This article discusses Maintaining Healthy Body Weight for Adults. To learn more about a Healthy Body Size for Children read this excellent article by Health Navigator.
Being a healthy weight can improve our quality of life as well as help us to live longer. Maintaining a healthy body weight makes moving around easier, and is kinder to our hearts, muscles and bones. It also lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In simple terms, weight gain happens when we eat and drink more than the amount of energy we use. Consuming more energy (kilojoules/calories), than you burn no matter what food it comes from, leads to weight gain. However, genetics, medical conditions, medications, socioeconomic status all play a role in determining your body size. Different people can eat the same food and do the same physical activity and yet be at different body sizes.
Body size is just one marker of health, other more important markers include
One way of measuring weight status is BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI has four categories, indicating whether a person is underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. It is calculated using your weight and height measurements.
However, your BMI doesn’t take into account your body composition (amount of fat and muscle) or where the fat is stored.
Waist measurement is a better tool as it measures the amount of abdominal fat (fat stored around your waist) which is a risk factor for heart disease present in the body. A good rule of thumb is that a healthy waist measurement should be less than half your height – for children as well as adults.
Learn more about your BMI and waist measurement.
If you are concerned about your weight, it is worth talking to your GP. They can recommend extra tests e.g., cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels to learn more about your risk of disease.
Weight loss between 0.5kg -1kg per week is considered safe and sustainable, keeping in mind that that weight loss will be slower if you have a smaller amount to lose.
There are certain conditions where is it is unsafe to lose weight (regardless of your starting weight)
In older age groups (70+), a higher BMI can actually be protective- e.g., extra fat tissue can help cushion falls. Always speak to your doctor before making significant dietary and lifestyle changes.
We recommend slow steady weight loss by making small changes to your eating habits – it took a long time for the extra kilograms to be put on, it will take as long (or longer) to lose them. Small but consistent changes have been found to be effective in keeping those extra kilograms off in the long term.
Diets encouraging you to cut out a large number of foods, such as very low carbohydrate diets, may result in quick weight loss initially but are unlikely to be a long-term solution. These types of diets may also be low in fibre, vitamins and minerals, putting you at risk nutritionally. Speak to a dietitian before starting any restrictive diets.
Using the Healthy Plate Model is a great way to ensure you are getting a good balance of different nutrients
Note these are general recommendations and may need to be tweaked depending on the individual. A dietitian or registered nutritionist can offer you personalized recommendations to support sustainable weight loss and optimize the quality of your diet.
Being active not only supports weight loss efforts but also strengthens your heart, and your bones and improves mental health. Be more active in every part of your day – around the house, at school, or at work as it all adds up. Ideally aim for 30 minutes or more of activity every day. Aim for a mix of resistance (weight-bearing) exercise and cardio (walking, running) throughout the week. Planned activity helps you be even more active. As your fitness improves, gradually increase the amount. Whatever exercise you choose, it must be fun and enjoyable to keep you motivated. Read our physical activity page for more information and some activity ideas.
Last reviewed: 3 August 2022
Last modified: August 2, 2022