Healthy Weight Loss

Posted by Samantha Rentz on September 29th 2012
  • The problem – overweight and obesity


Over half of people in Britain are overweight or obese, and about 1 in 4 adults is obese. Being very overweight (obese) increases the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease and some cancers. Ideally it is better to avoid becoming overweight by eating sensibly and exercising regularly and maintaining this throughout life. But problems with weight gain are common so here is some information to help you lose weight sensibly and healthily.


Your body weight is determined by the amount of energy obtained from your food compared to the amount of energy that your body is using. The surplus energy you take in from food and drink is mostly stored as fat. To lose weight, the energy you take in from food must be less than the energy you use, in other words eat less and exercise more.


There are no ‘wonder’ diets or foods which can cause weight loss. Neither can ‘wonder’ diets cause weight loss from a particular part of your body. Weight loss occurs in the areas where fat has been stored – usually on the hips and thighs in women, and around the stomach in men. Being fat around the waist (‘apple-shaped’) may be more harmful to health than having fat on the hips and thighs (‘pear-shaped’).


  • To see if you have a healthy weight you can use a measurement called your Body Mass Index, or BMI. This is calculated as follows:


Your weight in kilograms (kg) divided by your height in metres (m) squared


So for example, a woman that is 1.60m tall and weighs 60kg would have a BMI of 23.4   (The calculation would be: 60 divided by 1.6, and then the answer divided by 1.6 again).


  • A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is defined as healthy.
  • A BMI of over 25 is defined as overweight.
  • A BMI of over 30 is defined as obese.

Sensible weight loss 


Sensible weight loss should be seen as an overall lifestyle change which involves eating a healthy balanced diet and doing plenty of physical activity. You should try to lose weight gradually, about 1-2 lbs (approximately 0.5-1.0 kg) a week. This way, the weight is more likely to stay off. This rate of weight loss is based on using up 600 calories per day more than you take in. The amount of weight you lose will depend on how much weight you need to lose, how active you are and whether you are male or female.


There are some cultural pressures for people to be inappropriately slim, such as fashion and extreme interest in celebrities. Many people try to lose weight even though they may be within the normal weight range for their height or only slightly plump (which is not a risk to health). Unnecessary dieting is not advised as frequent dieting and over concern about body weight takes the enjoyment out of eating and may encourage eating disorders or an unhealthy obsession with food. Some specific diets and ‘yo-yo’ dieting and becoming underweight can all be damaging to your health. Pregnant women and children should seek medical advice before considering losing weight.


  • Health benefits of losing weight


Studies have shown that, when overweight, losing (and keeping off) 5-10% of your body weight can significantly reduce your risk of: heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. For example, it can:


  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Improve control of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of angina
  • Improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Ease lower back and joint pain

What’s more, a sensible approach to weight loss means that you are more likely to keep your excess weight off for good. It is important that you maintain the healthy lifestyle changes you make. Eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping physically active will remain important even after you have reached your desired weight.


  • Top tips
  • Decrease the amount of foods you are eating that are high in fat. Fat is the most concentrated source of energy in our diets, and so reducing the amount you eat will reduce your energy intake. To do this, you could try cutting out all fried foods.
  • You should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 A DAY).
  • Boil, steam, grill, poach or microwave food rather than frying or roasting.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and trim off any fat. You can also opt for ‘reduced-fat’ versions of dairy foods such as reduced fat cheese and yoghurt.
  • Switch to a reduced fat milk (skimmed, semi-skimmed or 1% milk) if you’ve not already done so.
  • Read the nutrition information on food labels as this will help you choose foods which are lower in fat and energy.
  • Starchy foods, such as bread, rice and pasta, especially those which are high in dietary fibre and will make you feel full (and therefore less likely to snack!). But be careful not to add fat to these foods, for example creamy sauces to pasta or fat spreads to your bread.
  • Restrict the amount of high energy snacks such as chocolate, cakes and crisps you eat but don’t ban them completely. Banning them completely might  make your diet difficult to maintain and you will be more likely to fail.
  • Don’t skip meals as this will make you feel tired and could give you headaches. People who have more chaotic eating habits often end up eating more.
  • Always eat breakfast. Breakfast gives you the energy you need to start the day and provides lots of important nutrients. There is even some research to suggest that it will help you control your weight.
  • Moderate the amount of alcohol you consume. Alcohol contains calories too – these count towards your total energy intake each day.
  • Physical activity is just as important as a healthy balanced diet when considering weight loss. You need to increase your energy output as well as decreasing your energy input.
  • Physical activity

The Government recommends 5 x 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week to stay healthy, and this increases to 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity every day for weight loss.


Physical activity increases the amount of energy you are using, it increases your muscles (lean tissue mass), it helps to maintain your metabolic rate and maintain weight loss. Physical activity also reduces the risk of weight loss reaching a plateau level, which is often seen when people are trying to lose weight.


Here are some tips to increase your level physical activity:


  • Find a type of physical activity you enjoy, this can be anything from walking the dog, dancing, gardening, going to the gym or playing a team sport. The more you enjoy it, the more you are likely to do.
  • Enjoy physical activity with a friend and use each other for motivation.
  • Try to make physical activity part of your daily routine, such as walking to work and taking the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets; not everyone will be able to run a marathon!

Here is a guide to how much energy you can use by being physically active:


Each person will use a slightly different amount of energy for each activity, depending on their body size, age and fitness levels. These figures are for an average person weighing 60kg, and doing the activity for 30 minutes.


Last reviewed July 2009. Next review due December 2012

Physical activity  Calories used in 30 minutes


 Cleaning and dusting




 Vacuum cleaning




 Tennis (doubles)


 Brisk walking


 Mowing the lawn (using a power-mower)






 Swimming (slow crawl)


 Tennis (singles)


 Running (10 minutes/mile)


 Running (8.5 minutes/mile)


 Running (7.5 minutes/mile)


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