Information and advice for people who are concerned about their weight
Obesity is a very common problem in the UK, which is estimated to affect 1 in 4 adults and about 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11.
The term obesity is used to describe someone who is very overweight with a lot of body fat. This is often measured by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a way of checking if you are a healthy weight for your height.
For most adults, a BMI of:
- 18.5 to 24.9 means you're a healthy weight
- 25 to 29.9 means you're overweight
- 30 to 39.9 means you're obese
- 40 or above means you're severely obese
However, as BMI only looks at weight rather than fat, it isn’t used to diagnose obesity. This is because very muscular people can have a higher BMI but actually have very little body fat. However, BMI is still a useful check for most people to see if they’re a healthy weight.
Measuring your waist size is a better way of checking if you’re carrying too much body fat. You are more likely to go on to develop obesity-related health problems if your waist measurement is:
- 94cm or more for men
- 80cm or more for women
Causes of obesity
Obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories, particularly those in fatty and sugary foods, than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat.
Obesity is an increasingly common problem because for many people, modern living involves eating excessive amounts of cheap high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down at desks, on sofas or in cars.
The Risks and Health Effects of Obesity
It's very important to take steps to tackle obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.
- type 2 diabetes
- coronary heart disease
- some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.
How to Manage your Weight
Losing weight can seem daunting, but can really help you live a happier, healthier life. Here are some ways to help you make positive changes.
Eating a Balanced Diet
Experts recommend eating a wide variety of food in the right proportions to stay healthy. To help people get the right balance The Eatwell Guide shows what proportion of each food type we should aim for in our diet.
The general rules are:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, ideally water
- Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Eat higher fibre, starchy foods, like brown rice and pasta, and potatoes
- Get some protein from meats, beans and pulses, eggs, and fish
- Eat small amounts of fat, and aim for unsaturated oils and spreads
- Include some dairy or dairy alternative
Getting More Exercise
Being more active goes hand in hand with eating a healthier diet. It burns excess calories and strengthens your body, helping you stay fit and feeling good. Regular exercise has lots of health benefits, but how much should we be doing?
It’s recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a balance of the two), and two or more days of strength exercise.
Moderate exercise means your heart rate rises, you feel warmer, and breathe faster. You can talk, but couldn’t sing a song. Activities include brisk walking, dancing, roller-skating, etc.
Vigorous exercises however make your heart and breathing much faster, so you can’t say very much without stopping for a breather. This sort of activity includes running, football, cycling, etc.
Strength exercises can include lifting weights or using resistance bands, using your own bodyweight as resistance (e.g. push-ups), yoga, or heavy gardening.
Joining a weight loss group or teaming up with a friend or relative can give you moral support and motivation with losing weight. You may also benefit from receiving psychological support from a trained healthcare professional to help change the way you think about food and eating so you can be introduced to some simple positive lifestyle changes.
In some cases, weight loss surgery may be recommended however this is usually for medical reasons and is a last resort!