If you’re struggling with your weight, there’s plenty you can do to get it back under control, says Dr Mel Wynne-Jones
Over half of us are now overweight in early adult life, and almost two thirds of us are overweight or obese by our mid-fifties.
Obesity is becoming such a problem that the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, says these latest figures pose as big a risk to our health as terrorism and climate change, and that we must take urgent personal and national action to protect future generations and to avoid overwhelming the NHS.
Diabetes UK says over four million of us now have diabetes, which, like high blood pressure (also obesity-linked), can lead to heart attacks, strokes and circulatory diseases.
Cancer Research says obesity will cause 670,000 extra UK breast and other cancers, and cost the NHS another £2.5 billion a year by 2035.
Obesity also damages our joints, affects movement and breathing, restricts our lives and makes many of us feel guilty, weak or unattractive.
How did we get here?
According to the 2014 Defra Family Food report we eat an average 2,142 calories a day – actually less than in the 1960s.
But instead of walking and doing manual jobs, most children (and adults) now spend hours each day sitting in front of screens in heated buildings, and use wheels to save time.
We grab cheap, readily-available high-fat, high-sugar foods. Primary schoolchildren eat 48lbs of sugar each year, putting teeth at risk too.
And we often use junk food or alcohol to combat stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness or eating disorders.
Hormones produced when we eat, or even the bugs in our intestines, may also affect whether weovereat or make bad food choices.
So what can we do?
We should aim for a waist measurement less than half our height, and/or a body mass index (BMI) between 18.1 and 24.9.
Calculate yours by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres and then dividing
the answer by your height.
If we need to lose weight and keep it off, we can eat less, count calories, follow a diet plan, join a slimming club or go online for help with all of the above.
A realistic aim is to lose up to 6lbs a month but this will only work if we’re truly committed – which isn’t always easy.
If we don’t really believe the pluses outweigh the minuses, or have strategies for dealing with setbacks, we won’t succeed.
So we need to pick the right time, ask family and friends for support and encouragement, and may even need to change our thinking or boost our self-belief by learning mindfulness or cognitive behavioural therapy.
However, if we’re so severely obese that our health is already affected, we may be eligible
for bariatric (eg, gastric band or other weight loss) surgery, which can result in dramatic or permanent weight loss, and relieve health problems, although we will need ongoing check-ups.
6 ways to maintain a healthy weight
1 Drink a glass of water before each meal – this stops you mistaking thirst for hunger.
2 Watch your portion size – use a smaller plate and fill it with more veg, pulses and wholegrains, and fewer fatty or sugary foods. If you are eating out, check labels or menus.
3 Be ‘Sugar Smart’ – use the new app at nhs.uk to help you identify hidden sugar and dump those empty calories.
4 Watch your consumption of alcohol, as it’s high in calories – a 175ml glass of dry white wine contains around 160 calories out of your recommended daily intake of 2,000.
5 Move whenever you can, and aim for 30 minutes’ walking or other activity daily.
6 Weigh yourself weekly and keep a full-length mirror in your house to keep tabs on changes.