Weight gain occurs when you regularly eat and drink more calories than you burn through normal bodily functions and physical activity. In addition, the environment in which we live, work, travel, play, shop and eat has transformed greatly in recent decades and plays an important role in influencing our behaviour.
Eating and moving for good health is important whether you are looking to lose, gain or maintain your weight. It can benefit your physical and mental health. There are individual diet and physical activity choices that can have a positive impact on our health.
If you are interested in calculating your BMI or checking where your child lies on the centile charts you can click HERE.
Losing weight means eating fewer calories and burning more energy through physical activity.
It sounds simple. But more than 60% of adults in England are overweight or obese. Our lifestyles see many of us eating more calories than we need and not doing enough physical activity.
Do you recognise some of the causes of your weight gain in any of the following?
Food that's labelled 'low-fat'
Lots of foods in the supermarkets today are labelled "low-fat". But there's a catch, explains nutrition scientist Lisa Miles.
"In some cases, low-fat foods contain high levels of sugar. High-sugar foods can also contain lots of calories and so contribute to weight gain."...
Read more about other hidden causes of weight gain HERE
1. Don't skip breakfast
Skipping breakfast won't help you lose weight. You could miss out on essential nutrients and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you feel hungry. Check out five healthy breakfasts.
2. Eat regular meals
Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar. Find out more about eating heathily.
3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – 3 essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Read up on getting your 5 A Day.
4. Get more active
Being active is key to losing weight and keeping it off. As well as providing numerous health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can't cut through diet alone. Find an activity you enjoy and are able to fit into your routine.
5. Drink plenty of water
People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need.
6. Eat high-fibre foods
Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you to feel full, which is perfect for losing weight. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, and beans, peas and lentils.
7. Read food labels
Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options. Use the calorie information to work out how a particular food fits into your daily calorie allowance on the weight loss plan. Find out more about reading food labels.
8. Use a smaller plate
Using smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions. By using smaller plates and bowls, you may be able to gradually get used to eating smaller portions without going hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
9. Don't ban foods
Don't ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There's no reason you can't enjoy the occasional treat as long as you stay within your daily calorie allowance.
10. Don't stock junk food
To avoid temptation, try to not stock junk food – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks – at home. Instead, opt for healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn, and fruit juice.
11. Cut down on alcohol
A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate. Over time, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain. Find out more about the calories in alcohol.
12. Plan your meals
Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list.
A healthy diet and being physically active will benefit you and your unborn child during pregnancy. It will also help you to achieve a healthy weight after giving birth. Energy needs do not change in the first 6 months of pregnancy and increase only slightly in the last 3 months (and then only by around 200 calories per day). There is no need to ‘eat for 2’ or to drink full fat milk.
Optimise a healthy diet rather than focus on amount of weight gained. In the UK, there are no weight gain targets in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and your BMI is over 30kg/m², you should NOT try to reduce your weight through dieting, having a healthy diet and being physically active is important. Your health professionals caring for you will talk to you around possible increased risks and manage these risks with you during your pregnancy.
Moderate-intensity physical activity will not harm your unborn baby. At least 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity is recommended. Activities such as swimming or brisk walking are safe and beneficial. If you do not normally exercise, start with no more than 15 minutes 3 times a week, increasing gradually to 30-minute sessions daily.
If your BMI is above 30 Kg/m² and you wish to become pregnant, see your GP. Reducing your weight before pregnancy can increase your chances of becoming pregnant and continuing with a healthy pregnancy. Your GP may also advise an increased amount of folic acid to take before trying for a baby.
The Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians have published a patient information guide on Being overweight in pregnancy and after birth.
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Weighing too little can contribute to a weakened immune system, fragile bones and feeling tired.
You can check if you're underweight by using our Healthy weight calculator, which shows your body mass index (BMI).
If your BMI is below 18.5, this suggests that your weight may be too low.
If you're underweight, or are concerned that someone you know is, tell your GP or practice nurse. They can give you help and advice.
Why are you underweight?
If our healthy weight calculator has told you that you may be underweight, think about why this might be:
- Have you felt unwell? There might be an underlying medical cause for your low weight, such as an overactive thyroid.
- Have you been finding it difficult to make time to have a healthy, balanced diet with regular meals?
- Have you lost your appetite, perhaps because you're worried or stressed?
- Have you been trying to lose weight?
If diet is the cause of your low weight, changing to a healthy, balanced diet that provides the right amount of calories for your age, height and how active you are can help you achieve a healthy weight.
Aim to gain weight gradually until you reach a healthy weight.
Try to avoid relying on high-calorie foods full of saturated fat and sugar – such as chocolate, cakes and sugary drinks – to gain weight.
These foods can increase body fat instead of lean body mass and increase your risk of developing high levels of cholesterol in your blood.
Instead, aim for regular meals and occasional snacks, and base your diet on the Eatwell Guide. This means:
- Eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible.
- Having some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Have whole (full-fat) milk until you build your weight back up.
- Eating some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for two portions of fish every week – one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel.
- Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads, such as sunflower or rapeseed, and eating them in small amounts.
- Drinking plenty of fluids. The government recommends 6-8 cups/glasses a day. But try not to have drinks just before meals to avoid feeling too full to eat.
If you're having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.
Try to choose a variety of different foods from the five main food groups. Learn more about these food groups and how they form part of a healthy diet.
However, it's important to remember that the Eatwell Guide is aimed at the general population. For those who need more specialised nutrition advice, consult your GP or a registered dietitian.
If you don't eat meat, find out how to have a healthy vegetarian diet.
If you think you may have an eating disorder, talk to someone you trust and consider speaking to your GP, because help is available.
If you're concerned about someone else, find out how you can support them.
Being underweight could cause:
- Nutritional deficiencies: if you're underweight, it's likely that you're not consuming a healthy, balanced diet, which can lead to you lacking nutrients that your body needs to work properly. Calcium, for example, is important for the maintenance of strong and healthy bones. If you don't get enough calcium, you risk developing osteoporosis (fragile bone disease) in later life. If you're not consuming enough iron, you may develop anaemia, which can leave you feeling drained and tired.
- Weakened immune system: your immune system isn't 100% when you're underweight, so you're more likely to catch a cold, the flu or other infections.
- Fertility problems: women who are underweight can find that their periods stop.