Healthy weight

Healthy weight

Having a healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart problems. It reduces your risk of developing diabetes and helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Our recommended goals

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI estimates your body mass based on your weight and height.

We recommend a BMI of less than 25 kg/m². A healthy BMI should be between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2.

Check your BMI on our BMI calculator.

BMI is a useful measurement for most people over 18 years old. But it is only an estimate and it doesn’t take into account gender, age, ethnicity and body composition. We recommend you also check your waist measurement, and other risk factors.

Waist measurement

We recommend you aim for a waist measurement of less than:

  • 94 cm for males
  • 80 cm for females.

Where your fat is on your body can be an important sign of your risk of developing ongoing health problems. Carrying excess body fat around your middle is more of a health risk than if weight is on your hips and thighs.

How to measure your waist:

  1. Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs.
  2. Breathe out normally.
  3. Place the tape measure midway between these points and wrap it around your waist.
  4. Check your measurement.

These guidelines are based on World Health Organization and National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations.

Waist measurements should only be used for adults to check their risk of developing a chronic disease. Waist circumference is less accurate in some situations, including pregnancy, medical conditions where there is distension of the abdomen, and for certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese adults. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Achieve a healthy weight

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and shape is healthy eating and physical activity every day.

We need to strike a balance between the energy (kilojoules) we consume with the energy our bodies use through normal functioning, daily activities and physical exercise.

  • You can maintain your weight if you take in the same amount of kilojoules that your body uses each day.
  • You gain weight if you take in more kilojoules than your body uses each day.
  • You lose weight if you take in fewer kilojoules than your body uses each day.

The type of food we choose to eat is also very important in maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy heart. In Australia, around 35% of the kilojoules we eat comes from sometimes or discretionary food. These are foods like pastries, biscuits, cakes, take away foods, and sugary drinks.

Eating these foods only sometimes, and not every day, can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Lose weight healthily

To lose weight, you need to use up more energy (kilojoules) than you take in. You can do this by:

  • reducing your kilojoule intake by having lower kilojoule foods and drinks
  • increasing your kilojoule use by doing more physical activity and sitting less.

Losing weight the healthy way is not quick. Many weight loss books and crash diets often suggest unhealthy ways to lose weight and won’t help you keep weight off in the long term.

It comes down to the type and amount of food and drinks and the type and amount of physical activity you do. Don’t think about it as ‘going on a diet’ which is a short-term thing, but as a choice to be healthy for life!

People tend to put weight on over time, sometimes several years. Losing it will not happen overnight. You should not lose it too quickly or ignore what a health professional tells you. If you are making lifestyle changes, then generally the weight loss will follow.

As an easy first step to losing weight, you can:

  • change the types and amount of foods and drinks you consume
  • increase your physical activity levels – every little bit helps
  • reduce the amount of time you spend sitting, stand up more often and move around your home, workplace or when you are out and about.

Doing only one of these is usually not enough.

Tips for losing weight healthily

Lower your energy (kilojoules) intake by:

  • making fresh foods the main part of your diet. Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, plain meat, poultry and fish, reduced fat dairy, plain unsalted nuts and legumes.
  • limiting junk food and drinks like cakes, biscuits, pastries, take-away foods and sugar-sweetened drinks
  • watching your portion sizes.

Use more energy by doing more physical activity and sitting less often. Ask your doctor if you need to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week to lose weight

Do a weight loss plan

If you and your doctor agree that you need to lose weight, plan how to do it together. This will help you decide on the lifestyle changes you will make. It will also help you to be realistic about what you can achieve.

Make a list of things to help you lose weight. Include ways of having better eating habits, doing more physical activity and sitting less often like:

  • only have take-away foods once a week
  • go for a 30-minute walk on most days of the week
  • watch less TV or spend less time in front of a computer each day.

Weight loss plan steps:

  1. Set realistic weight loss or lifestyle goals.
  2. Identify what you eat and drink, your level of physical activity and amount of sitting time.
  3. Make changes to what you eat and drink.
  4. Do more physical activity and sit less often. Be as active as you can in as many ways as possible. Do this on most, if not all, days of the week.
  5. Keep going with your weight loss plan.

Once you have a healthy body weight, keep it there by balancing the kilojoules you get from your food and drinks with how much you use by doing physical activity.

You can also use the healthy weight action plan designed to help heart attack survivors.

Learn more about recovering from a heart attack.

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