Weight-loss

There are a number of reasons why people may wish to lose weight. Many want to slim down, feel better about their appearance and overall well-being, while others may want to lose weight to help cut the risk of developing health problems that are linked to being overweight.

There are steps to follow when trying to achieve healthy, long-term weight-loss. These include:

  • Eating nutritious foods - when overweight, adopting a healthy diet plan can help you lose weight safely. Choose fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grain products, lean meats and dairy products.
  • Exercising - it is recommended an average adult should be participating in atleast 150 minutes moderate physical activity a week.
  • Controlling portion size - over the last 20 years, portion sizes have increased. Try to use smaller plates and take your time when eating.

This fact-sheet will explore healthy weight-loss methods and how a nutrition professional can help you to change your diet and lifestyle habits. It will also highlight the benefits of weight-loss and how changing your habits safely will ensure long-term improvements to your life.

While there are numerous benefits to ensuring you fall within a healthy weight range, intense media focus on the ‘perfect’ body image can, unfortunately, lead some individuals to develop an unhealthy fixation on how to lose weight. The fixation can develop so rapidly that they are prepared to take extreme and sometimes harmful measures in order to achieve their target. If you are planning to make dietary changes to promote weight-loss, doing it in a healthy way is essential.

The best way to make a change is by implementing sustainable and well considered adjustments to your lifestyle. Getting help and support from a qualified professional will lead you to understand these changes and how it can improve your well-being.

Should you consider weight-loss?

Before making any extreme decisions and jumping straight into a potentially harmful weight-loss diet, evaluate your lifestyle habits and consider potential change you could make. Are you overweight or do you just want to slim down?

Carefully considering what you want is very important in healthy weight-loss. Contacting a nutritionist to get an understanding of what dietary habits you can change in order to lose weight is the safest option.

It is important to accurately measure your weight and calculate your body mass index before considering weight-loss. Making an impulse decision after a bad day or negative comment could put you at risk of health problems.

Measurements

You can determine how healthy your weight is by measuring your waist circumference. This is particularly important for those who gain weight around their middle, as they have an increased risk of developing medical conditions. These include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your waist at belly button level.

Once you have your measurement use the following guidelines to determine your overall result:

Men

  • a waist measurement of 94cm or above poses an increased risk to health
  • a waist measurement of 102cm or above poses an even higher risk to health.

Women

  • a waist measurement of 80cm or above poses an increased risk to health
  • a waist measurement of 88cm or above poses an even higher risk to health.

BMI

While regularly stepping on the scales will help you to keep track of your weight, calculating your BMI (body mass index) will take into account your height and build to determine how healthy or unhealthy your weight is.

To work out your BMI:

  • divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m)
  • then divide the answer by your height again to get your BMI.

If your BMI is 18.5 or below, you are considered to be underweight. A BMI falling between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, while a reading between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. Finally, a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.

Please note that BMI fails to consider muscle density. This means someone who is extremely fit and muscular will probably find their BMI is very high when actually they have a proportionally low and healthy percentage of body fat.

Lifestyle

While calculating your measurements and body mass index is important, how you spend your day can be vital in determining weight-loss methods and well-being. Look into your eating habits and lifestyle. Could any of these change in order to promote healthy weight-loss?

Your lifestyle

Do you take regular physical activity and follow a tailored weight-loss diet, or do you skip meals and rely on junk food or unhealthy snacks to give you energy? No matter what your BMI, these are important factors to consider as they could be impacting your long-term weight management.

Family history

Being mindful of genetic health conditions in your family will help you determine what changes to make. The risk of contracting genetic conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure can be reduced with healthy weight-loss and a balanced diet.

Weight distribution

Take note of where your weight is distributed. Carrying weight around your tummy area is a big health risk and often the most difficult to lose - If your weight is distributed unevenly, you may need to consider weight-loss.

Your feelings

You may find that being overweight is affecting your emotional well-being; your confidence can be affected by your appearance or by feeling unwell. If you are suffering from any weight-related health concerns, shortness of breath or diabetes, for example, it may be time to consider making changes.

The benefits of weight-loss

If you are overweight or obese, the benefits of weight-loss can be vast; to lose weight can significantly cut the risk of contracting potentially serious health problems. In fact, most people who lose excess weight, even if it is a small amount, will experience health benefits.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) - losing just 5% of your body weight can make a big difference to your physical and mental health.

See below for some of the most common benefits of weight-loss:

Reduced aches and pains

If you are overweight, you may be suffering from strain on the joints, bones and muscles in your body. Weight-loss through lifestyle changes and creating a diet plan can help relieve many of these pains. In fact, losing as little as 5 - 10% of your body weight can make a difference. Weight-loss will also help your body to function more efficiently - your vital organs, muscle groups, bones, joints and immune system will benefit from weight-loss.

