Being a healthy weight

Learn about the factors affecting your weight and what you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being a healthy weight lowers your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

What affects your weight

Being a healthy weight is about balancing energy intake (food and drinks) with energy expenditure (body requirements and physical activity).

However, there are many things that influence the amount and type of foods and drinks that you have, how your body responds to what you eat and how active you are.

Other influences

There are many factors that also influence your weight and eating patterns (that is, how, when and what you eat). Examples include:

  • a health condition, disease or medication
  • stress, mental illness, loneliness, boredom
  • poor sleep
  • type of work, eg prolonged sitting, shift work
  • access to, availability, type and cost of food in your local community and household
  • cooking and food preparation skills.

How and what you eat and drink when with friends and family/ whānau or at work, and other social situations.

If you have a health condition or disability talk to your doctor or clinician about the most suitable food, activity and weight management plan for your circumstances.

Being obese, overweight or underweight

Being obese, overweight or underweight are technical terms used by health professionals to describe when a person’s body weight is unhealthy, meaning there’s an increased risk of developing long-term health conditions. Learn more in the section: Measuring weight

Food, activity and sleep tips

Making good choices about what you eat and drink, and being physically active, are important to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Making healthy food and activity choices

To avoid gaining excess weight and to lose weight:

  • choose nutritious foods that are low in saturated fat, added sugar and salt (for example vegetables and fruit)
  • drink plain water instead of sugary drinks and/or alcoholic drinks
  • eat smaller portions of food.

Set gradual goals for yourself. Make one or two changes at a time. For example, have fruit for dessert instead of having ice cream or biscuits; have an extra serve of vegetables at dinner; gradually reduce your food portions. Here's some suggested dietary changes you can make (adapted from our Eating and Activity  Guidelines.)

Recommended dietary changes for New Zealand adults

Processed meat eg: luncheon, salami, sausages
Red meat* eg: beef, pork, mutton, lamb
* Eat less than 500 g cooked meat per week (equivalent to 700–750 g when raw).
Drinks and foods with added sugars
Highly-processed food high in refined grains, saturated fat, sugar and salt
eg: fish 'n chips, pizzas, biscuits, muesli bars, cakes pastries, pies, instant noodles, chippies

You can also substitute a variety of food products and recipe ingredients for more healthy alternatives. Check out the Swap this for that foodchart on the HPA website.

There’s more tips about making healthy food choices, understanding food labels and meal ideas for all ages in the sections on: Making healthy food choicesHealthy eating for children, and Healthy eating for teenagers.

Learn more about healthy eating

Certain foods, vitamins and minerals are essential to us, whatever our age or stage in life. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring if you know what to eat from the four food groups.

There’s also guidance on serving sizes, snack and meal alternatives in the sections on healthy eating for all ages from birth to adulthood:

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.

Maintain a healthy weight

To maintain a healthy weight, try to aim for at least 2 and a half hours of moderate to vigorous activity a week. This works out to be around 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activity is activity that makes you breathe harder than normal.

Losing weight

To lose weight, aim for around 250 minutes a week (about 50 minutes five times a week). 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.

Pace yourself

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.

Focus on making gradual changes to your lifestyle that you can sustain. Avoid dieting on and off, counting calories, or trying difficult exercise that you can’t keep up.

Sleeping well

Sleep is important for good health and wellbeing throughout life. Sleep, or lack of it, can impact on your food choices, mood, and energy levels.

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