Obesity is a very common problem in the UK and it is estimated to affect around one in four of adults and one in every five children aged 10 -11. The term describes someone who is overweight with a lot of excess body fat. It is important to tackle obesity as it not only drastically affects your quality of life, but can also lead to a number of serious potentially life threatening conditions such as type II diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and strokes.
Obesity is most commonly caused by consuming more calories than you burn off in physical activity, causing the excess energy to be stored as fat. This is becoming an increasingly common problem in modern life, where more people than ever are in office jobs where they remain mostly sedentary and foods high in sugars and fats are widely and cheaply available.
Often your GP will refer to your body mass index (BMI) to indicate whether you are a healthy weight for your height. This is not always accurate for everyone, for instance, a muscular person may register as being unhealthy on the BMI scale due to the extra weight muscle adds. However, for a normal person it is usually a good indicator. It is calculated by your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in centimetres) squared.
The NHS Choices website suggests that a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 means you're considered to be a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight, and someone with a BMI over 30 is considered to be obese.
NHS and NICE guidelines suggest a combination of eating a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise in order to lose weight. While an obese person should always consult their GP before undertaking a weight loss program, it is generally accepted by NHS professionals and NICE guidelines that to lose weight at a sustainable and healthy rate, a person should reduce their food intake by 600 calories a day.
A healthy balanced diet should consist of foods from all five main food groups. The NHS Eatwell Guide suggests that this should include plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day), a solid base of starchy foods (ideally of wholegrain varieties), some select non-dairy sources of protein such as meat, fish, beans and eggs, some milk and dairy products and only a small amount of foods high in fat and natural sugar.
Calories are the measure by which we determine how much energy is in our food. The NHS advises that an average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, while an average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day. If a person is obese it is important for them to be aware of how many calories are in the food they are consuming. This information can be found on the label under the energy heading and will usually inform you how many calories can be found in 100 grams or 100 millilitres of the food or drink.
NICE guidelines encourage adults to do at least 30 minutes of moderate or greater intensity exercise on 5 or more day a week. To prevent obesity the guidelines also suggest that most people may need to complete an additional 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity a day, especially if they do not reduce their calorie intake.
Moderate intensity activity refers to any activity that increases the heart and breathing rate and for people that are obese it is recommended that this is achieved through exercises that can be incorporated into everyday life, such as brisk walking, gardening or cycling. Exercise classes, dancing and swimming are also recommended exercises, as are strength and balance training in the form of gym workouts, carrying shopping bags, or tai chi.
NHS and NICE guidelines suggest that setting achievable goals is an efficient motivating way to ensure than you stick to a weight loss regime.