If you're currently carrying a little more weight than you should, there are a number of benefits to your health you can experience by shedding a few pounds. The key to successful weight loss is to ensure your ambitions are realistic, and the changes you make are sustainable and become a part of your day-to-day life.
Studies suggest that the best way to lose weight is by making long-term plans to change both your diet and exercise levels, which can help lead to a steady weight loss. Ideally, you should be targeting weight losses of between 0.5 kg to 1 kg each week (1 to 2 lbs) until your weight is within the healthy upper BMI limit of 25.0 (or 23.0 if you are of Asian ethnicity).
Making the commitment to lose weight
In our busy lives, it is very easy to get caught in the trap of eating too much and doing too little. For many of us, this will inevitably lead to us gaining weight, and so if we are to reverse this trend we need to change our habits. Even if we eat a healthy and balanced diet, we can still gain weight if we eat too much, or if we don't burn that food off with exercise.
While drastic diets can seem attractive as they may bring quick results, the chances are that they won't work long-term as it is almost impossible to maintain the lifestyle that comes with them. After you have stopped, you are likely to put the weight back on (and sometimes even more than before) if you return to your old eating habits. Instead, by changing to healthy foods and exercise, you are more likely to stick to your new habits, keeping the weight off long-term.
Maintaining a healthy diet and keeping your weight in check are two of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing.
A well-balanced diet is essential for good health and will help to maintain a healthy body weight, enhance general mood and energy levels and reduce the risk of a range of serious diseases.
The principles of a healthy diet
The two keys to a healthy diet and achieving a healthy weight are:
- eating the right amount of food for how active you are and
- eating a range of foods to make sure you're getting a balanced diet.
A healthy diet is based on complex carbohydrates such as breads, potatoes, rice and pulses. It is also rich in fruits and vegetables, water and fibre with moderate amounts of milk and dairy products, meat, fish or milk/meat alternatives and limited amounts of foods containing sugars and unhealthy fats.
No single food can provide all the essential nutrients that the body needs so it's very important to consume a wide variety of foods to ensure an adequate range of the right nutrients for good health and wellbeing.
These healthy eating guidelines are appropriate for most people but if you have any conditions that may be affected by what you eat and drink you should ensure that you follow your doctor's advice.
Healthy carbohydrates ... for a steady flow of energy, healthy digestion and weight control
Carbohydrates should meet at least half of your daily energy needs and should be as unrefined as possible in order to provide plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals and to help keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
Make sure you eat at least five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day.
Choose brown bread, pasta and rice and foods that include whole grains and try to minimize your intake of white rice, pasta and bread and foods made from white flour. The browner it is, the less refined it's likely to be.
Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar - confectionery, biscuits, cakes, ice cream, fruit/soft drinks, puddings and desserts and refined breakfast cereals and try to minimise your use of sugars in cooking.
Healthy fats ... to keep your calories in check and your arteries healthy
Fats and fatty foods are particularly high in calories and can also increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Certain types of fat however such as monounsaturated and omega fats in particular, are highly beneficial to health.
Minimise as far as possible foods high in saturated fats and trans fats. These include fatty cuts of meat, whole milk dairy products, processed foods, fast foods, fried foods, biscuits, crackers, crisps and confectionery. Lower-fat varieties of most high-fat foods are commonly available
Make sure you have regular intakes of foods high in omega fats - you should eat at least one portion of oily fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and mackerel each week. Other good sources include flaxseed, canola and soya bean oils, walnuts and green leafy vegetables.
Healthy exercise … to keep your energy balance in check and boost your metabolism
Keeping physically active on a regular basis is a cornerstone of weight loss - and keeping it off. The right amount for you depends on how old you are, although most adults should take part in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week. This can include brisk walking, cycling or even vigorous gardening.
Finally, take some time to identify where you might go wrong and overeat. This could be on a night out with friends, or perhaps after a long day at work when you may not have the time or inclination to cook a proper meal. Planning ahead can help you minimise these risks, such as planning what you are going to eat prior to arriving at the restaurant, or cooking and freezing meals in advance. However, you should also remember not to be too hard on yourself if you do indulge from time to time.