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Tips to help you lose weight

Ngā āwhinatanga e whīroki haere ai

Before you start trying to lose weight it's a good idea to keep a food and activity diary for a few days. Record everything you eat and drink and any physical activity you do. You can record this on paper or use an app such as MyFitnessPal or Calorie Counter. This will help you become more aware of what and when you eat and how active you are.

Set realistic goals

Weight-loss goalsHaving a weight-loss goal to work towards is a useful way to stay focused and motivated as you lose weight.

Some people aim to lose enough weight to get into a healthy BMI range. But this could be a lot of weight for you to lose and it might seem a bit daunting. It may help to set a more achievable goal, such as losing 4 kg over the next six weeks. Then, once you achieve that goal, you can set another.

For most people, losing 5 to 10% of their weight (for example, losing 5 to 10 kg if you weigh 100 kg) will make a big difference to their health and the way they feel. Losing around 0.5 kg to 1 kg a week is a safe and realistic target.

You may also want to set goals that do not focus on your weight. These could include goals such as being more active with your children, having a healthy breakfast every day or sitting down with your whānau (family) to eat. There are many benefits to making changes to your lifestyle, regardless of whether your weight changes.

Eat well for life

To lose weight and keep it off you need to eat well for life. Find out more in Eating well to lose weight.

There are many diets available such as intermittent fasting, plant-based diets, low-carb diets, low-fat diets, the Mediterranean diet and the Weight Watchers diet. All these diets can be effective for weight loss. But if you choose one of them, think about how it suits you and your family, your food preferences and your lifestyle. This will help you stick to it in the long term.

Be cautious of diets that promise quick results, are very restrictive and take the joy out of eating. You may lose weight initially, but if you go back to your usual habits, you'll put the weight back on plus more.

Be active every day

Being active, along with changing what and how you eat, can help you to lose weight and keep it off. It has many other benefits such as improving your mood and managing stress. It can also help keep your bones and muscles strong and reduce your risk of getting diseases such as cancer, dementia, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

For good health you need to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days. But to lose weight you need to do more.

Find out more about being active to lose weight.

Get enough sleep and manage stress

Overweight young woman asleep in bedPeople who get around six to eight hours' sleep a night and reduce their stress levels have double the chance of losing weight.

Not getting enough sleep affects your hunger and fullness hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin lets your brain know it’s time to eat and leptin tells your brain you're full. When you do not get enough sleep, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin. This means you eat more.

See Tips for sleeping well for things you can do to get a better night's sleep.

Stress has a similar effect on your hunger hormones. And when you're stressed, you produce a hormone called cortisol, which tells your body to hold on to its fat stores.

Being active and using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, tai chi or muscle relaxation exercises can help to reduce stress.

Track your progress

It may help to keep a diary and record what you eat and drink, your activity and your weight and measurements. You can then check this against the goals you set.

Get support that is right for you

You can get support from a friend, partner or a health professional such as your general practice team, a dietitian, a counsellor or a physiotherapist. You could also register for Puāwai - Kai, a free eight-week healthy lifestyle and cooking programme.

If you're very overweight and these suggestions aren't working for you, talk to your GP about weight-loss medications or weight-loss surgery.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created February 2022. Last updated May 2022.


Page reference: 7535

Review key: HIMWA-28082