It’s not unusual to want to lose weight, especially if you know the health risks associated with being overweight. If this is you, know that you are not alone. As a nation – our waistlines are out of control. The NHS says 26% of British adults are now obese, and this figure looks set to increase.
Don’t worry though! However elusive and complicated it may seem, weight loss can be achieved by almost anyone. You just need to get clued up on the science behind losing weight and implement long-term lifestyle changes and you should start to lose the lbs.
We have written this guide to help you discover the best weight loss tips for you and your lifestyle – it’s different for everybody. Hopefully it will help you identify the actions you need to take to step off those dreaded scales for good!
Do I need to lose weight?
This is an important question to ask yourself before you set off on your weight loss journey. Just because you dream of a flat stomach or smaller thighs, it doesn’t mean weight loss should be your goal.
If you are at a healthy weight already, there is no reason you should be trying to lose weight to fit a certain body ideal – which in the world of ‘perfect’ social media influencers and airbrushed models can be downright dangerous. Being underweight can be just as – or more – harmful as being overweight.
Genes play a massive part in the shape of our bodies, so while you may long for a completely flat stomach or slim arms and legs, it doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your wellbeing in the pursuit of this. Your body simply may never look like that, and that’s ok. Health should be your goal.
However, in light of all that, being overweight or obese can have serious health consequences. You have an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers. This is the real reason you should be aiming to get to and maintain a healthy weight.
But how can you tell if you are actually overweight? Here are some proven, common ways to identify if you are at a healthy weight.
BMI: Body Mass Index
One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re at a healthy weight is to calculate your BMI.
Simply divide your weight (kilograms) by your height (metres), then divide the answer by your height again.
E.g. 70kg divided by 1.7m = 41.17 . 41.17 divided by 1.7m = 24.22 (a healthy weight)
A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25, overweight is between 25 and 29.9, and anything over 30 is obese.
If you are overweight, it may be time to look at your eating habits and activity levels to identify why you may have gained weight. The same goes for being underweight or obese; in these instances, it may be worth going to see your GP for some help and advice.
The limitations of BMI
Although your BMI can reveal how much ‘extra’ weight you are carrying, it can’t tell you if you have too much fat. This is because it goes off a single measurement: weight, which is an accumulation of our muscles, bones and fat. It also doesn’t take age or gender into account.1
This can result in:
- Very muscular adults and athletes being classed as ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’, even though they have a very low body fat percentage.
- Adults who have lost muscle mass as they get older may get a ‘healthy weight’ result but may actually have a lot of excess fat.
However: BMI is perhaps the most straightforward and easy way to assess your weight and is a good indicator of health in a lot of cases. You just need to be aware of the limitations.
Does waist size matter?
Yes. Measuring your waist is a good way to see if you’re carrying excess fat around your stomach – and consequently, your internal organs. Having too much fat in this area could put you at a higher risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, this means that even if you have a ‘healthy’ BMI, your health could still be at risk.2
Here’s how to measure your waist:
- Find the top of your hips and the bottom of your ribs – a mirror may be helpful.
- Get a tape measure and wrap it around your waist midway between these 2 points.
- Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement.
You should try to lose weight if your waist measures:
- 80cm (31.5 inches) or more for women
- 94cm (37 inches) or more for men
You are classed as a very high risk and should contact your GP if your waist measures:
- 88cm (34 inches) or more for women
- 102cm (40 inches) or more for men
However: some people have ‘apple’ shaped bodes, which means that your body naturally carries more weight around the midsection, whatever your weight. So, if that is you, there may not be a lot you can do about your shape, but you can reduce your body fat to reduce your risk of disease.
The most common reasons why you may be overweight
Lack of exercise, processed foods, and poor sleep have all been linked to weight gain, here’s some perspective into some of the lifestyle factors linked to being overweight.3
Eating too many calories
Calories, aka kcals, are the units we use to measure energy in food. Our bodies burn a certain number of calories every day, which is dictated by a number of factors including our height, weight and activity levels.
Read more: How many calories should I eat a day?
Our bodies are very efficient, they will save every last calorie we don’t use as fuel throughout the day for when we need it next. However, these ‘extra’ calories are saved as ‘extra’ fat, and if we end up doing this regularly, weight gain is inevitable.
Think of it like this: when we were hunter gatherers, we wouldn’t always have access to food, so when we got it, we had the option to overeat and ‘save’ some food in our bodies for a day when food supplies were low.
Now, most of us fortunate to live in a developed country have access to regular food and will rarely have to skip meals, so this function is not so essential. If we overeat – like we are hardwired to do to an extent – our excess fat is more likely to stick around.
