How to lose weight safely

Losing weight safely and at a realistic pace is the best way to reach your healthy weight and to maintain that weight in the long term.

To make sure you lose weight safely, always speak to your GP before starting a new diet or fitness regime.

Dieting safely

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories so cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories per day on average, should see you lose 1 pound per week. While it might not seem like much, if you ate an extra 100 calories per day, by the end of the year you could gain 11lbs. Small changes make a huge difference in the long term.

Setting small and realistic goals will help you lose weight safely and will make you more likely to maintain your weight loss.

Eat three regular, balanced meals a day and try to have meals at planned times. Only include snacks if you're physically hungry.

More about eating a healthy balanced diet

Try some healthy substitutes

Substitute high-calorie food for healthier alternatives if you're trying to lose weight:

  • Instead of crisps and dips grab crunchy peppers and carrots and dip them in some low-fat hummus.
  • Swap your chocolate bar for a handful of unsalted nuts.
  • Switch your high-calorie coffee - such as a latte or mocha - for a lower calorie Americano.

Looking for healthy snack inspiration?

Portion control

Losing weight is about eating a healthy and balanced diet, but a big part of being successful in your weight loss attempts is learning how to control your portion sizes.

Portion sizes vary depending on a number of factors - such as age, gender and activity levels - but as a rough guide, the following table outlines the portion sizes of some common foods:

Food item

Portion size

Pasta and rice

2 to 3 tablespoons

Bread

1 medium slice

Cooked meat

Size of a deck of cards

Milk

200ml

Hard cheese

Size of a matchbox

Beans or pulses

4 tablespoons

Picking a smaller plate can help to reduce your portion sizes and in turn, the number of calories consumed.

More about portion control.

Turn off technology

Eating in front of the TV can influence our food choices but can also contribute to us eating more than we need. Concentrating on the TV instead of the meal or snack you're eating can lead to mindless eating where we eat more than we need and will be less likely to notice feeling full.

More about mindful eating (will add appropriate link).

Planning your meals

Planning ahead is important to help ensure you have the right foods to hand, at the right times. You should:

  • use a meal planner for the week ahead
  • make a shopping list and don’t go shopping when hungry
  • bulk cook meals and freeze portions
  • try using a slow cooker 

Avoid buying larger pack sizes and in-store promotions that are often foods high in fat, salt or sugar - such as crisps and fizzy drinks - this can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Increasing your activity

Keeping active helps to burn the calories you consume. If you eat a healthy balanced diet with fewer calories and increase the amount of activity you do each day, you'll lose weight.

It's recommended that adults should try to be active every day and should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week - this could include cycling or walking at a fast pace. Alternatively, you could complete 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, which could include running or a game of football. You could split this up into easily manageable 30-minute workouts over 5 days of the week.

It's also important to include strength exercises that work all of the major muscles (chest, shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, hips, legs) into your workouts.

More about keeping active

Cutting down on alcohol

Alcohol contains a lot of calories. Drinking too much can damage your health and lead to weight gain.

As a guide:

  • a pint of beer (5%) contains 182 calories and 2.3 units of alcohol
  • a medium glass of wine (175ml, 13%) contains 159 calories and 2.3 units of alcohol
  • a bottle of alcopop (275ml, 4%) contains 170 calories and 1.1 units of alcohol
  • a single measure of spirits (25ml, 40%) contains 61 calories and 1 unit of alcohol

If you want to lose weight, cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink or avoid altogether.

You should limit the amount you drink to no more than 14 units spread evenly throughout the week.

Tips for cutting down on alcohol