Start losing weight

If you're overweight, losing weight will bring you a range of important health benefits. The key to success? Think small, realistic changes to your diet and level of physical activity that can become a part of your daily routine.

This guide can help you to start your journey towards a healthy weight. Once you’re on the way, there is lots of information and advice that can help you keep going in Lose weight.

Along the way, you can monitor changes in your body mass index (BMI) using our Healthy weight calculator.

Commit to change

Evidence shows that the best way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to diet and physical activity that result in a steady rate of weight loss. Aim to lose weight at around 0.5kg to 1kg a week (1lb to 2lb), until you achieve a healthy BMI.

Modern life can make it easy to eat too much and do little physical activity. The result is often weight gain.

To lose weight, we need to change our current habits. This means eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting active. Drastic exercise regimes and fad diets that result in rapid weight loss are unlikely to work for long, because these kinds of lifestyle changes can’t be maintained. Once you stop the regime, you’re likely to return to old habits and regain weight.

Instead, choose diet and physical activity changes that you can make a part of your daily routine, and stick to for life.

Ready to get started?

Do today

You can take four actions today that will start your journey towards a healthy weight:

  • If you haven’t already, check your BMI with our Healthy weight calculator. If your BMI is in the overweight range, aim to achieve a weight that puts your BMI in the healthy range. If it is in the obese range, aim to lose between 5% and 10% of your starting weight.
  • Now take the next snack you plan to have and swap it for something healthier. Many common snacks, such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits and crisps, are high in fat and sugar and supply calories that we don’t need. Today, swap your elevenses or mid-afternoon snack for a piece of fruit. Aim to do the same every day: you’ve adopted your first weight loss habit.
  • Next, find a way to fit just one extra walk into your day. Brisk walking is a way to burn calories, and you can often fit it into your daily routine. You might walk to the shops during your lunch break, or get off the bus one stop early on the way home and walk the rest of the way. Commit to this and you’ve adopted your second long-term habit. Ideally, you should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day: it’s not as many as it sounds. Learn more in the 10,000 steps a day challenge.
  • Last, think about your breakfast tomorrow morning. Can you make it healthier, using the foods you already have at home? Get ideas in Five healthy breakfasts.

Do this week

There are four actions you can take this week:

  • First, plan a healthy weekly shop. Healthy, balanced meals are key to a healthy weight, and eating well often starts with having the right foods at home. At the supermarket look out for fresh foods and healthier options. Stuck for ideas? See our Healthy recipes.
  • Everyone likes a treat occasionally, like a pizza or a takeaway. So this week, swap your treat for a healthier, home-made alternative as you can make lower-calorie versions of many takeaway foods at home. If you do order in, choose healthier options: see Healthy takeaways.
  • Next, commit to one more way to increase your level of physical activity. It’s recommended that adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, and you may need more to lose weight. Physical activity means anything that raises your heart rate and makes you warm. You can split the 30 minutes up, for example, into three sections of 10 minutes. You could try our Couch to 5K programme, which is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks. For more ideas see our step-by-step exercise guides for beginners. 
  • Last, identify this week’s danger zones. These are times when you might find yourself eating lots of unhealthy foods, perhaps because you are eating out or simply because you’re tired or stressed. Plan ahead, so that you can limit those foods. But don’t be too strict: an indulgence from time to time is fine. For more advice, see Diet danger zones.

Last reviewed: 13/12/2010

Next review due: 13/12/2012

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