Evidence also suggests that you will recover more quickly from injury and become less likely to contract viruses and infections.

Healthy heart and body

Heart health is greatly influenced by how much you weigh. Being underweight or overweight can affect how the heart transports the blood to our vital organs, as a result of this; the heart has to work harder to pump it around the body. If the heart is under strain, the risk of a heart attack, high blood pressure and angina is increased.

This risk can be reduced however by following a healthy weight-loss diet and long-term weight management. Being a healthy weight reduces pressure on the heart, restoring its ability to function normally.

Improved well-being

Research has shown that those who follow effective methods to lose weight - adopting a weight-loss diet plan and regularly exercising - have higher self-esteem, more confidence and are less likely to develop depression. Over time, adapting your weight-loss diet plan to a long-term balanced diet will help you keep the weight off.

Why is healthy weight-loss important?

While the benefits of weight-loss can be life changing, it is essential that the methods are safe and healthy, while also promoting long-term goals. Rapid weight-loss can be very harmful to the body, especially when enhanced with weight-loss pills. The recommended, healthy rate of weight-loss is approximately one to two pounds (0.5kg to one kilogram) per week.

Fad diets: Rapid weight-loss

Weight-loss diets advertised as ‘fast and simple’ usually come with health risks. Fad diets are becoming increasingly popular, yet they can deprive the body of vital nutrition and sustenance, often leading to side-effects. Fad diets often have the following characteristics:

  • lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • promotion of diet supplements or weight-loss pills
  • promises of a ‘quick fix’
  • avoiding one or more of the five food groups
  • dramatic statements without evidence.

The risks

Among the common health problems, the side effects associated with rapid weight-loss include:

Gallstones

Hard, solid pebbles made of cholesterol are formed in your gallbladder due to a build-up of bile pigments, cholesterol and calcium salts. Many people suffering from the condition will experience no symptoms, while others will develop acute abdominal pain.

Muscle loss

The body cannot burn large amounts of fat calories quickly. If you are rapidly losing weight, it is likely that your body will burn water or muscle (lean tissue) as a fuel, while storing the fat as a preserve.

Hair loss

With rapid weight-loss, your body will take the protein from the hair to support more important functions. The side-effect of an insufficient protein intake is hair loss and thinning.

Patience, dedication and a positive perspective on long-term weight-loss are the key to success. Increasing your activity levels and training your mind and body to want healthier foods are small, realistic changes that can help you reach your weight-loss goal.

How can a nutrition professional help?

Consulting a qualified nutritionist is an option many people choose to explore in order to effectively change their eating habits to aid their weight-loss. A nutritionist can help you achieve a healthy weight-loss that can be maintained long-term. They will look into your diet, lifestyle and health issues, often asking you to keep a food diary in the initial stages. This gives the nutritionist, and yourself, an idea of your habits and where your diet may need changing.

For some, additional tests are required; the nutritionist will discuss with you any issues that may influence your programme, such as dietary requirements or health conditions. A nutritionist will also consider your physical activity levels and the foods you enjoy in order to create a realistic, healthy weight-loss diet plan tailored to you. Over time, a nutritionist will monitor your progress and make amendments to suit your needs. Once you have reached your goal, the nutritionist will adapt your weight-loss diet and support you in the long-term.

Contacting a nutritionist is a good step to take for healthy weight-loss. They can help you make lifestyle changes and healthy eating habits a part of your day-to-day routine, such as:

A balanced diet

Healthy eating is fundamental for effective weight-loss, especially for ensuring long-term weight management. Rather than resorting to fad diets, diet pills or severely restricting your calorie intake, a qualified nutritionist will help you make gradual changes. Your nutrition professional can help you find and understand healthy alternatives for sugary snacks, how to cook with fresh ingredients rather than processed junk foods and ensuring you drink plenty of water.

Healthy lifestyle

Exercise is important for healthy weight-loss and has numerous benefits for both emotional and physical well-being. In addition, exercise for weight-loss prevents muscle loss - this helps protect your muscles and keep them supple. Regular physical activity will also increase your energy levels and boost metabolism, your nutrition professional will work to devise a workout plan tailored to you.

It is recommended that adults aged 19 to 64 should be aiming for an average of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic activity every week, while young people aged five to 18 should aim for at least one hour. For effective weight-loss, consider gradually building yourself up to these levels. Once reached, discuss with your nutrition professional on how you can begin pushing yourself further once your fitness has improved.

Content has been reviewed by dietitian, Pam Rae. All content displayed on Nutritionist Resource is provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional.

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