Why does weight matter?
People come in all shapes and sizes and what might be a healthy weight for one person isn’t necessarily healthy for another. It’s not healthy to be too thin or to carry too much body fat you need to find the weight that’s best for you by checking with your doctor, and then trying to achieve and maintain it. The problem with carrying too much body fat (medically referred to as being overweight) is that it can increase your risk of a number of health problems. These include:
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Gall bladder disease
- Joint problems, e.g. gout, arthritis and joint pain
- Sleep problems, e.g. sleep apnoea
- Certain types of cancer.
Your risk of developing these health conditions depends not just on your weight, but also on other risk factors that you may have.
Why do we put on weight?
Body weight is affected by a number of factors, but the two key factors are:
- The amount of energy (kilojoules) that we put into our bodies from food and drinks.
- The amount of energy (kilojoules) that we use up through physical activity and other daily activities.
Put simply, it’s all about what goes in and what gets used up. People often get confused by energy and kilojoules – energy and kilojoules are the same thing. Kilojoules are just a measure of energy, in the same way as centimetres or inches are a measure of length. Energy is like fuel in a car- it’s what keeps us moving and able to go about our daily activities.
You will gain weight if:
You eat and drink more than your body needs – you take in too much energy.
You aren’t active enough- you don’t use up enough energy.
If you do both- you eat and drink too much and are not active enough.
Is my weight a health risk?
Some people think they are overweight when they aren’t; others think their weight is fine when it isn’t. While you can generally tell if you’ve put on weight by your clothes being tighter or having to loosen your belt a notch or two, this won’t tell you if you are overweight. The best way to find out if your weight is a health risk is to check with your doctor. There are a few very simple and pain free measurements that your doctor can do to check your weight. Your doctor can then consider your weight and your overall health and advise if you need to do something about your weight.
Excess weight around your middle is a greater health risk
Your health can be affected by how much you weigh as well as by your body shape. Men often carry their excess weight around their middle, while women often carry their excess weight on their hips and thighs.
Carrying excess weight around your middle (being ‘apple shaped’) is more of a health risk than if excess weight is on your hips and thighs (being ‘pear shaped’). The so-called ‘pear shape’ is actually a healthier body shape than being ‘apple shaped’. If you are carrying your excess weight around your middle, the Heart Foundation encourages you to visit your doctor to discuss your weight.
If I need to lose weight, what do I do?
If your weight is a health risk or it’s affecting your enjoyment of life, you need to do something about it. To lose weight, you need to use up more energy than you are taking in. This means that you need to look at how you can reduce your energy (kilojoule) intake and increase your energy output. That all comes down to the food and drinks you consume- what types and how much -and the type and amount of physical activity you do.
Despite what various books and diets may say, losing weight in a healthy way is not quick and it’s not simple. Fad or crash diets are often unhealthy and are not helpful with losing weight and keeping it off in the longer term. People have generally put their weight on over a period of time, maybe even years, so it’s not going to come off overnight. What can change overnight though is your commitment to make some changes to your eating patterns, to increase your physical activity levels, and to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Once you’ve decided to make a change, you need to work out your plan. This plan will help you to work out where you can make changes, what changes you will make and to be realistic about what you can achieve.
Weight loss plan
Step 1 Set realistic weight loss or Iife style goals.
Step 2 Identify what you eat and drink, your level of physical activity and amount of sitting time .
Step 3 Make changes to what you eat and drink.
Step 4 Increase your physical activity levels and reduce your sitting time.
Step 5 Keep going with your weight loss plan.
Step 1: Set realistic weight loss or lifestyle goals
Set yourself realistic goals. It may just be one goal or you might set a couple at the same time. The key is to choose a goal or goals that suit you. This will help to keep you motivated and stop you trying to do too much too soon. For example, some realistic goals might be:
- To stop gaining weight – if you have recently been gaining weight, this is a useful goal to start with
- To lose 2 kg in the next two months – this may not sound like much and may sound very slow, but if you can do this and keep this weight off, then that is a fantastic effort.
If you make your goal too difficult, you can end up feeling like a failure when it really isn’t your fault. For example:
To lose 10 kg in 10 weeks – this is not easy. Losing 10 kg may take months to achieve, possibly 12 months or more, if you are losing weight healthily. It’s much better to choose small goals and lose weight gradually than set a goal that seems unachievable. Even if you only ever lose a few kilograms it can make a big difference to your health, and it’s better than continuing to gain weight. Your goals can focus on a change in weight, but they could also focus on changing your eating patterns, increasing your physical activity levels and reducing your sitting time. For example, some goal ls might be:
- To limit the number of times you buy take-away foods to once a week
- To go for a 30 minute walk on at least three evenings each week
- To reduce the amount of TV you watch each day.
