At the start of a new year, many of us are focussed on adopting a healthy diet, losing some of that extra weight from the festive period and getting fitter, healthier and happier.
And with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicating that one quarter of children and adolescents and nearly two-thirds of adults in Australia are regarded as overweight or obese, it’s no surprise that losing weight and eating better tops people’s New Year’s Resolution lists each year.
In this month’s blog, we look at the safest way to lose weight and adopt a healthier diet in 2019.
According to the World Health Organisation, overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.
Body mass index (BMI) is the calculation most often used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. Your BMI is determined by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres (kg/m2).
The BMI calculation is most often used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. Your BMI is determined by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres (kg/m2).
For adults, a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is considered overweight while a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is regarded as obesity.
In children, age must also be considered when defining overweight and obesity.
To calculate your own BMI, click here >>
Australian’s Weigh-In Fifth Overall
Australia’s measured obesity rate ranks fifth among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and is a major public health issue in Australia.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:
- One-quarter of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
- Nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and obesity is on the rise.
- Overall, 71% of men compared to 56% of women are overweight or obese.
- A greater proportion of men (42%) than women (29%) are overweight but not obese, while a similar proportion of men (28%) and women (27%) are obese.
- Indigenous Australians and those living outside major cities or who are in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to be overweight or obese.
- Overweight and obesity has high health and financial costs. In 2011, it was responsible for 7% of Australia’s health burden (63% of which was fatal) and is estimated to have cost the Australian economy $8.6 billion.
- If all Australian’s at risk of disease due to overweight or obesity reduced their BMI by 3kg, the overall health impact of excess weight would drop substantially.
- For those with a BMI registering as overweight or obese, maintaining any weight loss is critical for long-term health gains.
Taking a Healthy Approach to Weight Loss
While there are numerous quick-fix fad diets out there promising to help people lose weight, these are not always healthy, long-term solutions.
There are three key steps you can take to help you on your way towards healthy weight loss and improved nutrition.
1. Talk to Your GP
The best first step to weight loss and adopting a healthier diet is to talk to your GP. They know your medical history and can work with you to develop suitable weight loss strategies. They can also recommend an accredited practising dietitian, if required.
Make sure you speak with your GP before embarking on any weight loss program. This will ensure your planned approach to losing weight is not going to impact any pre-existing medical conditions or prescription medicines you may be taking.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and adopting healthy eating patterns can help you to achieve healthy weight loss. In addition, it can provide other health benefits including increased energy, better sleep and reduced risk of depression.
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, many of the health problems caused by poor diets are the result of an excessive intake of foods that are high in energy, saturated fat, added sugars and/or added salt but low in nutrients. For example, fried and fatty take-away, baked products like pastries, cakes and biscuits, savoury snacks like chips, and sugar-sweetened drinks.
The Guidelines recommend a wide variety of nutritious foods. This includes eating vegetables, legumes/beans, fruit and wholegrain cereals every day to promote health and wellbeing and protect against chronic disease. Choosing foods from the five food groups and avoiding foods high in added sugar, salt and fat is one simple way to make long-lasting changes to your eating patterns.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends:
- Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit (including different types and colours).
- Enjoying reduced fat varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese.
- Eating mainly wholegrain cereal foods and breads.
- Eating lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans.
- Drinking plenty of water instead of sugary drinks, like soft drinks, or alcohol.
- Watching the amount of food you eat to make sure you aren’t eating too much.
- Cutting back on foods high in added sugar, salt and fat (such as potato chips, biscuits, chocolates and cakes).
- Planning interesting meals and snacks ahead of time, to help avoid unplanned eating.
- Reflecting on your own eating habits and keep a food diary to help you discover habits that may lead you to overeat (e.g. eating too fast) or times when you may eat for reasons other than hunger (e.g. when you are stressed or bored).
In addition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends eating no more than 25 grams (g) per day of sugar for adults and 15g per day for children. This is in terms of the foods you buy that have a nutrition label. The number of grams of sugar on a nutrition label can be found under carbohydrates. Reading these labels can help you to make a more informed choice, as the amount of sugar in similar products can vary greatly. For example, one tub of yoghurt can vary from 16g-39g.
For a healthy, balanced diet, it is recommended that you only eat ‘treat’ foods once a week and in a portioned amount.
These small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference to your health.
3. Get Active
Being physically active and limiting your sedentary behaviour every day is not only important in promoting healthy weight, but essential for your overall health and wellbeing.
The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years) recommends minimising the amount of time spent sitting for long periods. They suggest building up to an accumulated 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity (or a combination of both) each week.
While it can sometimes feel impossible to fit exercise into our busy lives, the key is to just get moving any way you can. The best approach is to take it slowly and introduce small, simple changes to increase your movement throughout the day.
Some of the ways in which you can do this include:
- Leave the car at home and take public transport to work, or get off the bus one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the way.
- Pick a sport or an activity that you love. You are more likely to keep it up if you are having fun.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Walk, rather than drive, to school or the shops.
- Use the stairs instead of the lift.
- Be active to music. If you are washing the car or vacuuming the house, listen to some upbeat music and bust some moves.
- If you have kids, join in with their physical activities.
Where can I find out more information?
For more information on this topic, visit:
- Australian Dietary Guidelines – https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au
- Australian Government Department of Health – http://www.health.gov.au
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – https://www.aihw.gov.au
- Healthy WA – https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Healthy-weight-loss
- World Health Organisation – http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight