Developed by the British Dietetic Association.
Provided there are no underlying medical reasons why you shouldn’t lose weight, safe weight loss can be achieved by making realistic changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can keep up.
Research shows that it’s best to think about changing your eating habits to a healthy plan that fits in with your lifestyle rather than ‘going on a diet’. There are some strategies that we know successful slimmers use, and that make a real difference. These include:
Being more physically active also helps to achieve effective weight loss and has lots of other health benefits too! Aim for at least 30mins daily of moderate activity. If you can manage more than that even better! It’s been recommended that 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity such as walking on most days of the week is probably needed to maintain a healthy body weight. This might be a big leap for many of us, so start your exercise programme gradually and build up to a level that suits you.
Choose an activity you enjoy and can fit into your daily routine. If you haven’t exercised for some time, or if you have a medical condition that affects your health or mobility, check with your GP first.
For most people a regular weight loss of up to 1-2 lbs (0.5 – 1kg) each week is safe and sustainable.
A: It’s not individual foods or drinks that result in weight gain or prevent you from losing weight but the overall calorie (or energy) intake from these foods and drinks in your diet. Oily and fatty foods as well as foods with hidden fats and sugars are often high in calories and therefore eating too much of these foods can cause weight gain.
Of course it’s not just ‘calories in’ that have an impact on weight gain, but also how many calories you use up through exercise and physical activity. Managing your weight through healthy eating and being more active is the best solution to long term weight loss, but this doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the fattening foods you like – it’s a question of balance.
If you complete a food and activity diary over the period of a week this will help you to see exactly what you are eating. Use this as a basis for making some changes that, over time should help you to lose weight. Changes to your diet may include cutting down on oily/fried foods, filling half your plate with vegetables or salad, reducing how much alcohol you drink, eating out or having takeaways less often, swapping snacks like biscuits or crisps for fruit and having smaller portion sizes. Being more active may include: walking or cycling each day or to work, washing the car or cutting the lawn more often, going to the gym, using the stairs rather than the lift, playing a sport or going dancing regularly.
A: True weight change is naturally a slow process, and weight loss only happens if the total number of calories you consume (from food and drink) is less than the total amount of calories that you burn up.
It may be that you are unknowingly taking in more energy than you think you are. Or you may be being less active than you realise. To check this out, start to write down in some detail what you eat and how much you exercise - use the food and activity diary from the keep going page of the web site. From this you should get a better picture of your eating and activity routines and be able to start to identify additional changes that you could make to your lifestyle to help you lose weight at a faster rate. Small changes can really add up to make a big difference. For example one less 50 calorie plain biscuit could help you lose 5lbs (2.3kg) in a year – and one extra biscuit means you could gain that in a year!
It may also help you to know that the calorie content of 1lb (0.5kg) of body fat is around 3,500 calories. So to lose around 1lb (0.5kg) in a week, you need, on average, a 500 calorie deficit every day (7x500=3,500). This is best achieved by eating fewer calories and by being more active each day.
Remember slow but steady weight loss is preferable to rapid weight loss, because if you lose weight this way most of the weight lost is fat, not fluid or muscle. For most people a regular weight loss of to 1-2 lbs (0.5 – 1kg) each week is safe and sustainable, through making a number of small but significant changes to diet and lifestyle. Tracking how your weight changes each week and then over a month, is the best indicator of progress.
A: Research has shown that the best way to regulate appetite is by eating three small meals a day rather than one large one. Chances are you are also nibbling at other times of the day perhaps unconsciously but these all add up and may be preventing you from losing weight.
In terms of a healthy diet – it’s unlikely that you are getting the variety needed to ensure a balance of all the vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids and fibre that your body needs from just one meal a day. Dietitians and nutritionists recommend eating foods from the four main food groups every day to ensure a healthy balanced diet.
And if you are snacking at other times be sure to choose lower fat, healthy options such as fruit, low fat/diet yogurts etc. Healthy eating snack ideas.
