Some Simple Points to Help you Lose Weight

Losing weight can be both a challenge and confusing. There are thousands of different dietary regimens which claim to be the most efficient way of dropping fat, many of which over-complicate things when keeping things simple is the best method.

Am I Overweight?

Firstly, you need to see if you are overweight in respect of holding too much body fat. There's a commonly used measurement called the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI looks at how over- or underweight you are. It's frequently referred to by doctors and life insurance companies as an assessment of disease risk. Your BMI figure gives you a value of your weight for your height and it is calculated by tables like the one here or by the equation:

BMI = weight in kilograms ÷ height in metres2

BMI is measured in kg/m2 and the table below shows what your figure indicates:

Grade 1 (overweight)25-29.9
Grade 2 (obese)30-39.9
Grade 3 (morbidly obese)>40

BMI is a great general guide to what your weight should be. However, it's not without its flaws. For instance, BMI only indicates the degree of being over- or underweight, and does not reveal if there are any problems associated with being overweight. It also makes no account for where you're holding fat on your body, e.g. around your tummy or around your backside and thighs. Furthermore, BMI does not take into account bone size and density, amount of body water and muscle mass. Bodybuilders, for instance, may be classed as 'obese', when it's muscle that's causing their high BMI, not fat. Therefore, when using BMI you need to use a degree of objectivity.

How Much do I Need to Eat to Lose Weight?

Now, through objectively looking at your BMI and the result is that you are overweight, let's look at how much you need to eat to lose some unwanted body fat. The simplest way of working this out is by seeing how many calories you need. Calories are a unit of measuring energy and, if you consume too many calories, you'll gain weight, and too few calories, you'll lose weight. Although the metric unit for measuring energy is kilojoules (kJ), calories are the more commonly used unit when speaking about food; although when we use the word 'calories', strictly speaking we mean kilocalories and the abbreviation is kcal.

This calorie counter is a useful tool to use to work out how many calories you need in a day. The average adult male needs around 2,300 - 2,700 calories and the average adult female around 1,850 - 2175 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, depending on age, build and activities (1). These figures are based on averages and give a basic guide on what you need; consuming a calorie intake less than this will help you lose weight. However, although these amounts may be typical for many of us, they are not the case for everyone and you may still find it hard to lose weight.

Use the following figures to help guide you in the right direction: Approximately 3,500 calories equates to 1 lb of body fat; therefore, if you consume 500 calories per day less than your requirements you'll lose about 1 lb of body fat per week. The same applies for exercise: if you exercise to burn off an additional 500 calories worth of energy per day, you'll lose about 1 lb of body fat in a week. So if you do both, you can lose 2 lbs per week - a very realistic and achievable goal.

What About Exercise?

There's no doubt about it, if you do some exercise you will lose weight more quickly and efficiently, plus there are other health benefits. Start by doing some light cardiovascular exercise (e.g. running, cycling, walking, etc) for 30-45 minutes two or three times per week. You can use gym equipment like treadmills, steppers, cross-trainers and exercise bikes all of which are great. If you feel up to it, you may wish to also include some light weight training to speed up your metabolism. If a gym is not your thing, then going out for a brisk walk, jog or bike ride will be just as effective. Remember, you're not only burning calories while you're doing the exercise, but your metabolism is raised for maybe as much as one or two hours afterwards.

Some people find regular exercise hard, especially if you're really overweight. In which case, just try to be more active in general. Simple things like tidying and cleaning, gardening, walking to the shops rather than driving, using stairs instead of lifts and washing your car all involve you raising your heart rate and will use energy. List of calories burned while doing certain activities.

How Do I know I'm Eating the Right Foods?

At the same time as consuming fewer calories than you're using, you have to ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need from your food for good health. Eating a balanced, varied diet with a range of different foods will ensure you're getting all you need. For information on the macronutrients see here.

To keep it simple, include foods from the following groups:

  • Protein foods: for example, meat, fish, beans, lentils, Quorn, tofu. Have a serving of these at two meals each day.
  • Starchy carbohydrate foods: for example potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, oats, cereals, quinoa, couscous. Have a serving of these at three meals per day. However, as you're trying to lose weight, you will need to keep portion sizes of these quite small.
  • Fruit and vegetables: all fruit and veg are good for you. You should have at least five servings per day. However, if you're trying to lose weight, opt for more veg than fruit and keep fruit to two of the five per day. Have loads of veg - make it a major part of each meal - it will help fill you up. Don't feel you have to only have five portions: more is even better!
  • Milk and dairy products or vegan alternatives. This is for protein and calcium, amongst other nutrients. Include at least one serving of milk or dairy products each day. If you're vegan, then you can use calcium-enriched soya or coconut milk, or make sure you're having more pulses.
  • There is another group, the one that includes everything else: cakes, biscuits, fast food, sweets, crisps, etc. There is no nutritional need for these foods and you should only have them as treats.

What About Drinking?

We advise you to drink plenty of fluid every day. This can be in the form of water, tea, coffee, green tea, diet sodas or sugar-free cordial. Include at least seven or eight cups of fluid per day.

Alcoholic drinks are empty calories, i.e. they contain little nutrition other than calories. Sure, you can enjoy the odd drink, but drinking alcohol will slow down weight loss.

Losing Weight Sounds Simple!

We might have made the advice above sound very simple for you to lose weight, and we're sure many of you have tried to lose weight many times before with little success. It can be hard to get motivated and stay motivated: changing the way you eat isn't easy and you might get hungry, feel low in energy and have low enthusiasm to exercise. This is why a structured meal plan is important (see below). Weight loss may be slowed down further as your metabolic rate changes as you lose weight: this is nature's way of holding on to your energy stores. But the good news is, there are ways to raise your metabolism: these include sticking to a good daily routine in respect of eating, consuming small regular meals and exercising frequently.

The amount of weight people wish to lose varies and depends on how overweight they are before starting a weight loss regimen, but the following are useful general guides, nutritionally balanced for weight loss to suit those in a sedentary job: male weight loss plan; female weight loss plan.

(1) British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition Requirements. 2016.