Written by Becky Banham
Becky Banham
Nutritionist Resource Content Team

Last updated 19th June 2023 | Next update due 18th June 2026

There are many reasons why people may wish to lose weight. Perhaps you want to feel better about your overall well-being. Or maybe you want to overcome/minimise the risk of health problems linked to being overweight.

Do I need to lose weight?

While there are benefits to ensuring you fall within a healthy weight range, intense media focus on the 'perfect' body 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're planning to make dietary changes to promote weight-loss, doing it for a valid reason (and in a healthy way) is essential.

Before making any decisions and jumping into a potentially harmful weight-loss diet, evaluate your lifestyle habits and consider potential changes you could make. What is driving your desire to lose weight?

In this video, dietitian Jo Travers (BSc RD) explains how working with a nutrition professional can support healthy and sustainable weight-loss.

Carefully considering what you want is very important in healthy weight-loss. Making an impulse decision after a bad day or negative comment could put you at risk of following fad trends. You might also want to look at some measurements to help you decide if you'd benefit from losing weight.

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:


  • 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


  • 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


Some people find it helpful to calculate their BMI (body mass index). This looks at your height and build to determine whether you're in a 'healthy' weight range.

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 and is often criticised as being too broad. 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.  

If you decide you'd like to lose weight, 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 can help you understand these changes and how they can improve your well-being.

Making a lifestyle change

Going on a fad diet to lose weight is well-known to be unhelpful and unlikely to succeed. Instead, looking at your daily habits and lifestyle to make healthy changes that make you feel good physically and mentally is key. 

Your lifestyle

Do you take regular physical activity and follow a balanced diet? Or do you skip meals and rely on coffee to give you energy? 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 can be a health risk and may benefit from you seeking weight-loss.

Your feelings

You may find that being overweight is affecting your emotional well-being. For example, your confidence can be affected or you may feel unwell. For some, making healthier choices helps to boost confidence levels.

Incorporating a healthy lifestyle, sleep schedule, exercise routine and a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is the only way to kickstart a sluggish metabolism.

- Nutritional therapist Olianna Gourli shares 20 tips to lose weight healthily

The benefits of weight-loss

If you're overweight or obese, losing weight can significantly cut your risk of contracting potentially serious health problems. 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're 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 can be influenced by how much you weigh. Being underweight or overweight can affect how the heart transports 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 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.

Nutritionists who can help with weight-loss

Why is healthy weight-loss important?

While the benefits of weight-loss can be life-changing for some, it's 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 people use 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 of rapid weight loss

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're rapidly losing weight, it's likely that your body will burn water or muscle (lean tissue) as 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 insufficient protein intake is hair loss and thinning.

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

How can a nutrition professional help?

Many people choose to consult a qualified nutritionist to change their eating habits and 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 any issues with you 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've 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 and ensure 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 your metabolism, and your nutrition professional can help ensure your eating plan supports your exercise regime.  

It's 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.

Motivation and accountability

Losing weight in a sustainable way can be a long journey, so having someone who 'gets it' and can support you can help. As well as supporting you with dietary changes, a nutrition professional can help you stay accountable as you have regular sessions together. They can help you stay motivated and connected to your goals, cheering you on as you take this time to work on you.

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