Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight


Eating a well-balanced diet and staying physically active is the best way you can keep yourself at a healthy body weight. Ensuring you don't eat too many calories and that you work off any excess will keep you looking and feeling great.

Easy steps to a fat-reducing diet

A healthy diet means you need to eat a wide range of foods to ensure your diet is balanced, as well as consuming the right amount of food for your activity levels.

These practical tips can help you make healthier choices to aid weight loss:

Base your meals around certain foods - for a steady flow of energy you should choose from complex carbohydrates such as potatoes rice, pasta, bread and cereals.

Go for wholegrain, unrefined carbohydrates rather than white - you can do this for breads, rice and pasta.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables - five portions a day to provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Limit unhealthy fats - saturated and trans fats are hidden in many foods but on their own tend to be solid at room temperature. The label will show you how much fat the food contains - high fat is more than 20g of fat per 100g of food.

Eat more healthy fats - boost your intake of Omega 3 fats with at least two portions of oily fish per week. Good options include tuna, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout and kipper. You should also choose monounsaturated fats rather than saturated fats - good options are olive oil and rape seed oil.

Limit sugars - cut down on foods that contain added sugar such as sweets, cakes and biscuits and limit how many sugary and fizzy drinks you consume. Aim for foods with less than 15g of sugar per 100g of food.

Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluid - six to eight glasses a day is a good target to keep you feeling sharp. Water is ideal, but tea and coffee in moderation can contribute to your daily fluid intake and, contrary to popular belief, won't dehydrate you. Pregnant women should limit their total caffeine intake to 200mg a day (about 4 cups of tea or 2 of coffee) but other people can have up to 450mg caffeine a day.

Limit the amount of salt you eat - eating less salt can help to keep your blood pressure down. High salt foods have 1.5g of sodium chloride (or 0.6g of sodium) or more in them per 100g of food. Overall, you should keep your daily intake below 6.0 g of sodium chloride or 2.4 g of sodium.

Make time for breakfast - you can kick-start your metabolism (which will help you manage your weight and improve your brain function) with a starchy start to the day. Porridge, toast, wholegrain cereal or fruit are all great options.

Keep alcohol in check - pure alcohol is almost as fattening as raw fat and drinking too much can significantly increase your risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, liver disease and several cancers. Men should keep it to a maximum of four units a day and no more than 21 units a week and women to a maximum of three units a day with no more than 14 units a week.

Staying physically active

Daily physical activity will add years to your life and the more you are able to do, the better you will feel as a consequence. Exercise kick starts all the systems in your body as well as giving you a natural high which leaves you feeling good and wanting more.

There is a lot of research available which shows that regular physical activity is extremely effective in reducing the risk of developing serious diseases including stroke, heart disease, numerous cancers and type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity can reduce your overall risk of premature death by as much as 20-30%.1

In particular, the risk of having a heart attack or stroke is reduced by around half by participating in regular physical activity in comparison with those who don't exercise.1

Exercise can improve the quality of your cholesterol by increasing the levels of your protective HDL and help your blood pressure control both at rest and during exercise.

Regular exercise can also significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Finally, research has shown that regular exercise leads to a reduced risk of various cancers, especially bowel, breast and womb cancers. Breast cancer risk is reduced by up to 40%, womb cancer by just under a third and bowel cancer by up to 25%. Indeed, regular physical activity can reduce your overall risk of dying from cancer by around a third.2

You should remember that you don't need to be 'super fit' for the greatest health increase. Being moderately fit is enough and you can achieve this simply by 30 minutes of brisk walking on most days.

Moderate intensity activities can provide a great range of benefits to you, such as helping you manage your weight, reducing your blood pressure and risk of type 2 diabetes, increase your energy and concentration levels and reducing your risk of stroke and certain cancers. Some great examples of moderate-intensity activity are brisk walking, swimming, gardening and light cycling.

If you are already active, you may wish to increase your exercise intensity level to boost your health and fitness even further.

Vigorous intensity activities will provide all the benefits of moderate activity but they'll also help keep you fit, lean and toned. Jogging, recreational sport, swimming and cycling will all help you with this.

Please remember that if you experience any unusual or significantly uncomfortable feelings either during or after exercise, you should consult your doctor immediately.

In particular, you should stop your activity straight away if you feel any of the following:

  • Light headedness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Cold sweat

Seek immediate medical advice if any of the above symptoms are prolonged or significant, or if you feel pressure, stiffness or pain in your neck, chest, arm or shoulders.

References:

1. British Heart Foundation (2008): Physical Activity to reduce cardiovascular risk

2. Cancer Research UK: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/cancer-questions/can-exercise-reduce-the-risk-of-breast-or-bowel-cancer