It’s not difficult to believe that some of the most searched Nutrition questions usually have something to do with weight, specifically weight loss. Whether it’s “What is a healthy weight”, or “How do I lose weight”, or “How do I gain weight”. As a society most of us are obsessed with our weight and body composition.
This isn’t healthy for many reasons. The main one is that we are all individual and a healthy weight for you is different from a healthy weight for someone else. They could even be the same height, gender, and age, but many biological factors will determine what a healthy weight for you is.
Genes play a major role in maintaining a healthy weight and how easy you can lose weight. They determine your
- metabolic rate (how fast you burn calories).
- Your body composition, which is mainly what percentage of your body is fat and what percentage is muscle and where the fat stored are mainly located, so your size and shape.
- Your frame which is your bone structure. You might have broad shoulders and wide hip bones or rounded shoulders and small hip bones.
Basically, we are all unique and because of this there is no such thing as the ‘perfect body’. Someone can be tall or short, stocky, or lanky, petite or curvy and as long as you feel good about yourself and you are healthy that is the perfect body for you.
Ok, so now that I’ve done the little ‘pep talk’ let’s get down to what you should and shouldn’t do if you want to lose weight the healthy way, because the healthy way is the only way that will work long term.
The ‘Must Knows’ For Healthy Weight Loss
- First off if you aren’t sure what weight you should be. Maybe you’ve been trying to lose weight through diets all your life and bot getting anywhere. This is quite common so don’t worry! Your doctor, Dietitian or a qualified Nutritionist can help you there. Avoid cutting back on a load of calories because very low-calorie diet can not only lead to nutrition deficiencies. They are also unsustainable and can lead to obsessive behaviour when it comes to food. So, not good. They will calculate your BMI, waist and hip circumference, check location of body fat and ask questions about your diet and lifestyle. A doctor might also take blood samples to check things like cholesterol, blood triglycerides and blood sugar levels.
- Something you need to be aware of is that BMI and simply weighing yourself doesn’t really paint the full picture. The reason is that muscle weights more than fat. So, if you take a pro athlete who is muscular their calculated BMI would probably be over 30kg/m2, which is in the obese category. That’s why BMI should be done with other measurements like waist and hip circumference. Females should aim for a wasit measurement under 35” and for men under 40”. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous as it increases the risk of developing many chronic conditions like type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure.
- There is such a thing as being ‘Skinny fat’. This refers to people who have a normal weight and BMI, but their body’s fat % is high. This is most seen in young people who consume a diet high in ultra-processed foods and low in whole foods. They also do little to no physical activity. I think this is the worst type of obesity because the damage being done is invisible…until it’s too late. These ‘skinny fat’ people have the same risk of developing chronic diseases as regular overweight and obese people have, yet they can’t see there is an issue. Also, if you can physically see your weight is not under control you are more likely to try and do something about it. That is why this idea that because someone is naturally slim, they can eat loads of junk food and still be healthy is not true!
- Have you ever looked at a shop mannequin and thought the outfit looks amazing on them, then you try it on…? That has happened me quite a few times! Measurements for the average female shop mannequin is 5ft 11” with a 34” bust, 24” – 26” waist and a 36” hips. Only 5% of women in the US have those measurements! A study carried out by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society on mannequin body size in high street fashion stores found the average mannequin size for both men and women were those of a seriously underweight person (Robinson and Aveyard, 2017). Thankfully things are slowly changing in that department and we are seeing more variety in mannequin shapes and sizes.
- Staying active is just as important as good Nutrition when it comes to losing or maintaining your weight. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle your body requires less energy (calories). Unfortunately, we usually still feel hunger, so we end up consuming more calories than we burn off and that’s when weight gain happens. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t like getting sweaty in the gym or running or walking there are so many ways to stay active. Al you have tp do ids find the one that you enjoy. For me it’s dance and because of dance I also discovered I enjoy Pilates and Yoga. You’ll know you’ve found the right type of exercise for you when you feel sad if you don’t like having to reschedule or miss a class or session!
