk. They recommended the body-mass index (BMI) as one way to determine risk. Multiply your weight in pounds by 705, divide by your height in inches, then divide by your height again. For example, I am 76 inches tall and weigh about 175 pounds so my BMI would be 175 x 705 =123,375 divided by 76 (which =1623.36) divided by my height again =21.36. The risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and several common cancers is lowest for BMIs between 21 and 25; it increases slightly between 25 and 27, and substantially between 27 and 30. Scores over 30 are quite dangerous in terms of health.

Where weight is located also affects health. Fat on the stomach is related to health risk regardless of overall weight. Women are at increased risk if the ratio of their waist to hip measurements exceeds 0.8; men if the ratio exceeds 1.0. To calculate this ratio, measure your waist at its narrowest point and your hips at their widest; then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. By the way, even small changes in BMI and waist-hip measurements change the risk.

Myth: Most overweight people could slim down if they just used a little self-control.

Truth: Losing weight is hard. For one thing, your genes play a role in the range of possible weights you could reasonably expect to sustain; even if you forced yourself below that range, your body would almost inevitably swing back. To make it worse, weight loss by diet alone often decreases basal metabolic rate so that the number of calories needed to maintain the loss is lower than normal. The good news is that losing just a little weight can substantially reduce your risk of disease. And, improving your diet and exercise habits will improve your health even if you don't lose weight.

Myth: Strength training won't help you lose weight, since it adds pounds of muscle and burns few calories.

Truth: A typical weight training session uses up calories just like walking does. More important, adding muscle tissue increases the resting metabolic rate and helps you lose fat, even when you are resting. More ideas about fat next week.