Losing unneeded pounds between 5 and 10 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, lower blood pressure, enhance the way your body burns sugars, improve your cholesterol levels, and even better your mood. But there are something you should be clear about before shredding extra pounds.

1. What is Healthy Weight Loss? Healthy weight loss is not about dieting. It's about subtle and gradual re-examination of your relationships with both food and physical activity that will ultimately leave you healthier, thinner, and even happier.

2. What is Unhealthy Weight Loss? When you’ve reduced your caloric intake too much, your body will go into conservation mode, becoming more reluctant to give up its fat stores. Also, you may lose weight rapidly through fad diets, but you're not losing much fat, but muscle mass. Your body doesn't just burn fat stores when you send it into deprivation mode -- it also breaks down muscle to use as energy. And having less muscle makes it even harder for your body to burn calories in the future. It also makes you appear less toned and fit.

3. How Much Should You Weigh? Body Mass Index (BMI) charts are commonly used in the doctors' offices today. The problem with using just height and weight as measures is that people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Bodybuilders, who weigh a lot because of all that muscle, are considered overweight or even obese by BMI charts. People who are big boned also appear fatter on paper than they really are. It goes the other way, too.

4. Determining Your Body Fat Percentage. It is exactly what it sounds like: the percentage of your body weight that is made up of fat. In women, you're generally considered fit if your fat stores are between 21 and 24 percent of your overall weight. If your body has over 32 percent fat, you enter the realm of obesity. A fit man, on the other hand, should maintain a body fat percentage between 14 and 17. Men are considered obese once their body fat reaches 25 percent or higher.

5. Measuring your middle. If your waist circumference is more than 35 inches for women (40 inches for men) you are at greatly increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and all the other trappings of being too heavy. That's because belly fat (or "visceral" fat), which surrounds your internal organs and interferes with their functions, is more dangerous than fat that sits on your hips or under your chin. So, if you're a woman, your correct weight is one that gets your waistline below 35 inches. As a rough guide, it takes about five pounds of fat loss for a woman to lose an inch around the middle; for a man, it's about 10 pounds.