A: It may be that you are not eating a balanced diet and therefore missing out on one or more nutrients and this can result in you feeling tired all the time. For example many women, especially those that have heavy periods, or consume little in the way of iron-containing foods, may be at risk of iron deficiency. This can lead to anaemia, which causes tiredness and a lack of energy. Red meat is an excellent source of iron that is easily absorbed. Some iron is also found in white meat and fish and fortified cereals. Other sources of iron include wholegrain breads and cereals, pulses, nuts and dark green vegetables but the iron from these sources is less well absorbed. Having a source of vitamin C (e.g. from a glass of fresh orange juice) at the same time will help the iron to be absorbed.
If you feel you may be anaemic, it’s worth checking this out with your GP. In the short term, he can prescribe iron tablets, but in the long term the solution is to try to eat a more varied and healthy diet, choosing a variety of foods from all food groups. Taking a one a day vitamin and mineral supplement, with amounts close to 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance, can also be a good insurance policy when slimming.
Of course your tiredness may be a symptom of something very different like overwork, stress, too much partying, not enough exercise or a number of colds and minor illnesses. Or it may be that you are simply more tired because of the extra weight you are carrying around. If you can’t easily explain your symptoms or are worried, its always worthwhile speaking to a health professional, you could try calling NHS direct (0845 4647) for some general advice before visiting your GP.
A: It’s great that you are showing concern for your friend, but he or she needs to want to lose weight and improve their diet if they are to succeed. At the moment he or she may not be ready to tackle the problem.
Perhaps it is worth doing something together, such as a new activity to give them some added support or suggesting that he/she pops along to their local surgery for a general health check.
A: A typical healthy man requires approximately 2,500 calories a day, and women approximately 2000 calories each day. Remember this is an average and you may need more or less than this amount. If you do a lot of regular exercise, are taller than average or significantly overweight you may have higher requirements than if you are less active, shorter and of a healthier weight.
The only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than you need, or to use up (‘’burn’’) more calories (energy) by being more active. Cutting calories by 500-600 a day, should lead to a steady weight loss of 0.5-1kg (1-2lbs) per week. Research evidence tells us that the best way to do this for long term weight loss, is a combination of both dietary change and increased exercise, along with behaviour change techniques such as effective goal setting etc.
Resorting to crash diets or unbalanced, quick fix approaches may be harmful to your health, and is unlikely to lead to permanent weight loss, because as soon as you come “off the diet” you are likely to go back to your original eating habits.
So, cut out the fad diets, make sure you really are ready to lose weight, and if so start by modifying your normal eating plan, cutting portion sizes, choosing healthier, low fat varieties of foods, and eating regular, balanced meals. Don’t try to change everything at once, opt for a few small changes at a time and build on this.
In order to keep to your target weight once you have reached it, you need to maintain the positive lifestyle changes you have already made such as being more physically active and changes to the way you eat. Seek out support networks such as family, friends or slimming groups, to help you keep on track. Remember, if you are overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight can improve your health.
A: It sounds like this might be a good time to review your reasons for wanting to lose weight and to ensure your goals are realistic and achievable. This will help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough.
If you have tried to lose weight before, you will know how easy it is to dive into the next diet and simply focus on losing as much weight as quickly as you can. You will also know that despite the promises of many popular diets, there’s nothing easy about losing weight. Successful weight control involves a lot of thought, planning and commitment. It’s also about making realistic lifestyle changes that you can keep up over time.
Follow the step-by-step plan on the RU ready page of the website. This will help you to identify your reasons for losing weight and the resulting benefits as well as helping you to set achievable targets and identifying an eating plan.
It’s a good idea to have a look at what you are eating now by completing a food and activity diary for the next 7 days. Look critically at what you are eating, maybe get a close friend to help you and remember to be honest in writing everything down. You should identify ways in which you can modify your intake, just by changing 3 or 4 things, to both reduce your calorie intake by about 500 calories a day and increase your activity levels. Being more physically active may help to tip the balance in favour of weight loss.
If you feel that you’ve tried everything and would like more support, try asking for some additional advice from a registered dietitian. Your family doctor can refer you if he /she feels you will benefit from this. Alternatively, try joining a local slimming group, it may provide just the boost you need.
A: Sounds to me like you're planning to lose the weight for that special day but what happens after that? Unless you have a longer-term plan you may end up piling the weight back on? I suggest you try and think over the longer term but have the short-term goal of dropping the dress size. Over the longer term think about at least maintaining that initial weight loss.
