Weight Management

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Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent many diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Following a healthy diet and staying physically active are two of the most important elements when it comes to weight management. This section provides an overview about weight management, as well as information about how to achieve lasting weight loss success and develop a healthier relationship with food.

If you often find yourself confused by the contradictory advice on what you should be eating, see Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. Backed by strong scientific evidence, this page explains the seven healthiest changes you can make to your diet.

For tips on how to lose and keep weight off, go to the section Lose Weight and Improve Your Health. Finally, our Self Help Resources can point you to other sources of information to support you on your weight loss and management journey.

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Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent many diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. But apart from lowering your risk of serious health problems, maintaining a healthy weight helps you feel good about yourself, and gives you more energy to enjoy life. There are three important factors that allow you to successfully manage you weight: following a healthy diet, staying physically active, and modifying negative behaviours or habits.

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet contains a variety of vegetables and fruits. It also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds. Avoid foods that are high in salt, added sugars, solid fats, and refined grains. For more tips, see Eat, Drink and Be Healthy.

Stay physically active

Generally, 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity, such as bicycle riding and brisk walking, per day is recommended. Aerobic exercise, flexibility exercises and resistance exercises are all beneficial for weight management and overall health. To read more about ways to stay physically active, see the section Exercise and Fitness.

Use behaviour modification principles

Behaviour modification can be a very helpful addition to a weight management plan. This is an approach that assists people to decrease undesirable behaviours and increase positive behaviors through small changes – in this case, by focusing on changing the behaviours that are connected to unhealthy eating.

The following behaviour modification tips will provide you with a starting point on your weight management journey:

  • Manage your home environment by keeping the food you crave out of sight, planning healthy meals before you go shopping, and reducing television viewing time.
  • Take control of your work environment, which includes planning your lunches for the week ahead of time and going for short walks during your breaks instead of snacking.
  • Modify your dining experience by eating slower and using smaller bowls and plates. 
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If you are overwhelmed by the contradictory advice on what you should be eating, this might be your answer. ‘Eat, Drink and Be Healthy’ is a Harvard Health publication that overturns the dietary recommendations provided by the long-established U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid to present a new healthy eating guide based on a stronger foundation of scientific evidence.

According to the publication, here are the seven healthiest changes you can make to your diet:

  • Watch your weight: For long-term health, preventing considerable weight gain is more important than getting too specific about your exact diet. The lower and more stable your weight, the less your chances are of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as a range of other health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  • Eat more good fats and less bad fats: Fats from nuts, seeds, grains, fish, and liquid oils (such as olive, canola, soybean, sunflower, and other vegetable oils) are good for you, especially when you eat them in place of saturated and trans fat. Getting more than 30% of your daily calories from fats is absolutely fine as long as the majority of those fats are unsaturated.
  • Eat more whole-grain carbohydrates and less refined-grain carbohydrates: Eating refined-grain carbohydrates increases levels of blood sugar and insulin and raises your levels of bad cholesterol. In the long run, this can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. On the other hand, eating whole-grain foods is better for long-term good health and offers protection against diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.
  • Choose healthier sources of proteins: This publication states that beans and nuts – along with fish, poultry, and eggs – are the best sources of protein and are healthier alternatives to red meat.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will guard against gastrointestinal problems, a variety of cancers, and decreases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and age-related problems. Potatoes are the only exception to this rule, which should be eaten in moderation due to their dramatic effect on levels of blood sugar and insulin.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation: If you drink alcohol, one drink a day for women and one to two a day for men is best for long-term health.
  • Take a multivitamin for insurance: While it won't make up for an unhealthy diet, a multivitamin can fill in the nutritional holes that may be present in your diet. Several of the ingredients in a standard multivitamin – especially vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid, and vitamin D – are essential players in preventing heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. 
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Your weight is a balancing act, however the equation is simple. Eating more calories than you burn means you gain weight, while eating fewer calories than you burn means you lose weight. The key to successful weight loss is a commitment to making changes in your diet and exercise habits that you can keep for the rest of your life. By making smart choices every day, you can develop new eating habits and preferences that will leave you looking healthier and feeling more satisfied.

Research by the Weight-control Information Network (WIN) indicates that those who lose 5% to 7% of their body weight reduce their risk of weight-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes. Even if weight loss isn’t necessary for you, being mindful of healthy eating and exercise habits will help you stay healthy and prevent weight gain over the years.

A healthy weight loss program requires you to:

  • Have a reasonable and realistic weight loss goal: To ensure healthy weight loss, it's best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your mind and body making you feel sluggish, drained, and sick.
  • Set goals to keep you motivated: Keep in mind the specific long-term lifestyle goals that compelled you to want to lose weight in the first place. That way, when frustration or temptation strikes, concentrate on the many benefits you will reap from being healthier and leaner.
  • Exercise regularly: Apart from the numerous health benefits of exercise, staying physically active can help burn off the excess calories you can't eliminate through diet alone. It is also a key factor in maintaining weight loss in the long-term.
  • Get emotional support: Social support makes a huge impact on weight loss and lifelong healthy eating. Seek out support— whether in the form of family, friends, or a support group— to get the encouragement you need.
  • Track your progress: Weigh yourself regularly and keep a food journal to keep track of each pound and inch you lose. By keeping track of your weight loss efforts, you’ll see the results which will help you stay motivated.
  • Have a reduced calorie, nutritionally-balanced eating plan: Adopting a new eating plan that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. One way to lower your calorie intake is by eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, cut back on your sugar and salt intake and choose low-fat dairy products.
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