How to lose weight - and stay in healthy shape

A new year often inspires many of us make health resolutions and January is a popular time to think about losing excess weight, to help you get into better shape and boost your overall health & wellbeing.

If you're obese or overweight, you have an increased risk of developing various health problems. Even a modest amount of weight loss can help to reduce your increased health risks. The best chance of losing weight and keeping the weight off, is to be committed to a change in lifestyle.

How weight loss works

The science: in some respects it is quite simple. Your weight depends on how much energy you take in (the calories in food and drink) and how much energy your body uses (burns) up.

It is best not to lose weight too fast. You should aim to lose weight gradually. If you lose more than a kilogram per week, you may lose muscle tissue rather than fat and this isn't sustainable weight loss. So it's recommended that you lose an average of 0.5 to 1kg per week (about 1-2lb per week).

In short, you need to eat less and move more!

Before you start

Motivation is crucial - write down the reasons you would like to lose weight. Keep referring to this list to motivate yourself.

Set clear goals with a realistic timescale - for most people you can start to get health benefits by losing even just 5-10% of your starting weight. For example, if your starting weight was 100kg, losing 5-10kg in weight will produce some health benefits for you, even if you're still not at your ideal weight.

Monitor your current food intake - try keeping a diary, writing down everything that you eat and drink over a week or so. You could also use a free weight tracker mobile app for iPhone or Android to do this.

How can I lose weight?

To lose weight the best chance of long-term success is to eat a healthy diet and, if you are able, to exercise regularly. There is only a limited role for medicines to help with weight loss.

Orlistat is a medicine that is sometimes advised. However, it's no 'wonder drug' (it only partially helps weight loss) and you will still need to make lifestyle changes to improve your diet, eat less, and increase your physical activity levels to lose weight. Orlistat is not prescribed to everyone who wants to lose weight. It is only recommended in people over a certain BMI.

How to eat well

A diet that is generally low in fat and healthy can help you to lose weight, or maintain your weight. It can also help you to lower your cholesterol level.

Briefly, a healthy diet means:

  • At least five portions, and ideally seven to nine portions, of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day
  • The bulk of most meals should be starch-based foods (such as cereals, wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice, pasta), plus fruit and vegetables
  • Not much fatty food, such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-fat milk, fried food or butter
  • Include two to three portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, salmon or fresh tuna)
  • If you eat meat it is best to eat lean meat or poultry
  • If you do fry, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive
  • Try not to add salt to food and limit foods which are salty.

Need more weight loss inspiration? View our 10 weight loss tips slideshow.

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