Although I can't give you a specific weight loss plan, I suggest you start with the basics. Spend a week writing down what you eat every day. Be very honest with yourself and try and write as much detail as possible. Then pass a critical eye over it; what small but SUSTSAINABLE changes can you make to your eating habits. It may be as simple as cooking and therefore eating less food (smaller portion sizes); having fewer takeaways or using less spreading fat and oil or eating fewer foods with hidden fats and sugar.
Also look at your physical activity levels. What can you do in addition to the exercise you already do?
A: If you are gaining weight it is likely that the combination of foods in your diet and your overall calorie intake has gradually increased, or perhaps your lifestyle has changed in some way, resulting in you being less active than you were. For example, have you had a change in job, retired, recently had a baby, injured yourself, moved house, stopped playing a sport or walking to work?
Try downloading the food and activity diary from the site and fill this out over the next week. Be very honest with yourself, otherwise there is little value in doing it. Once completed cast a critical eye over it, to see if you can identify some changes you can make to get your weight back on track.
You should always check out any significant weight gain or weight loss that cannot be easily explained with your doctor or call NHS direct (0845 4647) for some general advice.
A: This is a common frustration shared by many wanting to reach their target weight. First of all, well done for the weight loss you have achieved already, it takes a lot of effort and persistence to successfully lose weight.
There are a number of reasons why your weight loss may have slowed down or stopped: perhaps you’ve begun to get bored with the foods you’re eating; extra foods may have crept back into your diet, or portion sizes may have got a little bigger again. In order to give your weight loss a kick-start you need to take another look at what you are eating now and see if you can make some additional changes.
Also check out your physical activity levels again – can you find ways of being more active in your daily life?
Remember, even a pound a month makes a big difference over a period of time - another stone by this time next year!
Finally, make sure your goal weight is realistic. Maybe where you are now is a good, and achievable place to be. Remember that losing just 10% of your weight and keeping it off is a fantastic achievement and helps your health.
A: If you are one of the few people who suffers from an under-active thyroid, your doctor should be managing and reviewing your treatment for this. Providing you are receiving appropriate medication for your under-active thyroid gland, this should not hamper your efforts to lose weight successfully.
A: If you have diabetes, especially if you are on medication (insulin or tablets) you should be offered support from a dietitian, and other health professionals, to help ensure that your diabetes and weight is managed effectively. The majority of people who develop diabetes are overweight, so losing 5-10% of body weight can help to improve diabetic control and help you to stay medication free.
All the advice on the weightwise website is suitable for people with diabetes, but do ask your key health worker(s) for more specific advice if you need it.
A: If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes or if your blood sugar is a bit high, the good news is you that you don’t have to follow a special diet.
The healthy diet for people with diabetes is the healthy diet recommended for everyone, including aiming for 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day, modifying your fat intake and limiting high calorie foods and drinks. Choosing your food wisely and adopting sensible eating habits can help you manage your diabetes, and still enjoy a wide variety of foods as part of a balanced diet.
If you are overweight, losing weight will help you control your diabetes or high blood sugar. You should aim to lose weight slowly over time rather than a quick fix approach. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight and keeping it off will bring significant health benefits.
Remember: everyone with diabetes should receive dietary information and support. So, if you haven’t already, ask your GP or healthcare team to refer you to a registered dietitian for tailored dietary advice. He or she will be able to advise you further on a suitable diet that takes both your lifestyle and cultural preferences into account.
A: There does appear to be a link between overweight and polycystic ovaries and many women with this condition, find it difficult to lose weight. However experts aren’t quite clear why this is. The good news is that you should be able to gradually lose enough weight to improve your health and the PCOS by following the advice on this website. Getting some extra support is also a good idea. Talk to your doctor if you feel you would benefit from the support of a registered dietitian. They may be able to refer you to a dietitian locally.
A: There are a number of things that you could do. Firstly you could ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian who works in the NHS. Dietitians are a rare resource in some areas, and there may be a long waiting list.
