Maintaining a healthy weight is key for good health, but many of us go about it the wrong way. Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at The British Heart Foundation, explains how to do it right
Your weight can make a difference to your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Being obese (having a BMI of 30 or greater) is a risk factor, but weight is also linked to other conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which can also increase your risk of CHD.
If you’re not sure if you need to lose weight, calculating your BMI can be a good starting point and help you work out whether you are at an appropriate weight for your height. Check your waist circumference too as your body shape is also important. Carrying too much weight around our middle increases risk, even if your BMI is within the healthy range.
When it comes to getting the weight off, everyone wants to lose weight quickly, and there are many diets out there promising instant results. But while they might work in the short term, more often than not they are difficult to stick to and so the weight quickly comes back on.
When choosing a diet look out for some of these common diet myths and fads to help you spot the types of crash diets that are best avoided.
How can I lose weight for good?
We asked Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, for her top tips for losing weight in a healthy way:
‘While any weight loss will require a change to eating habits, it shouldn’t mean missing out on nutrients or cutting out whole food groups. Aim for regular meals and a balanced diet but also take care with your portion sizes. You might be eating a healthy balance of foods, just too much of it. Changes to your food aren’t the only thing to consider either. The most effective weight loss approaches combine changes to diet with increased physical activity and also address some of your behaviours around food to help you understand your own eating pattern and responses to food at different times or in certain situations.
Diets that involve removing – or severely limiting – specific foods or food groups that are nutritionally important are not going to be a long-term solution. The more extreme high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets limit fruit, vegetables and fibre, particularly in the early stages, while faddy diets based on single foods (cabbage soup, anyone?) involve eating a lot of one type of food and not much of others. Some diets also drastically limit calorie intake so you get results fast. However, a very low-calorie intake can leave you tired and hungry, so you give up, regaining the weight as quickly as it came off.
National guidelines recommend that, for sustainable weight loss, a reduction in calorie intake of about 600 a day is needed. This could lead to a weekly weight loss of around 0.5kg (1lb). While it may not sound a great deal next to the promises of many quick-fix diets, it allows you to incorporate healthy eating habits into your lifestyle permanently, so you’re more likely to keep it off for good.’
How can I tell which diets are safe and healthy?
If you are considering starting a diet, make sure that you have all the facts first, and always consult your GP before restricting or changing your diet.
Our expert tips on how to eat a balanced diet is a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your nutrition in general, ensure you’re getting key nutrients and perfect your portion sizes.
If you’re tempted to follow one of the many diets on the market, read the six things you should consider before starting a diet which explains how to spot an unsustainable or fad diet.
We’ve also looked into some of the most well-known plans in our popular diet guides. Read our analysis of the 5:2 diet, Paleo diet, Dukan diet, Atkins diet, Sirtfood diet, dopamine diet and many more.
Finally, if you’re looking for a balanced, healthy eating plan that is nutritionist-approved, sign up to our free Healthy Diet Plans. They're a great way to kickstart healthy habits and try out delicious and nutritious recipes. We bring out a brand-new Healthy Diet Plan twice a year, plus plenty of extra recipes, fitness tips and healthy eating inspiration – and if you sign up, you’ll get this all sent straight to your inbox.
How can exercise help me lose and maintain weight?
Staying fit and active is important for overall health, and can help you to lose excess weight in combination with a balanced diet. Read our top exercise tips for weight loss and learn about the relationship between fitness and fat burning, plus how many calories you’ll burn through different activities.
If you’re a beginner who is looking to take your first steps in fitness, find out how to exercise for free and how to workout at home to discover simple and cheap ways to increase your activity levels.
We’ve got plenty of tips to help you fuel your fitness, too. Discover what to eat for different types of workouts, including yoga, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), endurance training or aerobic activities. If you’re into running, cycling or swimming, our expert fitness tips will help you to get the most out of every session.
For more information on heart health visit The British Heart Foundation website.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
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