Tackling obesity

Being overweight or obese – does it matter?

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many health problems, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers, infertility, osteoarthritis, sleep difficulties and back pain. It is also linked to depression and low self-esteem.

What are the causes of being overweight or obese?

Dietary intakes, levels of activity, meal patterns, genetic makeup, hormonal, psychological and sociological factors can all have an influence. Ultimately weight gain is the result of a positive energy balance i.e. you are eating more energy than your body needs each day.

How can I tell if I am carrying too much weight?

The use of the Body Mass Index or (BMI) is most commonly used for working out how healthy or unhealthy someone's body weight is. The BMI is defined as your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in metres) squared.

It is recommended to maintain a BMI between 18.5-25, with those in the over-25 category being classed as overweight. Those with a BMI greater than 30 are classed as obese. A BMI calculator can be found at www.bdaweightwise.com.

Waist circumference

More important than body weight is body fat and where you carry it. Excess fat around the stomach (‘apple shaped') is often associated with a higher risk of health problems than fat on the hips and thighs (‘pear shaped').

In general, men are at an increased risk of obesity-related diseases when their waist circumference reaches 94cm (37 inches). For women, risks increase at 80cm (32 inches). The risks of disease become substantially increased at 102cm (40 inches) for men and 88cm (35 inches) for women.

Losing weight and keeping it off!

Losing weight is all about changing your energy balance. The only way to lose the weight is to burn more calories than you eat. You can achieve this by eating or drinking less, or by increasing your physical activity. The key to successful weight loss is not to go on a ‘crash diet' but to change how you eat and enjoy healthy eating habits for life.

Top tips for weight loss

  • Try to cook your own meals rather than rely on ready prepared meals, as you will be more in control of the food you are eating
  • Think about your portion sizes. Use a smaller plate, eat slowly and stop when you start to feel full. It takes 20 minutes for your body to register you're full
  • Keep active, or aim to become more active in your daily life
  • Limit alcohol as this is packed full of ‘empty calories'
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Eat breakfast. Research shows that it can help to stave off mid-morning hunger pangs
  • Keep healthy foods to hand e.g. fruit, vegetable crudités or mixed nuts
  • Keep a food diary. Recording what, when and why you eat can help you understand a lot about your eating patterns

For more ideas on how to lose weight visit www.bdaweightwise.com or www.eatwell.gov.uk