Information for the public

Help to change your lifestyle

You and your healthcare professional should decide together what treatment or other help is best for you. This should take into account your preferences and your general health and fitness. See Other NICE guidance for details of our guidance on lifestyle changes and exercise in overweight and obese adults.

If you are ready to lose weight, you should be offered regular appointments. If possible, you should see the same health professional each time. This person should offer you support and advice.

Most people should first be offered advice and help with changing their lifestyle – that is, becoming more active and using more energy than they get from the calories they take in. Getting support from your family and friends too will make it easier to change your lifestyle.

If you are helping your child to stabilise their weight or lose weight, this will be easier if the whole family makes the same lifestyle changes. If you are also overweight you should be encouraged to try to lose weight at the same time as your child. Parents should usually take responsibility for making changes to their child's diet, and encouraging them to become more active, particularly if the child is under 12. But the preferences and views of the child or young person should also be taken into account when deciding what changes to make.

How much physical activity should you be doing?

All adults should try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on 5 or more days a week. (Moderate activity makes your breathing and heartbeat get faster and makes you feel warm.) This lowers your risk of developing medical problems such as diabetes and heart disease. But many people need to do 45 to 60 minutes of moderate activity a day to stop them gaining weight. If you have lost weight, you may need to do as much as 60 to 90 minutes a day to stop you putting it back on again. This activity can be in a single session or several sessions lasting 10 minutes or more. You could try:

  • brisk walking, cycling or climbing stairs, which can be part of your everyday routine

  • gardening

  • going to the gym or an exercise class, or swimming.

Your choice of activities should be based on what you enjoy, your general health and fitness, and any disability you may have. Your healthcare professional can advise you if needed. Try to reduce the amount of time you are sitting down and inactive, for example watching television or at a computer. And remember, it's worth being more active even if you don't manage to lose much weight, because it can improve your health in other ways. Even small changes can help.

Children should do at least 60 minutes of moderate activity each day – this can be in one go, or in shorter sessions of 10 minutes or more. Children who are already overweight may need to do more than 60 minutes of activity to lose weight. Good ways to encourage children to become more active include:

  • reducing the amount of time they spend sitting down, for example watching the television, on a computer or playing video games

  • giving them the chance to be more active generally, for example by walking, cycling, or playing active games

  • helping them take part in regular activities that they enjoy, such as dancing, sports or swimming.

Making it easier to change your lifestyle

It can be difficult to make changes to your lifestyle to help you lose weight. Your healthcare professional will understand this, and should give you all the encouragement they can.

They should also be able to tell you about techniques to help you change your lifestyle or arrange an appointment with a trained professional who can do this. The techniques might include:

  • avoiding situations that you know may tempt you to overeat

  • eating more slowly

  • being confident so that other people don't persuade you to give up your plans to eat healthily and become more active

  • changing the way you think about food and being active

  • ways to stop you putting weight back on and what to do if this happens.

If your child needs to lose weight they may be taught some of these techniques. They may also be asked to agree with their healthcare professional some realistic goals to do with eating a healthier diet or being more active. You can help by setting your child a good example, and by giving them lots of praise and encouragement.

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