Being overweight increases the risk of health problems including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Whilst exercise can help tackle this, diet is also very important. So, to offer you the best advice possible, for this blog I've called in the help of nutritionist Emma Thornton.
Body fat most often accumulates around the stomach and is generally caused by eating too much and not exercising enough.
We can measure body fat using scales, a simple tape measure or by taking a Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement. This is a person's weight (in kilograms) divided by their height, which is then squared. The higher this figure, the more at risk of health problems you are.
That being said, this measurement isn't so accurate for those who are very muscular as it doesn't distinguish between muscle and fat. It also doesn't take into account age or gender, which can also influence body fat.
Research shows that exercising is effective in reducing body fat all over the body, and not just in the area being 'worked out'.1 So, this suggests that the old saying, any exercise is good exercise, is very much true.
If you do relatively little exercise, then start with small activities that you can fit around your daily routine, such walking more often, doing breathing exercises and stretching. This is less challenging than beginning a new sport or exercise class and should be easier to stick to long-term.
When this is fixed into your routine, then you can try to up the intensity of your exercise plan by doing a mixture of strength and aerobic activities.
Running, cycling, swimming and dancing are great examples of aerobic activities. These get the heart and breathing rate up, and can reduce body fat.
One study has found that sprint running for short intervals reduced body fat in women. Women who ran sprints 3 times a week for 6 weeks reduced their body fat by 8%.2
If you aren't used to doing aerobic sports, you could do them in short intervals until you build up some stamina. For example, try a 10-minute walk, followed by a 10-minute run, then another 10-minute walk. This adds up to an easy 30-minute workout.
What is the best diet to lose body fat?
Although exercise is a really important factor in managing body weight, we must also think about diet. A balanced, healthy lifestyle is key to managing weight, rather than restrictive diets.
Nutritionist Emma Thornton says: "Crash diets may show good weight loss results initially, but these aren't normally sustainable. When we return to our regular eating habits, the weight is likely to pile back on again.
Ensuring your diet is healthy and balanced all the time, rather than focusing on a short-term diet, should provide more long-lasting weight loss results. Try introducing dietary changes slowly, too, as this should be easier to stick to."
Eating more calories than you are burning contributes to weight gain. Below, I've included a list that gives you an idea of how much food makes up a portion. Knowing this can help you avoid eating too much.
Another top tip is to use a small plate so you aren't able to pile on as much food.
It is also important to be aware of what you're eating when doing sedentary activities like watching the television. We are more likely to reach for chocolates or biscuits at this time. Emma says: "Keeping a little box of nuts and seeds in the living room offers a healthier alternative to a box of chocolates."
A good alternative to sitting in front of the TV and snacking is to get out and be more active. Remember, you can do activities at home, if you don't want to venture out.
40g cereal 2 slices of bread/1 roll 75g uncooked rice/pasta 1 baked potato/5 new potatoes
140g cooked fish
1 piece of medium fruit (banana, apple, orange, pear) 2 pieces of small fruit (kiwis, plums) Handful of grapes or berries 30g dried fruit 3 slices of pineapple, melon, mango 150ml fruit juice/smoothie (1 serving per day)
Eating regularly can help with weight management, but you do have to ensure you are getting the right foods.
Dried fruit and nuts are a handy healthy snack to keep in your bag. Alternatively, try making some heathy breakfast bars!
Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are nutritious and low-calorie. These should make up just over 1/3 of what you eat each day.
Planning meals ahead of time can ensure you reach the daily recommended intake for fruit and vegetables, plus it ensures you don't end up opting for convenience foods like ready-meals which contain more fat, sugar and additives.
High fibre foods can help with weight loss. These take a while to digest so can make you feel fuller for longer.
Emma says: "Fibrous foods should make the basis of your meal and should equate to about 1/3 of what you eat in total."
Fibrous foods include bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. Opt for brown or wholegrain varieties as they are more nutritious.
Cut down on saturated fats
Saturated fats like pizza and fried foods contribute to weight gain, however, if you simply don't buy these kinds of foods, then you won't be tempted to eat them!
As an alternative, swap saturated for healthy fats which are found in avocadoes, nuts, seeds and fish.
Consider what you drink
Fizzy juice is quite calorific so opt for plain water instead. This is much better for your waistline and will keep your body hydrated when doing more exercise, too.
Alcohol also contains lots of calories. Drinking alcohol in excess may also cause you to make poor dietary choices, such as over-eating, or eating unhealthily. So, try to manage your intake by having a few more alcohol-free days each month.
With all these diet and exercise tips, you will be battling any undesired body fat in no time at all!