The crash diets that might have worked when you were younger will probably have less of an effect now, and can have damaging consequences for your health. Sensible, gradual weight loss will not only give your health and longevity a boost, but can also improve the way you feel about yourself.
The weight-loss plan you choose should address your health needs first, and ensure that you’re getting all the essential nutrients you need to protect your body. Most plans have the same basic components – less junk food, saturated fat and sugary cakes and sweets; more fruit and veg, healthy wholegrains and essential fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds. You’ll also need to control your portion size – most of us eat far too much! Even healthy foods contain calories, so if you eat well but are still overweight the chances are you’re eating too much.
The average woman needs around 2000 calories a day just to function (2500 for men) – but requirements drop post-menopause to around 1800 for active women. Any more than this and you’ll start putting on pounds.
To lose 1lb of body fat a week you need to shave 500 calories off your daily intake – which you can do by reducing the amount you eat, upping your activity levels or a bit of both.
Losing 1lb of fat a week might seem like a slow progress, but true weight change takes time and patience. If you lose weight rapidly you won’t be actually losing fat, it will just be water and won’t make any difference to your health. Real weight loss happens slowly at 1-2lb a week.
You might feel you have a huge way to go, but every little counts. If you lose just ten per cent of your current body weight you’ll have reduced the levels of that harmful fat around your tummy by 30 per cent – just think of the positive effect that will have on your long-term health.
How to work out if you need to lose weight
First work out if you’re a healthy weight for your height by calculating your BMI with these three simple steps:
? Work out your height in metres and multiply the figure by itself – this gives you your height squared.
? Measure your weight in kilograms.
? Divide your weight by your height squared.
For example, you might be 1.6m (5ft 3in) tall and weigh 65kg (10st 3lb). The calculation would then be: 1.6 x 1.6 = 2.56.
BMI would be 65 divided by 2.56 = 25.39.
If your BMI is between 18.5 and 25 you are a healthy weight. If you’re between 25-30 you’re overweight and if your BMI is more than 30 you are obese and are at risk of many serious health problems. Your GP surgery or your local pharmacist might be able to help you to calculate your BMI. Don’t forget that it’s not just how much fat you have but where it’s stored that counts. You might have a relatively healthy BMI, but you could be storing harmful fat around your middle.
You can also check if you are overweight by measuring your waist. Measure your waist mid-way between your last rib and the top of your hips. Breathe normally and take your measurement when you’ve exhaled – otherwise you’ll be measuring the air in your tummy, too.
If you’re a woman and your waist measurement is 33in (80cm) you’re overweight, if it’s over 35in (88cm) you’re obese. For men 37in (94cm) is overweight and 40in (102cm) is obese.
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