Healthy lives for young people
Wellbeing

Healthy weight

Weight is not always an easy topic to discuss. It can be a deeply personal subject and passionate debates regularly take place about what’s normal, what’s attractive and whether it’s right to pass comment on other people’s weight. 

When we talk about ‘healthy weight’, it isn’t about judgement, opinions and prejudice. It simply means being the recommended weight for your height.

Being a healthy weight is important for a number of reasons. If you are overweight, you are at greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. If you are underweight, it can make your bones weak, it can make you feel tired and can affect your ability to fight off bugs.

What is a healthy weight for you?

The quickest way to find out if you’re a healthy weight is to check your BMI, which stands for ‘body mass index’. This is your height, divided by your weight, squared. If you’re under 18, the definition of ‘healthy weight’ also needs to take your age into account because this is a time when our bodies are growing and changing fast.

Whatever your age, the NHS BMI calculator will work your BMI out for you.

If your BMI shows you are underweight

There are lots of reasons why you might be underweight and it’s important to think about which applies to you. Chances are that it is simply because you’re not eating enough. It is important to address why you’re not eating enough because this can stop your body from getting enough of the calories and nutrients it needs. This can lead to weight loss and beingunderweight can cause a host of health problems. These include:

  • A lack of energy, leaving you feeling drained and tired
  • Poor nutrition, which leaves your body unable to function and grow as it should. For girls, this can lead to osteoporosis or brittle bones in later life.
  • Without all the right nutrients, your immune system will find it hard to protect you and fight off infection.
  • Damage to fertility for girls

Stress and emotional problems are a common cause of being underweight because they can leave us without much of an appetite. Consider whether the way you’re feeling could be at the root of you being underweight. In the long term, tackling this will be the best way to a solution. Read more about how our mood affects our appetite, here.

It may be that you’re underweight because you’re deliberately controlling what you eat. Thinking about what you eat can be a good thing, but it doesn’t mean focussing too much on being thin or looking a certain way. Instead, it should mean ensuring you’re taking in the right balance of fruit, vegetables, fibre, protein and carbohydrates to make your body healthy.

If you spend a lot of time worrying about food or your weight, or if eating makes you feel anxious, guilty, or upset, then you may have an eating disorder. There are many ways you can deal with this. Start by telling an adult you trust and read around the subject. Here’s a good article which explains eating disorders.

If you don’t think any of these things are the reason for you being underweight, it may simply be because your diet is not giving you enough of the right nutrients. Read more about having a healthy, balanced diet.

If your BMI shows you are overweight

The first thing to say is that there are probably two simple causes; the fact you are eating too much and not moving enough. If you address those two things, you’re probably halfway there.

Foods that are high in fat and sugar are often high in calories and eating too many calories will often lead to weight gain. But having a healthy balanced diet does not mean cutting out all your favourite foods. It means ensuring you’re getting the right nutrients to keep you healthy and matching the number of calories you take in, to how active you are. And trust us when we say that fad diets are not the answer. In fact, its really simple to eat well, it just takes some discipline and willpower to change your habits. Get started by reading these eight tips to healthy eating. It includes great tips on snacking healthily and how not skipping breakfast could be the key to starting each day on the right track. And if you think that following a plan could help, you can try this very simple 12 week weight loss plan from the NHS website.

The other key consideration is if you’re moving enough and how you can start moving more. Here are some tips to get you moving:

Start walking. Walking is a great way into being more active because its free, discreet and you don’t need any special equipment. There are loads of free apps out there, which will track your steps and help you set targets, which is strangely addictive!

Get running. The thought of running may leave you cold but that’s exactly how the creator of the Couch to 5k podcasts felt until she tried this nine week running plan. It starts slow with just a minute of running at a time but builds you up to running for half an hour. Not only do Couch to 5k graduates feel fitter but they say it gives them a huge confidence boost as well. There are podcasts to run to and even an app to download.

Try a team sport. Getting fit with others can be a great way to socialise, can be good for motivation and can be so fun that you get fit without even noticing it. Explore the fitnesssection of NHS Choices for a full range of ideas and inspiration.

Stay at home. Don’t fancy team sports or exercising outside? Why don’t you check out the NHS Fitness studio, which has a range of videos that you can watch and follow in the privacy of your own bedroom.

If your BMI shows you are a healthy weight

It is great news that you are a healthy weight. Just be sure to reflect on whether this is a happy accident or whether it is because you take care to ensure you eat a balanced, healthy diet

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