Tackling Obesity

We know that obesity is on the rise and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and other metabolic disorders. In terms of cancer, obesity is now thought to be the second highest preventable cause of cancer (associated especially with the risk of developing breast and bowel cancer) with more than 1 in 20 cancer cases caused by excessive weight . Based on data from Apr 2017 to Dec 2018, a staggering 29% of adults and 20% of Year 6 children were classified as obese in England. The majority of adults in England in 2017 were overweight or obese (64%) and in the US, 31.3% of adults were classified as obese; these numbers and rising trends are truly worrying. As a society, we really need to work hard to keep our weight down by being conscientious about what we eat even from a young age (Tackling Poor Diet) and to ensure we to do enough exercise (Tackling Lack of Exercise). At the end of the day, it essentially boils down to basic maths where the number of calories burned each day is directly linked to weight loss or weight gain. Sure, there may be variations to one’s level of baseline metabolism (conditions like an underactive or overactive thyroid may affect this) and other medical reasons (9 Medical Reasons For Putting On Weight) but clearly, what you eat & drink (in the context of soft drinks and alcohol) and how much you eat & drink greatly matters. Equally doing exercise and keeping fit will play a significant role in weight management.


Body Mass Index & Weight Circumference

The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy or not. You can use the BMI calculator below to obtain your BMI; this is calculated as your weight in kilograms (kg) divided by your height in metres (m) squared. Sometimes, waist circumference may give a better indication of whether someone has excess fat especially as muscular people can sometimes have a falsely high BMI. To measure your waist circumference, measure around your middle at a point half-way between your lower rib and top of your hips.

Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI of   > 18.5 kg/m²            =  Underweight

BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m²   =  Healthy Weight

BMI of 25 – 29.9 kg/m²       =  Overweight

BMI of   ≥ 30 kg/m²                =  Obese

BMI of   ≥ 40 kg/m²                =  Morbidly Obese


Waist Circumferences

Men            Increased Risk  ≥ 94 cm (37 in)       High Risk  ≥ 102 cm (40 in)

Women       Increased Risk  ≥ 80 cm (31.5 in)    High Risk  ≥ 88 cm (34.5 in)


To Calculate Your BMI, Plug in Your Height & Weight

Your BMI is



Some Facts
  • As a guide, men need about 2500 calories/day and women need 2000 calories/day to maintain their weight.
  • A person with a BMI of between 30 – 35 may die two to four years earlier than someone of a healthy weight.
  • A person with a BMI of between 40 – 45 may die eight to ten years earlier.
  • The health benefits of weight loss include reducing the risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancers, lowering blood pressure, decreasing joint pains, improving mobility, etc. Once you overcome the initial hurdle of putting your mind to action, it really is a win-win situation!

The science behind how your body knows you are full is a complex interactions of hormones and neurological pathways between the stomach and the brain. Having even a very basic understanding of this will likely help you to appreciate the importance of portion sizing and chewing well. I often mention to my patients that it is important to focus on not only what you eat and how much you eat but also, how you eat and when you eat (see Tackling Poor Diet).


Your Mindset Really Matters


  • You need to be motivated – it really is a mind over body thing
  • Set small achievable goals to start with. Say you were eating three large meals a day with snacks in between. It is nearly impossible to drop this down suddenly to three small meals and no snacks as you stomach will be still conditioned to large meals. What you need to do is slowly reduce the volume you eat and of course, try also to improve the quality of what you eat.

  • Be SMART about your goal setting towards dieting; that is your goals are Specific (simple, sensible, significant), Measurable (meaningful, motivating), Achievable (agreed, attainable), Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based) and Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive). Perhaps you might want to work closely with your GP / nutritionist / dietician and come up with a SMART plan.

  • Try to avoid temptation. At the start, if you feel it’s just impossible to stay away from the bar(s) of chocolate, packet(s) of crisps, biscuits/cakes, etc. and you desperately have the urge to snack, firstly just start by trying to reduce the amount. Over time, the next step would be substitute it to something healthier like fruits or nuts. In an ideal world, you should try to avoid snacks or at least keep it to a bare minimum and stick to healthy and well-balanced meals; you can fight off hunger with more filling foods. Salads are always a great option.

  • As you find a good sustainable dietary routine, hopefully things will get easier and your body will acclimatise to your new diet regime. By optimising your lifestyle, over time your body should then also start to crave for the right foods and you may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself being put off by the very junk foods that you used to like.

  • Your weight will invariably fluctuate from time to time. Don’t be disheartened if you are managing to only loose small amounts or if you hit a phase where there is no weight loss despite doing everything. It is the general trends of weight reduction that we are working towards as opposed to an absolute amount and we know this can take a lot of time and effort (also over the festive seasons, if your weight remains the same pat yourself on the back; if you manage to loose weight, then that’s fantastic).



Try out the Start the NHS weight loss plan, which contains a free 12-week diet and exercise plan. You also ask you GP (though usually it would be the practice nurse) to refer you to services like Slimming World, Weight Watchers and MAN V FAT Football. Depending on where you live and the local policies, these may be free, subsidised, or you may get vouchers that can be put towards sessions. You can always utilise these services by self-funding.

Also take a look at How To Turn A Leaf (Store & Products), which should hopefully help you to find healthier options.




Cancer Prevention Research  >>   Achieving Good Health & Resisting Cancer (n = 1)  I  Tackling Stress  I  Tackling Sleep  I  Tackling Smoking  I  Tackling Alcohol  I  Tackling Poor Diet  I  Tackling the Lack of Exercise  I  Tackling Sun Exposure  I  Tackling the Work-Life Balance  I  Tackling the Fear of Seeing Your Doctor  I  Cancer Screening  I  Cancer Vaccination  I  Genetic Testing