In recent years, technology has also had a big impact on our lifestyle habits – computers, mobile phones and games consoles all give us fewer reasons to get up and move around.
Pair this with the popularity of office jobs where we’re required to sit around all day, and it turns out a lot of use don’t move as much as we should!
Sedentary lifestyles can easily cause us to gain weight because we burn a lot less calories sitting around than if we were on our feet all day. Making sure to include regular exercise in our lives is essential to combat this – very modern – phenomenon.
Our busy lives are also very stressful, a major cause of weight gain. Within a few minutes of being stressed the body releases cortisol, which leads to blood sugar cravings and weight gain. A muffin top is a sure sign your extra weight is stress-induced; the liver turns excess sugar into fat, and the liver’s first port of call for storing fat is around the middle.
Read more: 9 alternative stress management techniques
It is often said that as we age, our metabolisms slow down and cause us to gain weight; it’s a myth. The fact is, as we get older we tend to be less active and eat more, and that’s why we put on weight.
How to lose weight healthily: 17 healthy habits
The best way to lose weight for most people is to implement healthy, long-term lifestyle changes. Fad diets and ‘how to lose weight quickly’ schemes may give you fast results, but they’re often very unhealthy and unsuccessful in the long run.
Think about how many times you have signed up for the newest weight loss craze only to see fleeting results and end up putting all the weight back on after a few weeks. Not fun. Not healthy.
Here are some weight loss tips that could help you get to a healthy weight:
1. Get moving
One of the best ways to lose weight is to exercise regularly.4 The beauty of exercise is that there are so many different types of it, so you can find one you enjoy. Whether it’s running, walking the dog, tennis, swimming, hiking or lifting heavy in the gym, they all burn calories and get those muscles pumped.
Plus, if you build muscle, you’ll also boost your resting metabolism – the rate at which your body burns calories at rest. You’ll also boost production of the feel-good chemical serotonin, increasing your happiness levels, making overeating less likely.
Here are some of the best workouts to lose weight:
HIIT training: high-intensity interval training is one of the best things you can do to burn fat and lose weight. It requires you to work at a high level of intensity and use a wide range of muscles for a short time and is followed by a brief rest period. Try this 15-minute HIIT workout plan you can do at home.
Weightlifting: building muscle often produces fat loss and some people prefer weight training to cardio – who doesn’t want to feel strong?! You can start off with light weights and increase them when you’re used to them and they become easy to lift. Here are some of the best exercises to lose weight.
Remember: if you are weight training or starting a new exercise regime, your body will likely cling on to some water weight, at least in the beginning, which can make the scale go up. Building muscle doesn’t always result in weight loss either – but you may lose inches.
This is because 1lb of muscle will take up less room than 1lb of fat, yet they weigh the same. Try taking measurements of your waist, hips, chest and other areas so you have non-scale ways to track your progress.
2. Base your weight loss diet around healthy choices
The best diet for weight loss should act as a stepping stone to a healthier lifestyle. But it can seem like quite a daunting and difficult task to figure out what to eat to lose weight. It shouldn’t be hard though and you don’t have to follow an elaborate or expensive diet to lose weight.
You can start to make healthy choices like including more complex carbohydrates, healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables and other known weight loss foods, as well as cutting down on alcohol and ‘treats’, and exercising more.
Read more: Can protein powder shakes help weight loss?
Then, if you aren’t losing weight, fat or inches by doing this, you may need to actively reduce your calories or exercise more. Both of these measures make sure your body is burning more calories than you’re eating a day.
3. Create a calorie deficit for weight loss
The science of how a calorie deficit will help you lose weight.5
The number of calories your body needs to maintain its weight is determined by your basal metabolic rate plus calories expended through physical activity.
Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is calculated as follows:
(0.0621 X your body weight in kg + 2.0357) X 240
This figure is then multiplied by an activity level to create your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure):
- Sedentary lifestyle = BMR x 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
- Lightly active = BMR x 1.375 (light exercise / sports 1-3 days/week)
- Moderately active = BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise / sports 6-7 days a week)
- Very active = BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise every day, or exercising 2 x/ day)
- Extra active = BMR x 1.9 (hard exercise 2 or more times per day, or training for marathon, triathlon, etc.)6
If you want to lose weight, you need to decrease this by 3500 kcal per pound of weight you want to lose. Obviously, you need to spread that out, because losing weight quickly is not very healthy and could be dangerous.
Aim for a 500kcal deficit to lose 1lb a week or 1000kcal to lose 2lb a week.
TDEE – 500kcal = roughly 1lb of weight loss per week.
