Expert advice to help you maintain a healthy weight
Dissatisfied with your weight?
We're bombarded with scare stories about weight, from size zero to the obesity 'epidemic'. But a healthy weight is determined by different factors for each of us. Our expert advice is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, life-enhancing weight.
Overweight or underweight?
Being the right weight has a positive effect on wellbeing but also on our health, as being the wrong weight can cause a range of medical problems.
Eating well and drinking sensibly are good investments for your immediate health.
Why good nutrition matters
By eating a nutritious diet and being physically active, you can maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk of developing diet-related illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
Some of the most important risk factors for premature death in adults are:
Raised blood cholesterol
Raised blood pressure
Excessive alcohol intake
With the exception of smoking, applying the principles of healthy eating and being more physically active can make a significant impact on all of these risk factors.
What is a healthy diet?
To understand how you can eat healthily, it's important to know which types of food to consume and why. Your body requires a well-balanced diet, with a good supply of carbohydrates, especially high-fibre foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, some protein, low-fat dairy products and plenty of fluid. The best way to get the right balance is to follow the principles of healthy eating shown on the Food Standards Agency's 'eatwell plate' at www.eatwell.gov.uk.
Why don't we eat healthily?
A consumer survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency revealed that knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet is actually quite high. Most of the adults surveyed knew which kinds of food they should be eating more of, such as fruit and vegetables, or less of, such as fat and salt.
But data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, published in 2003, shows that UK adults eat too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, not enough dietary fibre and, on average, their fruit and vegetable intake is fewer than three portions a day.
The rising number of people becoming overweight also tells us that, for a variety of reasons, this knowledge about diet is not being translated into positive action to achieve a healthier diet.
Some media coverage of healthy eating habits can make it seem as though a healthy diet will be incredibly difficult to achieve - either very expensive or not very tasty. But it's possible, with a few simple changes, to make your diet significantly healthier and reduce your risk of illness without it being an onerous task (see the Balance of good health article for details). There are lots of different things you can do, so approach the changes one at a time.
Everyone should be eating a variety of food to achieve a healthy diet, but some nutrition issues are more specific to men or women.
Nutrition issues for men
While both sexes need to maintain a healthy body weight, men in particular should be wary of excess weight. In men, extra pounds tend to be stored around the tummy. Sometimes referred to as abdominal fat, this increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes to a greater extent than fat stored on the hips and thighs, which is more typical for women.
This risk of abdominal obesity is even greater for men of Afro-Caribbean and Asian origin.