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

You can achieve safe and realistic weight loss by cutting your calorie intake by between 300 to 500 calories per day. On average, this should see you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. While this might not seem like much, it would equal between 26 and 52 pounds in only 6 months.

Setting small and realistic goals will help you lose weight safely and will make you more likely to maintain any weight loss in the long term.

Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, starchy carbohydrates and whole grains will keep you fuller for longer and less likely to snack. Picking these foods is a much better way to approach healthy eating and weight loss.

More about eating a healthy balanced diet

Try some healthy substitutes

Substitute high-calorie food for equally tasty 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 cereal bar for a handful of unsalted nuts.
  • Switch your high-calorie coffee - such as a latte or mocha - for a lower calorie Americano.

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. 

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.

Buy only what you need

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

To avoid this:

  • plan your meals ahead and make a shopping list
  • only buy what you need

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