You may need to play around with the figures a little because these are only estimates and our metabolisms are very unique. Try it for a few weeks and then think about adjusting it if you don’t lose weight.
4. Stop guessing portion sizes
Eating too much is guaranteed to make you put on weight. Stock your kitchen with portioned foods in serving containers ahead of time, so you’ve always got food to hand that’s ready to eat in the right-sized amounts when you’re hungry.
You could also invest in some food scales to help you better understand the portions you should be eating, and the nutrition contained in them.7
5. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating encourages us to focus on what you’re consuming. Pause for a few moments to focus on the experience of eating and your sense of satiety. This helps switch off the appetite centre in the brain when you’re full, so you can lose weight more easily.
Read more: What is mindful eating?
6. Listen to your body
If you are hungry in the morning, don’t deprive yourself of breakfast just because you’ve heard it will help you lose weight. In the same way, don’t force yourself to have a huge breakfast – or any meal – for that matter.
Try to eat intuitively to an extent: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If that means having your dinner at 8pm, do it. As long as you’re burning more calories than you’re eating, you will lose weight/fat/inches.
7. Create a routine
Eating at regular times during the day could help you feel full throughout the day and help you to reduce unnecessary snacking.
8. Eat your fruit and veggies
Fruit and veg are some of the best foods to eat to lose weight.8 Most of our favourite fruits are low in calories and fat, and full of vitamins and minerals. Make sure you include them in your everyday diet to bulk up your meals and see if they can replace your unhealthy snacks. Dried fruits are great for snacking on and convenient.
9. Go for high-fibre foods
Fibre-rich foods like fruit and veg, wholegrain breads, oats, brown rice and pasta, peas and lentils and beans can help you stay feeling full for longer. Including these foods in your meals will should help keep the snacking and midnight munchies at bay.
Did you know? There is a water-soluble fibre used to help people lose weight called glucomannan, which expands in the stomach to help people feel full. You can take it as a drink or as diet versions of your favourite carbs like rice.
10. Try a smaller plate
If the plates and bowls you eat your meals from are smaller, you may find portion control easier. For most people, enjoying a full bowl of food is a lot more satisfying than serving up a smaller-than-usual portion on a large plate.
Did you know? It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain its full, so eating slower could be key for your weight loss.
11. Don’t ban any foods
Banning foods, especially ‘unhealthy’ ones that you like, will probably just make you crave them even more. There is no reason you can’t have an occasional treat if it fits into your daily calorie allowance. It’s better to indulge in the foods you love every so often instead of banning them and then binging on them.
So, go on and enjoy that dessert or takeaway when you want it. It’s all about creating balance between the food you eat and the activity you do.
12. Don’t stock up on junk food
Instead of keeping a cupboard full of tempting junk food like biscuits, crisps and chocolate, get some healthy snacks in. Keep a little stock of popcorn, fruit juice, fruit, oat cakes, rice cakes and other healthy snacks on hand instead for when the munchies hit.
13. Cut down your alcohol content
Do you know how many calories are in your favourite alcoholic drinks? Sometimes they contain more than your standard chocolate bar! So, it’s smart to keep this in mind when you’re trying to lose weight.
Alcohol is unlikely to help and just adds to your daily calories in a big way. However, if you do fancy a drink, stick to clear spirits for a lower-calorie option. G & ‘slimline T’ anybody?
14. Drink lots of water
Find yourself feeling hungry when you’ve not long eaten a meal? Sometimes we feel hungry when we are dehydrated.9 The best thing to do is try to stay hydrated all day so we don’t confuse the two and overeat when a glass of water is what we really wanted.
15. Get lean with coffee
Research has revealed those taking a green coffee bean extract lost just over a stone, or 10 per cent of their body weight. It’s thought a compound called chlorogenic acid, found in the unroasted beans, may influence glucose and fat metabolism.
The caffeine in cups of coffee may help you to lose weight too. Try swapping your lattes and cappuccinos for americanos or filter coffees to cut down on calories while still enjoying the energy boost and potential weight loss benefits.
Get sipping and see what weight loss coffee benefits you discover!
16. Check out the green tea weight loss benefits
Numerous studies have shown green tea can help you lose weight. It’s thought the fragrant cuppa could help the body burn calories and fat. What’s not to like?!
17. Try a fat burner
If you are doing all the above and want to lose weight fast, a fat burner could be a valuable addition to your weight loss plan. Fat burners are products that can help accelerate weight loss with the help of natural ingredients and stimulants that may cause your body to burn more calories alongside a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Last updated: 23 July 2020
2 As above