The past decade has seen a huge increase in the amount of media coverage and column inches dedicated to weight issues. Nowadays it seems almost impossible to open a newspaper or turn on a TV without being told that Britain is heading towards an obesity crisis or that there is a new innovation in healthy eating.
Debates about magazines and advertising campaigns using slim and airbrushed models are now commonplace, with those in the against corner arguing that constant exposure to these figures is resulting in unrealistic and dangerous body image benchmarks and widespread body dissatisfaction.
This constant bombardment of often confusing and conflicting information makes it difficult to establish just what it is we should be eating, how much of it, and the steps we should be taking in order to maintain a healthy weight.
There are a huge number of factors which contribute towards your weight, ranging from the very obvious diet and lifestyle, right through to hereditary factors and hormonal abnormalities. However, regardless of the factors which are currently determining your weight, it should ideally be within a healthy range. Being either underweight or overweight can affect your physical and psychological wellbeing and both carry an equally large number of risks.
Risks of being overweight or obese
Obesity is one of the fastest growing health concerns in the world today and is determined by a person carrying too much body fat for their height and sex. Experts believe the growth in obesity can be partly attributed to the average lifestyle being less physically active than it used to be. Reasoning aside, a scientific report used to guide government policy (The Foresight Report) has predicted that if rates continue to rise at their current pace, almost half of men and over a third of women will be obese by 2025.
Being obese increases the risks of developing certain serious diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as having a significant impact on psychological wellbeing.
Being underweight also poses serious health risks, sometimes leading to irregular periods, fertility issues, osteoporosis, anaemia, depleted energy levels and an inability to keep warm. Much like being overweight and obese being underweight can also affect psychological wellbeing, with those who are underweight often feeling unhappy with their body image. If you are below a healthy weight range then increasing the amount of nutrients will help to lower the risk of these problems.
How can a nutritionist help me?
Bodyweight is determined by the amount of energy obtained from food in relation to the amount of energy your body uses. Any excess energy is then taken and stored in the body as fat. With this basic formula in mind it may seem like losing weight is a simple case of eating less so you body stores less fat and gaining weight may seem as easy as increasing your food intake so the body is able to store more.
Unfortunately, it is nowhere near that simple. Each person has their own unique body type and metabolism, meaning that different people need different amounts and types of food and there is a vast array of additional factors which need to be considered:
- Does the person need to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain their current weight?
- Dietary requirements – allergies, vegetarian, or vegan?
- Level of exercise – the number of calories being burnt off affects the number of calories that need to be consumed.
When devising a plan, a nutritionist will take the implications of these factors into account, creating options that are obtainable and maintainable.
A qualified nutritionist will tailor a healthy eating plan to your specific requirements and circumstances to ensure that you achieve a healthier body. Nutrition programmes will also more often than not include exercise regimes and activities.
Many individuals who improve their nutrition also report psychological benefits such as a boost in self confidence as well as additional and often unexpected improvements in other areas such as concentration.
The key to maintaining a healthy weight is making it an integral part of your daily routine as opposed to something you have to go out of your way to do. Fitness and exercise are essential, and a nutritionist will be able to advise on what kind of exercise is needed, how much, and how often. It is important to think long term, be flexible, and allow occasional indulgences.
A nutritionist can suggest ways to get more from your food, so that you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating, and are not tempted to snack later. This can include taking time over meals and eating regularly. Keeping a food diary may also be a beneficial way of monitoring diet, keeping track of the week’s meals, planning ahead and monitoring activity and exercise. It can also help to record thoughts and feelings which may alert a nutritionist to any links between eating and thought patterns.
Many people who on paper are a ‘healthy’ weight, are often still unhappy with their shape/figure. A nutritionist can help build up muscles, tone up certain areas, and improve overall fitness.
Maintaining a healthy weight should not be arduous or a chore. With the right help, support and advice, it can become second nature, easily slotting into every day life.
There are various weight management issues a nutritionist can help you to overcome, including the following:
For further information on these areas please follow the links.
How much should I weigh?
There are several ways to determine whether or not you are a healthy weight, one of which is calculating your Body Mass Index which helps to establish whether you are a healthy weight for your height. Though this method may not be applicable to everyone for example those with a higher than average muscle mass, it is fairly accurate in identifying an ideal weight for the majority of people.
NHS guidelines currently define a healthy bodyweight range as anything between 18.5 and 25 and your BMI can be worked out using the following formula:
Work out your BMI
- Firstly, find your weight in kilograms and your height in metres. E.g. weight =75kg height = 1.8m
- Multiply your height by itself. E.g. 1.8 x 1.8 = 3.24
- Divide your weight by that figure. E.g. 75 ÷ 3.24 = 23.2
- 23.2 is the BMI which is inside the healthy bodyweight range.
BMI guidelines also state that anything below 18.5 is classed as underweight, 25 to 30 is overweight, between 30 and 35 is obese and anything above 40 is morbidly obese.