Tips to lose weight
Did you know?
If you are obese, losing 10% of your weight can lower your health risks.
News in a hurry
- Attitude is key.
- Be realistic.
- Popular and fad diets don't work.
- Look at your food portions.
- Don’t get over hungry.
- Watch the fat content of food.
- Choose Low GI.
- Read food labels.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Grill, bake, microwave or steam food.
- Start to exercise.
Bottom line: To lose weight, eat less and move more. Follow our healthy eating guidelines and aim for at least 30 minutes' brisk physical activity each day.
Third fattest nation in developed world
A Health Care Data 2009 report, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, found that New Zealand is the third fattest nation in the developed world. The obesity rate among adults in New Zealand in 2007 was 26.5%, compared with figures reported the previous year by the United States at 34.3% and Mexico at 30%.
Risks of being overweight
If you are significantly overweight, you have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint problems, gallbladder disease, kidney disease, sleep and lung problems, prostate and bowel cancers in men and ovarian and breast cancers in women. Neatly put, you have a greater chance of dying before your time!
Also, you may not feel your best when you are carrying too many kilos, and this can have an effect on your confidence, outlook and other parts of your life. As you gain control of your weight you should have a greater feeling of well-being. You can also find regular, moderate exercise increases your overall energy levels.
Having abdominal body fat – the apple shape – puts you at higher health risk than having fat around the hips and backside – the pear shape. Abdominal fat has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other obesity-related diseases.
Excess weight is more of a problem the younger you are when it appears and the longer it stays. If you are obese, losing 10% of your weight can lower your health risks.
Are you overweight?
An adult with a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight, while a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese.
The table below shows the BMI cut-off points widely accepted for use among adults, and which relate to points where the risks of adverse health outcomes rise sharply.
Weight category BMI range (kg/m²) for adults
Normal 18.5 - 25
* A value above 25 for a NZ European or 26 for a Maori or Pacific Islander indicates that person may be overweight.
If you have concerns about your weight you should mention it the next time you visit your doctor.
Try our BMI calculator
Take care using BMI
Be aware that BMI guides can be misleading – BMI tends to relate to fat mass on the body but, for active or more muscular people, BMI may overestimate this. Plus, people of Asian origin tend to carry a higher fat mass for a given BMI, and those of Polynesian origin have a proportionately lower fat mass for a given BMI.
Tips to help you lose weight
Bottom line: To lose weight, eat less and move more. Follow our healthy eating guidelines and aim for at least 30 minutes' brisk physical activity each day. Fat loss should be a gradual process, sometimes with lots of stops and starts – even if you are doing all the right things!
Attitude is key
Losing weight can be more about realistic expectations than anything else. Think about why you are eating too much – are you eating for comfort, out of habit, absent-mindedly or just because it is there?
Make notes in a diary – working out why and when you overeat may help you plan a better diet,eg, if you see you are regularly skipping breakfast or lunch you may connect that to the fact you are eating too much in the evening on those days. Or you may realize you are filling up on lots of sugary foods and not eating enough protein.
Find other ways of controlling stress and breaking old habits. Don't keep high fat or sugar treats in the house – have them when you are out, occasionally. Have the fridge fully stocked with healthy options. Freeze healthy dinners, so fast is not fatty.
Decide what’s a healthy, achievable and sustainable weight for you and give yourself a time-frame to achieve it. Take it very slowly (aim to lose about 1kg per month), as weight lost quickly, comes back quickly. Introduce healthy eating changes slowly so you can stick to them, gradually begin to exercise and allow yourself the odd non-fat or non-food reward. Once you have lost the first kilo or two you can add more changes.
Popular and fad diets
Sometimes a commercial weight loss programme can help to reset your eating and physical activity habits, but forget fad or very restrictive diets – they rob your body of vital nutrients, kill your enjoyment of food and they don't work.
Look at your food portions
If you’re in the habit of piling up your plate, try gradually easing back. Use smaller plates and bulkier food so the ‘eye’ is full, and eat slowly so the message that the stomach is full has time to reach the brain. Bulking up with fruit and vegetables gives essential fibre and helps stave off hunger.
