Some people find it easy, but most of us have to work hard at staying somewhere between being over or under the ideal weight. If you can find the right weight for your body, it can have a positive effect on your health, well-being and happiness.

Why is weight so important?

Keeping your weight within a healthy range for your height can help significantly reduce your risk of such things as heart disease, certain types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, painful joints, back pain and osteoarthritis. It is important to be heavy enough for your height, as well as remaining underneath recognised obesity levels.

But everyone has a unique combination of factors that determine their weight, which is why it’s sometimes difficult to say what’s ‘ideal’. Your weight can depend on your family history, your genes, whether or not you smoke, your diet and how active you are. Around the world, medical professionals now use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine whether someone is over or under the recommended weight:

Body Mass Index graph

You can calculate your own BMI from this chart by reading from the scale at the point where your height and weight cross. If you fall within the ‘OK’ band, then you’re a healthy adult weight for your height. It’s a good estimate, though you should make allowances if you are pregnant, frail, very athletic or muscular. Children’s BMI is calculated using a different chart.

Aren’t there any other guides to weight?

Everyone is different, though it is generally true that gaining fat around your abdomen tends to increase your risks of certain health problems. If the circumference of your waist is more than 80cm (32in) for women and 94cm (37in) for men, you’ll have an increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes or diabetes.

How can I alter my weight, safely?

Simple changes to your lifestyle can help you to adjust your weight. The important thing to remember is that a positive change will be the one you can maintain over a long period of time. If you have any existing health concerns we recommend a check-up with your GP before undertaking any changes to your normal diet or exercise plan.

  • The secret to adjusting your weight is to set achievable goals, such as losing 5% of your current weight over a six month period.
  • Being well motivated will help you set and reach those goals.
  • To make permanent changes to your weight, you may need to adjust more than your diet – a change in lifestyle and exercise habits will also help.
  • Whatever your target, it’s better to adjust your weight slowly. That way, you’re more likely to maintain your new weight when you reach it.
  • Remember that dramatic changes in diet are difficult to maintain. The most effective diet is one you can stick to – such as a small variation in the number of calories you consume each day.
  • Keeping a food diary is an excellent way to find out how much you eat, and what kinds of food make up your diet.
  • Don’t forget that modifying what you eat is only part of the solution to a healthier lifestyle. Becoming more active, avoiding nicotine and keeping your alcohol within recommended levels are all ways to improve your all-round health.

Fast facts

  • Don’t forget that your weight fluctuates during the day. It can also change significantly during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • If you’d like to lose weight, set achievable goals. Most people can reduce their calorie intake easily by 500 calories a day, with a reduction in portion sizes.

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