Maintaining a healthy weight can have positive effects on our overall wellbeing. Everyone is different, so everyone has a different healthy weight. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, because being underweight or overweight can lead to health problems.
When working out what is a healthy weight for you, things like your age and your height will determine what your ideal healthy weight might be.
If you go to the doctor and discuss your weight, they will probably carry out a Body Mass Index (BMI) test.
What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?
The BMI is a way of measuring your body fat based on how much you weigh in relation to your height. If you are a healthy weight according to this scale, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9.
- You can take a BMI test at home by entering your details into an online calculator like this one from the NHS. You can also have your BMI measured by your doctor.
- If you do the test at home and find your BMI is over or under the range of 18.5-24.9, talk to your doctor.
- If you are under 16 there is no recommended BMI as your body is still growing and it can be different for everyone.
It is important to note that the BMI index is not the most accurate system because of factors like age, muscle mass, and body composition. However, the BMI is one place to start, and it’s the system used by most GPs around the country.
What if I am underweight?
While some people are naturally of a smaller build, being underweight for others can have a negative impact on your health. If you are underweight it may mean that you are not getting all the nutrients you need, or that your body is not supported to function fully.
- Being underweight can lead to a weakened immune system, feeling tired, or the development of conditions like osteoporosis and anemia.
- If you are severely underweight, you can also suffer from dry skin, hair loss, a weak immune system and exhaustion.
- If you eat well and are still underweight, it may just be your natural build.
- If you are underweight you can see your doctor for advice on a healthy diet.
- Being underweight can also be a sign of an eating disorder. Learn to recognise the signs of an eating disorder.
If you are underweight, go to your doctor and talk about ways that you could gain more weight to help you reach a healthy level for you.
- If you feel you are underweight because of your diet, eating regular, healthy meals can help you to gain weight.
- Avoid eating processed (‘junk’) food as a way of gaining weight. This is not an effective way of increasing lean body mass.
- Try to eat more starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta, rice, and bread. Look for healthier wholegrain options.
- By following a healthy meal plan, you will gain weight gradually.
What if I am overweight?
Health has no one size or appearance. Someone can have a larger body type and experience no adverse health problems. However, being overweight can lead some people to develop health problems like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Here are a few of the reasons why a person might be overweight:
- Some conditions that can cause weight gain include PCOS, pre-diabetes, diabetes, hypothyroidism and overactive adrenal glands.
- People may also gain weight when they are put on certain medications such as high dose steroids for asthma.
- People can become overweight because of a poor diet, especially through eating a lot of processed, sugary or fast food, or drinking a lot of fizzy drinks.
- Alcohol has a lot of calories, and drinking too much can cause weight gain.
- A lack of exercise is another factor in someone becoming overweight.
- Being overweight can also be caused by hormonal imbalances.
- Genetics can lead to someone being of a larger body size or build naturally.
If you feel you are not at a healthy weight, you can talk to your doctor about your options. Remember, what is healthy for one person, might be different for another.
Healthy eating and exercise are the most effective ways to achieve a healthy weight that works for you.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with a variety of food groups. Ask if your doctor can help you work out a diet plan, or see a dietitian. Find out more about healthy eating.
- Cut down on processed food and drinks like sugary drinks, fast food, packaged food, and alcohol.
- Work exercise into your weekly routine. You could try exercise apps like Couch to 5k, aim to fit in 30 minutes a day, or look into different kinds of exercise you could try. There are lots of ways for people who have limited physical mobility to exercise as well.