It’s no secret that Australia has a weight problem. With 3 in 5 Australian adults and 1 in 4 Australian children now overweight or obese, there is no doubt that we have a weight issue and a big one at that. Our expanding waistlines are having a big impact on our health, with high body mass being third on the list of our biggest burdens of disease. With this in mind are you currently at your healthiest weight?
This week is Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the concept of ‘healthy weight’.
Body mass index
Body Mass Index (BMI) gives a number to how much weight you are carrying for your height. It isn’t a perfect measure though – it doesn’t give any indication where you are carrying the extra weight, which is quite important and it can be out for some population groups. However, it is a good starting point to consider when assessing your weight. You can check your BMI here.
There is a lot of evidence to show that the most dangerous place to carry extra weight is around the waist. Fat around the middle of the body puts an increased pressure on the organs which can put you at an increased risk of many chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. So if you’ve got a bit of a belly, it’s a good idea to try and reduce it. A waist circumference of less than 94 cm for men, or less than 80 cm for women will put you in the lowest risk category. Gents, if you’re above 102 cm you’re in the highest risk category, and ladies you’re in the same boat if you’re above 88 cm.
Realistic weight loss
So what do you do if you’ve got a lot of weight to lose? Remember that these numbers are just a starting point. Any weight loss or reduction in your waist circumference that you can achieve is going to be beneficial for your health, even if you don’t make it down to the “ideal” weight according to your BMI. Research shows that losing just 5-10% of your body weight can have significant health outcomes.
It’s important to be realistic when setting your weight loss goals. TV reality shows may make it seem like losing 10kg a week is desirable, but in real life these amounts of weight loss are near impossible to achieve without devoting 6 hours a day to exercise! Besides, this sort of weight loss is not easy to keep up over the long term. Especially if you have a life to live – family, work and friends to spend time on. The weight didn’t go on overnight, so you can’t expect it to come off overnight either!
Aiming for 0.5kg a week or 2kg a month has been shown to be a sustainable level of weight loss, so use this as a basis for your goals. For example, if you want to lose 20kg you’ll probably need to allow yourself about 10 months to work it off. Breaking things down into smaller goals can help you to stay on track – focus on 2kg at a time rather than getting overwhelmed by the whole 20kg and thinking it is all too hard.
When we’re trying to lose weight most of us focus on the weight on the scales. In fact, many of us get a bit pre-occupied with the number on the scales. I speak to people who weigh themselves several times a day trying to get the scales to show a different number. The truth is, our weight naturally fluctuates across the day by up to 1kg for most people depending on what we’ve eaten, how hydrated we are and whether or not we have been to the toilet recently, so try not to get too tied up with weighing yourself. Once a week is often enough. You should be focusing on trends rather than watching for every single rise and fall of the number. Pick a day of the week and stick to that day. It’s best to stick to the same time of day too. You might choose to weigh yourself every Friday morning before breakfast but after you’ve been to the toilet.
If you’ve been noticing some changes to your body composition lately, for example if you’ve been building up your physical activity and increasing your muscle mass, you may actually notice your weight on the scales going up while your clothes are fitting better. This is because muscle weighs more on the scales than fat does, so as you lose fat mass and gain more muscle mass your weight may increase. If this is the case I suggest focusing more on your waist circumference as this will probably be decreasing at the same time – we don’t tend to put too much muscle on around the middle while we’re losing weight.
Later in the week I’ll be talking about the ‘how’ of weight loss. In the meantime, head to the Australia’s Healthy Weight Week website for some healthy weight tips and recipe ideas.
Are you at your healthiest weight? How much weight would you like to lose? What is a realistic timeframe for you to get to where you want to be?
Image of woman with tape measure courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on FreeDigitalPhotos.net