Don’t get over hungry
This can result in binge eating – a good reason why eating breakfast is so important. If we aren’t craving food by 10am, we’re less likely to binge on sausage rolls and muffins and scones for morning tea!
Watch the fat content
Losing weight is much easier with a diet that is very low in fat and has moderate amounts of protein and carbohydrate. Fat has over twice the calories per gram compared with other food types and it does not fill you up as quickly, so you tend to eat more. An extra 200kJ a day that you don't need adds approximately 2.5kg a year.
However, very low kilojoule diets are doomed to failure and can be unsafe. Don't be so strict that you feel deprived because the diet won't last. Long term, a balanced low fat diet and choosing the right foods can result in better weight control than fad or crash diets.
Choose Low GI
Choose foods with a low glycaemic index (GI). Low-GI foods can help you lose weight, keep you feeling fuller for longer, and prolong physical endurance. Foods that have a low GI include fruit and vegetables (except potatoes), breads made with whole seeds, milk, beans (eg, haricot, lima or baked), and breakfast cereals made from oats, barley and bran.
Foods with plenty of fibre (eg, whole grain bread) help you avoid hunger without piling on the kilojoules. Slowly, you can train yourself to enjoy low fat foods; there are lots of tasty yet healthy options around these days.
Read labels and look out for the Tick
Read labels, looking for fat, kilojoule and salt content. Look for the Heart Foundation's Tick, which signposts healthier food choices within a wide range of food categories. Beware of so-called low-fat foods, like low-fat muesli bars, as many are kilojoule loaded. Buy water-packed tinned fish, fruit in light syrup and so on.
Limiting alcohol (high in kilojoules) to 2 standard drinks per day helps weight loss and lowers the risk for alcohol-related ill heath. A real problem with alcohol is that it increases the tendency to snack.
Cook the healthy way
Grilling, baking, microwaving or steaming, rather than frying and deep frying, will help cut the amount of fat you eat.
Try a 3-day menu from the NZ Food and Nutrition Guidelines.
Start to exercise
You can start with 15 minutes of gentle activity a day, eg, walking or gardening. This should be increased to 30 minutes to an hour of moderate activity – you should be breathing hard but be able to hold a conversation. If you can manage this only in short bursts, use the stairs not the lift or walk the long way to your car – it all adds up. The trick is to find an activity you enjoy doing and to put a little more physical effort into each day.
As you tone your muscles they burn more and more energy, (muscle burns more energy at rest than fat does), helping you lose weight and look trimmer.
- drink 6–8 glasses of fluids a day, including a cup of water before meals
- if having wine with a meal always have water as well
- avoid takeaways, chips and dips, butter on scones, muffins and rolls
- keep lots of healthy foods (especially fresh fruit) at home and with you when you’re out
- exercise and eat with someone with similar goals
- don’t eat while watching television
- beware of slipping into old habits, particularly when you think you’ve made it!
Keep the weight off
Weight will be regained unless the change in diet and the increase in activity are ongoing. Beware of the ‘made it’ syndrome, where, having reached a target weight, you return to old habits.
What doesn't help weight loss?
Quick-loss, low-kilojoule diet methods, most pills, potions and herbs, passive machines and rub-on creams do not help you lose weight. Prescription weight-loss medications are usually used by people with a high BMI, or a moderately high BMI plus other health risks, who have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise alone.
Where to get help
It’s better to get control of weight gain early on – preventing obesity is far better for you and easier than having to deal with it later on. If your eating is out of control and you feel bad about it, talk to your doctor.
If you have a health problem, are taking any medication or plan to lose more than 6–8kg also talk to your doctor about losing weight. He or she may suggest additional help from a dietitian or a counselor for tricky eating habits.
If you are very obese or have other health problems, prescription weight-loss pills can be discussed with your doctor. Medical supervision for any side effects, weight-loss and activity programmes, and lifestyle changes are also required if the medication is to work.