Your weight is determined by the balance between what you eat and drink and how active you are. The energy that your food provides and that you use up walking, running or even sitting still, is measured in calories.
But what does this mean for you, and what changes can you make if you weigh too much or too little?
- You will gain weight if you take in more calories than you use up.
- You will lose weight if you use up more calories than you take in.
- You will maintain your weight if you balance the calories you take in with the calories you use.
If you’re a healthy weight
You should aim to maintain your weight through a combination of eating a balanced diet and doing regular physical activity.
Eating a healthy balanced diet means basing your meals around starchy foods, preferably wholegrain varieties, eating lots of foods high in fibre and eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Don’t eat too many foods containing fat and sugar. Try to eat three meals a day, including breakfast, and make sure your portion sizes are appropriate.
Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days a week. Moderate activity should make your heart beat faster, make you feel slightly warm and a little out of breath.
If you’re overweight or obese
Your risk of health problems is higher. Losing weight can be very beneficial for your health. To lose weight, you need to burn off more calories through physical activity than you take in from food and drink. This means eating fewer calories, burning more off or, preferably, both.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet and try to cut down on foods containing fat and sugar. Try to build physical activity into your usual daily routine, for example walking to work instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the lift.
If you’re underweight
This may be because you don’t take in enough calories or because you exercise a lot. If you have a very restricted diet, you may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. Try to increase your calorie intake through eating a balanced and nutritious diet, in order to gain weight and get back into a healthy weight range for your height.
Unexplained weight loss or being unable to put on weight can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health problem. If you find it difficult to put on weight or if you have lost a lot of weight quickly, see a doctor.