Too much body fat is not good for your health. It can increase your risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cancer, and other serious diseases.
If you’re obese, it means that your body has a very high amount of body fat compared to lean body mass. Most doctors and health professionals in New Zealand use a measurement called the Body Mass Index (the BMI) to calculate whether you’re underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. For adults, a BMI measurement over 30 is considered to be obese. Your risk of developing health problems increases as your BMI gets higher.
Many New Zealanders are overweight or obese. In 2015/16, the New Zealand Health Survey found that around 1 in 3 adults aged 15 and over were obese, while 1 in 9 children aged 2–14 years were obese.
The number of New Zealanders who are obese is increasing. In 2015/16 over a million New Zealand adults were obese. Many experts believe that this is because we live in an environment that promotes over-consumption of food and drinks, and limits our opportunities for physical activity.
How people become overweight and obese
Being a healthy weight is about balancing energy intake (food and drinks) with energy expenditure (body requirements, and physical activity).
People gain weight when they consume more energy than they use. What a person eats and drinks, and how much activity they do directly affects whether they gain, lose or stay the same weight.
Making healthy food and activity choices
Making good choices about what you eat and drink and being physically active are important to achieve and keep a healthy body weight.
To avoid gaining excess weight and to lose weight:
- Choose nutritious foods that are low in energy (for example with very little fat and no added sugar)
- Drink plain water instead of sugary drinks and/or alcoholic drinks
- Eat smaller portions of food
- Sit less and move more
- Be as active as possible.
Set gradual goals for yourself. Make one or two changes at a time.
Learn more about healthy eating
- Healthy weight – includes advice on diets and getting started with weight loss
- Healthy eating tips for 2–5 year olds
- Healthy eating for children
- Healthy eating for teenagers
Getting active every day
As well as helping you reach or maintain a healthy weight, regular activity can lower your stress levels, improve your posture, help you sleep better, and keep your bones and muscles strong.
To maintain a healthy weight, try to aim for at least 2 and a half hours a week. This works out to be around 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. To lose weight, aim to double this amount. Mix in some vigorous activity for extra benefits. Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting, especially for long periods, for example at a desk or in front of a TV.
- See our physical activity guides for some great ideas on how to get active
- Tips to help 2–5 year olds be more active
- Helping children be more active
- Helping teenagers be more active
If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and build up to more regular activity.
Your doctor or practice nurse can set you up with a Green Prescription – advice and support to help you make those lifestyle changes.
- Find out how a Green Prescription can help you get started
- Starting physical activity when you haven’t been active
Focus on making gradual changes to your lifestyle. Avoid dieting on and off, counting calories, or trying difficult exercise that you can’t keep up.
Sleep is important for good health and wellbeing throughout life.
- Sleep tips for adults
- Helping young children sleep better
- Helping children sleep better
- Helping teenagers sleep better
Things to remember
- Check in with a health professional before you start changing your diet or activity. They’ll be able to give you good advice on how to approach it, taking into account any other issues about your health or lifestyle.
- Be realistic about your goals – any weight loss should be slow. The best kinds of changes are the ones that you can make a part of your everyday life for good.
- If you lose or gain weight very quickly, you should talk to your doctor immediately. It could indicate that there’s a problem with your hormones, a medication that you’re taking, or another condition that you have.