Start losing weight

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

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

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 our Lose weight section.

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

Commit to change

Physical activity recommendations for adults

People who are overweight or obese should first aim to gradually build up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week

Modern life can make it easy to eat and drink more than we realise and do little physical activity. The result is often weight gain.

To lose weight, we need to change our current habits. This means eating less – even when eating a healthy, balanced diet – and getting more active.

Drastic fad diets and exercise regimes 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. Having lots of muscle may put your BMI in the unhealthy range, even if you have little body fat. However, this will not apply to most people.
  • 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, a fruit bun or a slice of malt loaf with a low-fat spread. Aim to do the same every day: you’ve adopted your first weight loss habit.
  • Try to swap drinks that are high in calories for drinks that are lower in fat and sugars. Swap a sugary fizzy drink for a sparkling water with a slice of lemon. Don't forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down could help you to control your weight.
  • Next, find a way to fit just one extra walk into your day. Fast 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 a balanced diet 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 Healthier takeaways.
  • Next, commit to one more way to increase your level of physical activity. The right amount of physical activity for you depends on your age. It’s recommended that adults between 19 and 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling – per week, and you are likely to need more to lose weight. For more on how much activity to do and what counts as activity, see Physical activity guidelines for adults. 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  foods that are high in fat and sugar, 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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Comments are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Uzume13 said on 20 October 2011

I agree with many of the comments on here. The outdated and 'finger pointy' fat bashing scapegoating is so annoying and unhelpful.

Given that the visually obese are unfortunate to have their dietary issues on display, this does not mean that ALL obese or larger people are necessarily unhealthy compared to their slimmer counterparts. Look at the 'skinny obese' research done at the mayo Clinic and upheld by many other professionals. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18594089/ns/health-fitness/t/thin-people-can-be-fat-inside/


I have been overweight for years, even at my most active on a GI diet and working out 4-5 times a day for 60 mins minimum, I only ever got down to a size 18. I am now back up to a size 24 following menopause and if I really work at it I lose a stone and then nothing. I rarely eat unhealthy foods and I cook from scratch most days. Crisps and cakes plus most processed foods are banned from the house and my poor hubby has to eat junk at work if he wants it. How many thin people are that committed? I know most of my thinner friends eat much more than I do in quantity and add snacks of all kinds throughout the day.

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x1alfa said on 20 September 2011

wait 1-2 lb A WEEK? O_O thats loooooooong i tryed losing wieght my self eating low fat meats more veg salads fruit and cut the snacking completely i also do exercises and cycle alot i started losing a pound a day, but a pound or two a week ?

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s26 said on 29 August 2011

lots of good advice here, I dont snack and I exercise regularly, although my food choice woundt be classed as unhealthy Ive learnt that there are some seemly safe foods that i just have to avoid. I stongly encourage having a look at this for some brilliant advice which really helped me. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1444710338/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=diet048-21

regards,
S

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Judge and Jury said on 16 August 2011

I see no consideration given here or elsewhere to the depth psychology aspects of food consumption. All too many people brush aside all weight problems as issues of moral stamina. This is simply not the case. Quite a number of us, perhaps the majority, carry on into our adult years food and eating attitudes and habits formed in babyhood and never outgrown, unconscious attitudes that require us regardless of willpower to consume as we did back then.

It's simply ridiculous to expect us to deal with such deep problems by pulling up our socks. Can't be done that way. I'd much like to see articles from informed psychologists and psychoanalysts about how to get around such early programming. There must be a way to do it, but it can be by no means the simplistic programs usually espoused by very, very average British people.

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Kate W said on 04 August 2011

I am following a very efficient fitness routine that my gym tutor advised. I am very happy with the results and I think you-should at least take a look to this guide.

Visit: http://theultimateworkoutguide.blogspot.com

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andy097palmer said on 22 June 2011

I agree with the previous comments, this is targeted at people who could make quite obvious changes to their lifestyle and diet; what about those of us who do exercise regularly and eat quite healthily but stil have a problem getting/keeping the weight off.

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hobbit_amy said on 11 June 2011

I don't find this very helpful!

I don't snack, period, let alone 'unhealthy' snacks. I do shop for healthy food, and cook everything I eat from scratch, apart from a curry once a month or so. I also walk everywhere, as I don't drive, including to and from the shops every couple of days with all my vegetables!

Not everyone who's overweight is eating crisps and pizza on the couch all day, and it's not helpful to tailor advice only to those that are. There's not a mention of portion sizes (even of healthy meals), or alcohol, for example.

Even pointing out where those who are already doing all this can go for further advice would be helpful. The only thing I found in this article that would improve on my current lifestyle is to try the running program, and that is probably impossible as my knees are pretty bad.

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