If you're overweight, losing weight will bring you a range of important health benefits. The key to success? Making realistic changes to your diet and level of physical activity that can become a part of your daily routine.
This guide can help you to start your journey towards a healthy weight. Once you’re on the way, there is lots of information and advice that can help you keep going in our Lose weight section.
Along the way, you can monitor changes in your body mass index (BMI) using our Healthy weight calculator.
Commit to Change
Modern life can make it easy to eat and drink more than we realise and do little physical activity. The result is often weight gain.
To lose weight, we need to change our current habits. This means eating less – even when eating a healthy, balanced diet – and getting more active.
Drastic fad diets and exercise regimes that result in rapid weight loss are unlikely to work for long, because these kinds of lifestyle changes can’t be maintained. Once you stop the regime, you’re likely to return to old habits and regain weight.
Instead, choose diet and physical activity changes that you can make a part of your daily routine, and stick to for life.
Ready to get started?
You can take four actions today that will start your journey towards a healthy weight:
- If you haven’t already, check your BMI with our Healthy weight calculator. If your BMI is in the overweight range, aim to achieve a weight that puts your BMI in the healthy range. If it is in the obese range, aim to lose between 5% and 10% of your starting weight. Having lots of muscle may put your BMI in the unhealthy range, even if you have little body fat. However, this will not apply to most people.
- Now take the next snack you plan to have and swap it for something healthier. Many common snacks, such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits and crisps, are high in fat and sugar and supply calories that we don’t need. Today, swap your elevenses or mid-afternoon snack for a piece of fruit, a fruit bun or a slice of malt loaf with a low-fat spread. Aim to do the same every day: you’ve adopted your first weight loss habit.
- Try to swap drinks that are high in calories for drinks that are lower in fat and sugars. Swap a sugary fiz/zy drink for a sparkling water with a slice of lemon. Don't forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down could help you to control your weight.
- Next, find a way to fit just one extra walk into your day. Fast walking is a way to burn calories, and you can often fit it into your daily routine. You might walk to the shops during your lunch break, or get off the bus one stop early on the way home and walk the rest of the way. Commit to this and you’ve adopted your second long-term habit. Ideally, you should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day: it’s not as many as it sounds. Learn more in Walking for health.
- Last, think about your breakfast tomorrow morning. Can you make it healthier, using the foods you already have at home? Get ideas in Five healthy breakfasts.
Do this week
There are four actions you can take this week:
- First, plan a healthy weekly shop. Healthy, balanced meals are key to a healthy weight, and eating a balanced diet often starts with having the right foods at home. At the supermarket look out for fresh foods and healthier options. Stuck for ideas? See our Healthy recipes.
- Everyone likes a treat occasionally, like a pizza or a takeaway. So this week, swap your treat for a healthier, home-made alternative as you can make lower-calorie versions of many takeaway foods at home. If you do order in, choose healthier options: see Healthier takeaways.
- Next, commit to one more way to increase your level of physical activity. The right amount of physical activity for you depends on your age. It’s recommended that adults between 19 and 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling – per week, and you are likely to need more to lose weight. For more on how much activity to do and what counts as activity, see Physical activity guidelines for adults. You could try our Couch to 5K programme, which is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks. For more ideas see our Health and fitness section and our step-by-step exercise guides for beginners.
- Last, identify this week’s danger zones. These are times when you might find yourself eating lots of foods that are high in fat and sugar, perhaps because you are eating out or simply because you’re tired or stressed. Plan ahead, so that you can limit those foods. But don’t be too strict: an indulgence from time to time is fine. For more advice, see Diet danger zones.