Try not to become ‘ruled’ by the scales. If you want to weigh yourself, make sure it’s no more than once a week. Always remember that the amount of weight you lose is only one way of measuring your achievements. Some other important ways to measure how well you are doing include:
- How you feel
- If your clothes are looser
- If you can do things without getting tired.
And if you’ve managed to improve your eating patterns, increase the amount of physical activity you do, and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting each day, that’s positive for your overall health even if you don’t manage to lose any weight.
Step 2: Identify what you eat and drink, your level of physical activity and amount of sitting time
To do this, you might like to keep a diary for a week. Keeping a diary can help you to see where you can make changes. If keeping a diary works for you, here are some tips on how to do it. Tips on keeping a food and drinks diary
- Using a notebook, notepad or computer, write down everything you eat and drink each day.
- If you can, also include the amount of food or drinks you have.
- Don’t forget to write down snacks as well.
Write down the time of eating/drinking and where you were eating/drinking, such as at home with the family, on my own in front of the TV or at a cafe.
Step 3: Make changes to what you eat and drink
If you’ve kept a food and drinks diary, use the information from your diary with the following information to help to identify changes you can make.
Healthy eating for weight loss is about making sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need for good health while reducing the amount of energy you take in. The good news is that many foods that are lower in energy are also packed full of nutrients – and these are the types of foods you need to eat most.
Choose foods and drinks lower in energy, Food, Vegetables , fruit and legumes (for example, split peas, kidney beans, baked beans, three bean mix, lentils and chickpeas) provide some energy but they are also packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eating these sorts of foods helps to make you feel full, without giving you too much energy.
Other lower energy food choices that also provide a range of vitamins and minerals include:
- Reduced, low or no fat milk and yoghurt
- Lean meat and poultry (meat trimmed of all visible fat and chicken without skin) and fish
- Whole grain or whole meal bread and breakfast cereals, plain pasta (preferably whole meal) , plain rice (preferably brown) and plain noodles.
- Including all of these types of foods in your daily eating plan will help to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need without a lot of extra energy.
Step 4: Increase your physical activity levels and reduce your sitting time
If you’ve kept a physical activity and sitting diary, use the information from your diary together with the following information to help to identify how you can be more physically active and reduce the time you spend sitting. Being physically active uses up energy (kilojoules) .The more you move, the more energy (kilojoules) you will burn. So think about movement as an opportunity to improve your health, rather than a time-wasting inconvenience.
How much activity do I need to do?
Thirty minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week is great for your general health and well-being, regardless of your body weight or shape. For some people, this may even be enough to prevent weight gain. If you need to lose weight or are gaining weight, then you will need to do more than the 30 minutes of physical activity each day recommended for general health . The bottom line is that you need to increase your physical activity levels and reduce the amount of time that you spend sitting, so focus on these things first. Gradually try to build up the amount of time you are physically active and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Don’t worry about how active other people are, just focus on trying to increase your own activity level. If you can enjoy some vigorous activity as well , then that’s even better. Vigorous activity, such as doing a gym class, playing sport or jogging, gives additional health, fitness and weight loss benefits.
It’s all about you – the amount of activity that wiII work for you is likely to be different to what will work for someone else. Just as some people seem to be able to eat and drink whatever they like without putting on weight , some people may also seem to be able to get away with doing little, if any, activity to keep their weight down. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what is right and comfortable for you. So get active today!
Step 5: Keep going with your weight loss plan
Deciding w hat changes you can make. After you’ve worked out where you think you could make some changes to what you eat and drink, your physical activity levels and sitting time, think about where you will start. Although you might be keen to do it all at once, it’s best to do things gradually. What you are trying to do may not be easy-you need to change your way of life and that’s going to take some time, so give yourself time. Start with a change you think you can make fairly easily and give yourself a realistic amount of time to achieve it. Once you’ve managed one change, try the next one on your list.
Some examples of changes you might choose are:
- In the next fortnight, I will change to reduced fat milk instead of full cream milk
- I am going to go for a 15 minute walk on two evenings each week for the next month
- I’m going to eat two pieces of fruit each day this week
- Rather than use the escalator, I’m going to take the stairs instead
- I’m going to cut my TV viewing to one hour on three days this week.