- Food environment is important, you need to set yourself up for success not failure. Many things can trigger emotional eating. You can still enjoy a bowl of ice-cream or a warm mug of hot chocolate after a hard day at work/college is 100% ok. When the bowl of ice-cream becomes a tub and the mug of hot chocolate is followed by a bar of chocolate, and family size bag of Doritos and a bag of Haribo’s! The best thing you can do is NOT TO BUT THESE FOODS! Don’t have them in the house except for special occasions. Fill your presses with wholesome snacks and foods. I honestly don’t agree with having a biscuit press or a sweetie press unless it’s out of the way. Sweets and biscuits shouldn’t be treats. Include them into you diet in small amounts. Especially with kids. If they see sweets as treats, they are going to want them all the time. Use non-food items as treats.
- Get enough sleep. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about Nutrition and exercise. Getting enough good quality sleep plays a major role as well. You should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night. It don’t get enough sleep it can lead to weight gain. This is because when we are tired from lack of seep our body produces more of the hunger hormone Ghrelin which makes us eat more calories.
- Hormones and healthy conditions paly a role in maintaining a healthy weight. Like I mentioned above there are hormones that control our hunger and fullness. Ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone and Leptin, which is the fullness hormone. Some people are unbalanced in these hormones. Underactive thyroid is also a cause of weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight. The Thyroid gland produces a hormone called Thyroxine which regulates your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, how fast your body burns calories. Cortisol is the stress hormones released by the Adrenal glands. Chronic stress can lead to weight gain as Cortisol causes fat to be deposited especially around the abdominal area. Other conditions that cause weight gain include Cushing’s Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Prader Willi Syndrome.
- Eat a balanced diet with plenty of wholegrain carbs for fibre (25-38g at least), fruit and vegetables of as many different colours as you can. Try to fill ½ your plate with vegetables when you can. Plenty of lean protein sources like poultry, eggs, low fat dairy, nuts, tofu, legumes. Healthy fat sources like oily fish, avocados, olive oil, rapeseed oil and other vegetable oils. Drink enough water, 1200mls – 2000mls per day at the very least.
Some Things You Should Avoid With Weight Loss
Diets and quick fixes. Did you know that about 90% of diets don’t work! Diet culture is toxic and sadly it has figured out how to disguise itself. Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet, The blood type diet. Not to mention all those crazy detox diets and juice cleanses that don’t work. Check out my video on Det diets for more. Basically, if it sounds too good to be true like “Get the perfect body in 6 weeks” or “lose x amount of weight in 2 weeks” it’s something I really advise you to avoid. Also, any diet that wants you to buy special products associated with it is something you need to be weary of.
Don’t deprive yourself of good food. You don’t earn food. Food is essential for life even if you are trying to lose weight. If you find it really difficult to stay away from the more highly processed foods try a method called ‘crowding’. Instead of cutting out foods you add in more healthy foods. The theory is it will ‘crowd out’ the other foods because you won’t have as much room for them. High fibre foods are great for those as fibre really fills you up and keeps you fuller fir longer. That’s why if you were to only pick one thing for weight loss I would suggest increasing your fibre intake.
Try not to compare your weightless to other people’s weight loss. I know support groups are great, but your weight loss journey is not going to be the same as anyone else’s so comparing yourself to others is not good for you. You can discuss new foods you’ve tried, share recipes, meet up for meals, go for exercise, just don’t discuss weight or measurements. I think the best way to compliment someone is maybe say how ‘healthy’ they are looking. Even if you notice the person has lost a lot of weight it’s best not to comment on it unless they bring it up themselves, as you don’t know where they are on their journey.
Lastly a healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds (045kg to 0.9kg) per is considered healthy. Losing too much weight too fast is not healthy and usually diets that cause rapid weight loss are unsustainable. If you do need to lose a lot of weight fast for health reasons you need to be supervised by a doctor (Dr Hensrud, 2020).
Duyff, R. l. (2017) ‘Reach and Maintain Your Healthy Weight’, in Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. 5th edn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 625=648.
Robinson, E. and Aveyard, P. (2017) ‘Emaciated mannequins: a study of mannequin body size in high street fashion stores’, Journal of Eating Disorders, 5, p. 13. doi:10.1186/s40337-017-0142-6.
Dr Hensrud, D. (2020) Fast weight loss: What’s wrong with it?, Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/fast-weight-loss/faq-20058289 (Accessed: 5 October 2021).