Web Content Viewer (JSR 286) - Healthy Weight

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Do you have questions about reaching or maintaining a healthy weight? Is there something specific you want to know? If so, look through the questions in this section by clicking on the links below. For more information about a topic, click on the red text within each answer.

Q1: What does a healthy weight mean and how do I know if I am a healthy weight?

A healthy weight is a weight at which you can get the most out of life. It’s a weight at which you feel better, live longer and have reduced risk of chronic disease. 

There are two ways of checking whether you are a healthy weight:

Q2: Is a healthy weight the same for everyone?

No. Different people can have different measurements of a healthy weight depending on whether they are male or female, short or tall. People’s healthy weight can also vary with their age, amount of lean muscle and ethnic background. 

For more information:

Q3: Why should I try to be a healthy weight?

Being a healthy weight benefits your health and wellbeing in many ways. People who are a healthy weight generally live longer and have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases.

If you are overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your quality of life. Being a healthy weight can make you more mobile and energetic, improve your self-esteem and reduce your risk of depression. Children who are a healthy weight may be less likely to be bullied, to have poor self-esteem and to develop eating disorders.

For more information:

Q4: Does my healthy weight change if I am pregnant?

When you’re pregnant, you should gain weight. The usual BMI and waist circumference measures do not apply when you are pregnant. Your baby needs nutrients and energy (kilojoules) to develop healthily and grow normally. You need these  for your own health, too. But excessive weight gain in pregnancy can cause problems.

The  amount of weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed before you became pregnant. There are many benefits to gaining an appropriate amount of weight.

For more information:

Q5: Is it OK to lose weight if I’m over 65?

The benefits of being a healthy weight apply to every adult, no matter what age. But you may need to alter your approach to a healthy weight once you reach retirement age or thereabouts. 

Restricting your food intake makes it more difficult to get all the nutrients you need. If you are over 65 and overweight, see How health professionals can help, before setting any weight loss goals. And only try to lose weight if your health professional advises you to do so and supervises you closely.

You may, however, benefit from being more active.

For more information:

Q6: Is there a quick way to lose weight?

The short answer is no.

There are a lot of television shows and ads for products promising rapid weight loss. But research has shown that rapid weight loss does not last. The most successful weight loss programs involve setting realistic and achievable goals, eating healthy foods and drinks, being physically active and establishing healthy habits that you can stick to.

This website has lots of information and ideas to help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight – gradually and permanently. Browse through the following sections to learn more:

Q7: What can I do to help if my child is underweight or overweight?

Being a healthy weight has lots of benefits for your children. Overweight and underweight children may have problems socialising and issues with self-esteem. And it is more likely they will be overweight as an adult and have to deal with the problems this can cause.

But there are things you can do now to help your children manage their weight in healthy ways. If you do have concerns about your kids’ weight, see How health professionals can help.

For more information:

Q8: What foods should I eat if I want to be a healthy weight?

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a long-term goal. To reach this goal you need to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods and drinks, have less unhealthy foods and drinks and develop healthy dietary habits

It’s important that your daily intake includes foods from each of the following five food groups:

Remember to drink plenty of water. It’s also OK to use small amounts of healthy, unsaturated spreads and oils.

To make room for these healthy foods, it’s important to have less unhealthy foods and drinks (see Q9).

To find out more, see:

Q9: What foods should I avoid if I want to be a healthy weight?

If you want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to have less unhealthy foods and drinks and develop healthy dietary habits.

Unhealthy foods and drinks are those that are high in saturated fats and/or high in added sugar and/or added salt or alcohol. These foods are called ‘discretionary foods’ because they are not required for health. Common examples include:

  • Most cakes and biscuits
  • Lollies and chocolate
  • Most pies, pastries, pasties and sausage rolls
  • Butter, cream and fatty spreads
  • Chips, crisps and other fatty or salty snack foods
  • Sugar-sweetened soft drinks, cordials, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks.

But remember you can still enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods (see Q8). Limiting unhealthy foods and drinks may mean cutting back on some of the foods and drinks you like. But you don’t have to do it all at once. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a long-term goal. Take it slowly –and small changes in your habits will add up. Losing just five per cent of your body weight can deliver significant health and wellbeing benefits.

If you are pregnant there are also particular foods you should avoid.

For more information:

Q10: Why do some people put on too much weight and others don’t?

People are different. Some people are more likely to gain weight than others.

There’s rarely just one reason why a person is overweight. Nearly always, there are lots of reasons: eating too much, especially too much unhealthy food, not getting enough physical activity or a combination of these. People who are underweight may not eat enough for their body’s needs and/or may be very active. Some physical and mental illnesses can also affect weight. But maintaining a healthy weight is all about energy balance.

