Looking after your weight

Keeping your weight down and looking after your waist line has never been easy, but will help you to look after your cholesterol and your heart.

Your weight

If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, then it can help to know that even a little weight loss makes a big difference to your health. Losing just 10% of your body weight will help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, your blood pressure, your risk of diabetes and your risk of some types of cancer. It also takes the stress off your joints, making it easier to move about.

Your shape

It’s not just your weight that’s important, it’s your shape too. If you carry extra weight around your middle – if you’re an apple shape – you’re more likely to develop heart and liver disease than if you carry your weight all over your body or around your thighs – if you’re pear shape.

Being an apple shape can raise your blood cholesterol and triglycerides. This is because harmful fat collects in your liver and organs. This can lead to liver disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Making changes to what you eat and how active you are can help you to look after your weight and lose fat from your middle. See our tips below, plus find out if you are a healthy weight and shape.

Tips for losing weight

  • Go for smaller portions – we’re used to large portion sizes and often eat more than we need to without realising. Check packets for recommended portion sizes, these give a good idea of a healthy amount to eat.
  • Fill half of your plate with vegetables – they’re full of vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Your plate will be full so you’ll feel more satisfied, without taking on extra calories.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses – it creates the illusion that you’re eating more than you really are, so you’ll feel satisfied while keeping your portion sizes down.
  • Choose foods that fill you up
– eat starchy foods like rice, potatoes or pasta with every meal to keep you feeling full without lots of extra calories. If you can choose the wholemeal, wholegrain and brown versions.
  • Avoid sugary and fatty snacks – they’re very high in calories without always filling you up or giving you any nutrients. Try some healthier swaps like a handful of nuts or dried fruit, and eat enough at meals times so you’re less tempted to snack.
  • Check food labels – lots of products have labels on the front of the pack as well as more detailed information on the back. Look at the sugar, salt, fat, saturated fat and calories and compare them to other products. You can often find much healthier swaps for products that otherwise seem very similar.
  • Be more active – getting active and getting your heart rate up will use up extra calories. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes on most days.
  • Get help, advice or support – there is lots of support available to help you lose weight and live more healthily. Have a look through these pages, speak to our dietitian and specialist nurse on our helpline, or talk to your doctor or nurse to see what’s available locally.

Waist measurement

Carrying your fat around your middle, as opposed to your hips and thighs, can lead to higher cholesterol and triglycerides. It can cause fat to build up in your organs – especially your liver and pancreas. This stops them from working properly, leading to liver disease and diabetes.

It’s possible to be quite slim and have a healthy BMI but have too much fat around your middle. That’s why it’s good to find out your BMI and your waste measurement.

How to measure your waist

Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs, and measure halfway between the two points. Breath out normally as you take the measurement. See if your waist is a healthy size using the table below.

  Higher risk of illness Serious risk of illness
Women 80cm (32 inches) or above 88 cm (35 inches) or above
Men 94 cm (37 inches) or above 102 cm (40 inches) or above
South Asian men 90 cm (36 inches) or above 101 cm (39 inches) or above

Your BMI

Your BMI can also give you a good idea of whether you’re a healthy weight, which is important for your heart health. Your BMI, or body mass index, is a measure of your weight compared to your height.

A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. A BMI higher than this means you’re at a higher risk of health problems.

To find your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared or use this calculator:

content provided by NHS Choices