Healthy Weight, Healthy Life

Healthy Weight, Healthy Life
The National Heart Foundation of Australia's Heart Week 2004 (2 - 8 May) aims to save lives by encouraging you to make small changes to your eating and physical activity habits.

The latest statistics show that cardiovascular disease is still Australia's leading cause of death for both men and women. Additionally, the overweight and obesity epidemic continues to grow rapidly and now more than half of our adult population are overweight or obese, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and Type 2 diabetes. But the good news is you can reduce your risk of heart disease as well as achieve and maintain a healthy weight by making small changes to your lifestyle.

There are many factors that impact upon body weight - our genetic make up, the environment in which we live, and our lifestyle. Lifestyle is one area where we can make a difference. Changing our eating habits and being physically active will help to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Healthy weight management is about balancing the kilojoules coming into your body through food and drinks with the kilojoules being used by your body through everyday activities and planned regular physical activity.

Your body needs kilojoules for day to day activities and other physical activity. However, when we consume too many kilojoules, or we don't use up enough in physical activity, then we put on body fat. For weight loss to occur, we need to burn more kilojoules through physical activity and take in fewer kilojoules from food and drinks. Sounds simple, but we all know losing weight is not easy.

To reach a healthy weight you need to make some changes to your lifestyle that you can enjoy and maintain for life. If you make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily life, then you are more likely to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Healthy eating for weight management
The Heart Foundation encourages everyone to forget the word "diet". This word suggests misery and sacrifice. Healthy eating is not "dieting", it's everyday eating. Healthy eating is not about following strict rules - instead the emphasis is on enjoyment and nourishment. It's about choosing:
  • mainly plant-based foods - vegetables, fruit and legumes (dried peas, dried beans and lentils) and grain based foods (preferably wholegrain) such as bread, pasta, noodles and rice
  • moderate amounts of lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and reduced fat dairy products
  • moderate amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils and fats.

Be more physically active
Physical activity plays a very important role in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Although your body uses up some kilojoules for its normal day to day functioning, the main way to use up these kilojoules is to increase your physical activity.

For general heart health benefits, it is important to try and accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Moderate intensity physical activity includes things such as brisk walking or cycling. Combine short sessions of different activities of around 10-15 minutes each to a total of 30 minutes or more.

There is still a great deal of debate about how much physical activity is required to help with weight loss. However, you need to do more than the 30 minutes of physical activity recommended for general heart health. If you have not been physically active, it's important to start off slowly and gradually build up the amount of activity you do every day.

Key points for achieving a healthy weight
  • Make small, gradual changes to eating habits and physical activity levels that last a life-time. Don't rush in with dramatic changes that can't be maintained. Remember, it's the small steps that can make a big difference!
  • It's not going to be quick and easy, no matter what many magazines and "weight loss experts" may say. It takes effort and time and a commitment to long-term changes.
  • If you eat or drink more than what your body needs you will put on body fat.
  • Don't lose weight too fast. It can make you tired and irritable, and it may even lead to further weight gain later on.
  • Think positively! Remember, you are not on a “diet"; you have made the change to healthy eating.
  • Support from family and friends - everyone can enjoy the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity.

For further information and practical tips about weight management, healthy eating and physical activity, contact the Heart Foundation's national information service Heartline 1300 36 27 87 or visit Heartsite