Our environment can be a major influence. Changing physical surroundings, changes in the size of meals, changes in food supply and changes to transport, work patterns and family structure can all have an impact on our weight.

Despite this, if you want to maintain – or achieve – a healthy weight, change is possible.

For more information:

Q11: How often should I weigh or measure myself?

It’s a good idea to weigh yourself regularly. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a long-term process. But it may be best not to weight yourself more than once a week. Try to weight yourself at the same time of the day. Some people find first thing in the morning can be a good time. 

If you can’t or don’t want to use scales, you can measure your waist. Remember though that your waist circumference changes more gradually than your weight. 

If you are concerned about sudden weight loss or weight gain, talk to a How health professionals can help.

For more information:

Q12: How much physical activity should I do to be a healthy weight?

There are many benefits to being physically active, no matter what weight you are. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of developing health problems and can also assist in the management of some conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Australian's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines prescribe levels of physical activity to provide health benefits and to prevent weight gain. Currently there is limited evidence about required levels of physical activity for weight loss. What we do know is that physical activity is just one factor that may contribute to weight loss. The amount of physical activity that you need to do to lose weight will depend, in part, on the amount of food you eat – in general the more food you eat, the more physical activity you will need to do to burn up the energy it provides.

Click on the links below to access specific information on physical activity for: 

Q13: How can I become and stay motivated to eat well and be physically active?

Making changes to your daily routine isn’t always easy. If you’re unfit or have been struggling to gain or lose weight, getting started and staying motivated can be a struggle. But if you approach your healthy weight goal step by step, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

A good way to start is to ask yourself how ready you are to change. Once you feel ready to make a start, get the facts about what you need to know and do, and set realistic and achievable goals. You can then start planning for change and establishing healthy habits

Along the way, there are sure to be challenges, – but with support from others, change is possible. Use the information and resources on this website to help you on your way.

For more information:

Q14: How do I know which diet and physical activity products work?

Lots of diet and exercise products and programs make big promises about long-lasting weight loss and/or fitness. But before you rush out to try the latest one, ask yourself some questions about the promises being made. And remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information:

Q15: How can I stop my kids watching TV and playing video games in their free time?

Playing video games, surfing the net, using social media and watching television can all be habit-forming. Children who spend a lot of time in front of screens are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t. The Healthy Weight Guide has more information about the potential downsides of too much screen time and how to limit your child’s screen time.

If you want your kids to move more, be a good role model for them. Encourage them to be physically active, organise physical activities they’ll enjoy and whenever possible, be active with them. The Healthy Weight Guide has tips on doing this.

For more information:

Q16: If I want to lose weight, is it better to eat less or be more active?

To lose weight, most people need to both eat less and move more. Most overweight people are overweight for a combination of reasons, including eating and drinking too much, eating and drinking too much unhealthy food and drink, and/or not moving enough.

Decreasing the amount of unhealthy food and drink you take in, and increasing your physical activity through either day-to-day or planned activities is the most effective way to alter your energy balance and lose weight.

But the changes you make don’t have to be drastic: small changes built up over time can make a big difference, and losing five per cent of your body weight can bring major health benefits.

For more information:

Q17: How can I afford to eat well and be physically active?

Some people think the only way you can lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight is to buy expensive products and sign up to costly programs. However, there are low-cost alternatives.

The Healthy Weight Guide has tips on how to eat healthily and save money. 

Many of us could be physically active in our daily lives at no extra cost. There are also plenty of planned activities you can do for free.

For more information:

Q18: How can I make time for physical activity and cooking healthy meals?

Many of us lead such busy lives that it can seem hard to find time to be active or prepare healthy meals.

You can build more activity into your everyday life and swap time spent sitting for standing and moving time. Every little bit helps, and once you get going, you may find that these activities become part of your normal day.

There are also lots of things you can do to make preparing healthy home-cooked meals simpler.

For more information:

Q19: What if I’m not ready to change?

You may start looking at this Healthy Weight Guide website and think, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready to tackle my weight issues right now. That’s OK – it’s normal for people to go through stages of readiness to act. Changes in our behaviour rarely happen overnight; they happen gradually, often with two steps forward and one step back.

The Healthy Weight Guide has more information about the process of change.

Even if you’re not ready to act now, you might still want to browse this website to learn more about what becoming a healthy weight would mean for you.

There are many benefits to being a healthy weight that can make the effort – which may seem daunting at first – worthwhile. Once you’re ready, there are lots of ideas, tips and resources on this website to help you reach and/or maintain a healthy weight.