Try to write down a list of your own reasons for wanting to lose weight before you see any health professional, as this will help you to clarify how important weight loss is for you. Also download the food and activity diary and complete a food diary for a week as this will help both you and the dietitian to understand more about your current eating habits and any problem areas that you would like particular help with.
If your GP won't or can't refer you then you could see a dietitian privately. The best way to get a list of dietitians who see clients privately is by contacting the British Dietetic Association. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org , alternatively you can access a dietian privately through freelance dietitians
Don't forget the weightwise website also provides you with a lot of practical advice to get you started.
A: Most cheese is high in fat, but it is also high in protein and calcium. If you love cheese, do limit your intake if you’re trying to lose weight: a serving size is a 30g piece (the size of a small matchbox). Lower fat varieties include: mozzarella, camembert, cottage, edam and feta cheese. With the exception of cottage cheese, you still need to keep your portion sizes small, as even these cheeses will make a significant contribution to your total energy intake.
A: Watching your weight doesn't mean you can't eat out anymore - it just means being more careful about what and where you choose to eat. Look for grilled; steamed; stir-fried; poached or baked dishes as these are likely to have less fat. Keep away from pastry based dishes, battered or fried foods or cream or cheese sauces. Skip dessert or opt for fruit-based dishes or sorbet.
A: You may have seen the Guideline Daily Amounts for fat and calories highlighted on some food packaging. These are the recommended average figures for healthy weight adults and are:
If you are following our weight wise plan and choosing the 1800 calorie option, this would equate to 63g fat, and on the 1500 calorie plan, 52g fat. Many food products do highlight the fat and calories per serving, so you can see these at a glance. Products containing less than 3g of fat per 100g are low, and those with over 20g fat per 100g are high. In between would be moderate amounts of fat. A word of caution: low fat doesn't necessarily mean low-calorie - always check the label.
A: You can use the suggestions on the eating well page of the website to determine what foods and the quantities of these that you could include in your breakfast.
You could try using foods such as wholegrain cereals, low fat milk, fresh fruit and fruit juice, wholegrain bread or toast (remember keep spreads, jams and marmalade toppings to a minimum).
If you enjoy a cooked breakfast make sure your cooked items are grilled, poached, boiled etc but not fried. And use kitchen paper to mop off any excess fat that may linger on the bacon. Try baked beans, tomatoes or mushrooms on toast for a change – it boosts your fruit and vegetable intake too!
Why not try smoked fish such as haddock, or kipper. These foods are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart disease and other disorders.
The following breakfasts contain 350-450 calories and would be suitable for a 1500 or 1800 calorie diet
A: Depending on your level of disability, most people can do some form of exercise to help increase the rate at which they burn up energy. You may wish to enquire about the availability of local facilities for swimming for example, or other activities specifically for people with disabilities. These will vary from place to place. If you are housebound, or in a wheelchair, I’d recommend the following book: Rosie's Armchair Exercises: A Complete Body Workout from the Comfort of Your Own Armchair – written by Rosita Evans and priced at £4.99 from Discovery Books.
Regular exercise provides a lot of benefits, apart from increasing your energy expenditure you’ll also be increasing your flexibility and muscle tone as well as improving your balance and mobility.
Remember if you haven’t exercised for some time, do consult your doctor before undertaking any strenuous exercise.
A: The simple answer is that you cannot lose 3 kg (6½ lbs) safely in one week and you need to plan this weight loss well ahead of time.
Some athletes do attempt this kind of weight loss over a short period and may only achieve it by starvation and dehydration, so that most of the weight lost is fluid, not fat, and doesn’t leave them in a very fit state to compete in their chosen sport.
To ensure that you achieve this weight loss safely you need to plan it over a month at the very least.
A healthy weight loss is about 0.5-1kg or 1-2 lb per week. To lose weight you need to take in less energy (calories) than you are using up. A difference of 500 calories a day should bring about a steady weight loss of 0.5-1kg (1-2lbs) a week, mainly from fat. This is the speed at which you should aim to lose weight because it is sustainable and should enable you to continue your normal training.
Losing weight slowly also means that you can gradually build these changes into your lifestyle, making it easier to maintain your weight long-term. Use the balance of good health on the website to choose foods from the 4 key food groups to ensure a balanced eating pattern, with plenty of variety.
There are dietitians who specialise in sports nutrition and can work with you, one on one, to help you achieve your goals in terms of weight and diet without compromising your sports performance. To find out about who could help you, contact visit www.freelancedietitians.org.
A: Yes, but not as much as people often think. When fewer calories are eaten, the body tries to conserve energy, so the metabolic rate does slow down slightly. This is usually only by 5-10%, still allowing for steady weight loss in most people. The good news is that you can offset some of this decline by exercising regularly, as this helps to retain metabolically active muscle.
A: “Detox” is short for “detoxification” and as the name suggests, it's the process by which 'toxins' (alcohol, caffeine, food additives etc) are removed by the body. These are restrictive diets, not intended for long-term use. People lose weight only because they restrict calories. There's no evidence that restricting food intake in this way will make a person healthier, or detoxify the body.
A: It sounds as if you are fed up with ‘diets’ altogether! Well, you’re not alone…
The British Dietetic Association recently conducted a poll of 4000 men and women and learnt that many of them ( 65 per cent of men and 78 per cent of woman) are constantly unhappy with their body weight. The research also revealed that a third of people in the UK end up being heavier than their original weight shortly after dieting. And a shocking 10% of people, who admitted to putting the weight back on, revealed that they ended up being up to a STONE heavier than their initial weight.
The reason for this Yo-Yo dieting appears to lie in the fact that many people are tempted by fad diets that promise fast weight loss – a quick fix approach. The problem is that these diets don’t teach you very much about regulating food or appetite, or about sensible eating. Therefore when you stop, you end up going back to your normal way of eating and put the weight back on. And sometimes even worse – you put on more weight than you lost in the first place! They can also knock your confidence in your ability to lose weight. But if you’ve been on these diets and think you have failed, you haven’t, the failure really lies with the fad diets and their impossible rules.
So avoid fad diets, start by modifying your normal eating plan, cutting portion sizes, opting for low fat foods instead of high fat varieties, try to eat three small meals a day rather than missing meals or eating one large meal in the evening. Don’t try to change everything at once, go for a few small changes at a time, whilst still allowing yourself the occasional treat.
Sometimes we over eat because of changes in our emotions and it can be useful to record why you ate a specific meal/snack/drink at a certain time, and how you were feeling. If you can pinpoint the reasons for overeating, e.g. boredom, then you can start to identify strategies for getting over these food triggers.
In order to be successful it is especially important to try to get those close to you involved in supporting you e.g. your partner, family and friends. It could be beneficial for other family members to make dietary changes too. Or you may prefer to join a slimming group, and take along a friend.
Review your current level of activity. Exercise isn’t just of benefit in helping you lose weight, it also helps to boost your confidence and helps you feel good about yourself as well as toning those muscles and increasing your energy levels. Look at ways to increase the level of physical activity in your daily life e.g. walk more often.
A: Yes there is oneprescribed drug that are used in weight management, Xenical (Orlistat). It can only be prescribed for a set period of time and are only available through your family doctor. There are certain prescribing conditions and as a result not everyone is eligible to receive them, and some people find them more helpful than others.
Please be aware that these drugs aren’t magic bullets and only help people lose modest amounts of weight to help improve their health. Orlistat, works by reducing the amount of fat your body absorbs by about one third, and must be taken with a low fat diet.
A: Vitamin supplements are no substitute for good eating habits. A diet of plenty of fruit and vegetables, rich in unrefined starchy foods and moderate amounts of dairy foods, meat and / or alternatives, should generally provide enough. Some people, however, like to take a vitamin supplement for reassurance, especially when cutting back on calories. If you do want to take a supplement, we recommend a multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides no more than the RDA (recommended daily amounts) of vitamins and minerals
A: The simple answer is no, taking vitamins by themselves will not lead to any weight loss or weight gain: they contain no calorific value.
If you wish to take a supplement as an insurance policy to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need, choose a general multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides at least 15 nutrients at levels at or below 100% EC Recommended Daily Amount. You should avoid taking several single dose supplements alongside a multi vitamin /mineral complex as you may be at risk of excessive intakes of some nutrients.