Cut the Waist

Cut the Waist

Illustrative photo for 'Cut the Waist'
The philosophy of Cut the Waist is to prevent obesity related ill health through education resources

Lifestyle change

Even modest weight reduction can be hard to achieve as it requires us to make efforts to change our habits. However, data from the National Weight Control Registry demonstrate that it can be done!

In order to make changes it is important to first understand how our behaviours are influenced by our environment and how sometimes subtle changes in behaviour can impact our weight over time.

To summarise the lifestyle approach to long term weight management:

"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out"
Robert Collier, Self-help author

The importance of environment

As a species, we have evolved to store calories as body fat. This ability to store fuel via evolution of "thrifty genes" has been a vital part of our hunter-gather existence in order to survive periods of adversity.

Our three million-year evolution has equipped us to adapt to a harsh existence; it did not anticipate rapid environmental change and a new-found abundance of calories for all-year round consumption. In sharp contrast to our ancestors who had to expend significant energy to hunt food to survive, very little energy expenditure is required ordering supermarket shopping online, preparing processed, microwaved ready meals ("ping cuisine"), or having takeaways delivered to our doors.

Illustration of Obesogenic Environmental Impact

The importance of behaviours

The following weight equation describes body weight being influenced by genes, environment and behaviour. As it is not possible to change our genes and not practical to change our environment to one where calories are hard to come by, by reverting to more of a hunter-gatherer existence, we are left trying to navigate our obesogenic environment and attempt to control our weight by changing our behaviour.

Illustration: Your weight is...

This explains the simple truth that "diets don't work". "Going on" a diet suggests a transient journey. People who "go on" diets will inevitably "come off" their diet and regain their lost weight if they return to their previous eating and activity behaviours.

In order to successfully manage our weight long term, it is important that we avoid "going on a diet" and instead focus on learning the skills to "navigate" our obesogenic environment in the long term via investing time and effort to adopt sustained behaviour change.

Dieting doesn't work!
If you really want to "go on" a transient journey, you may prefer to try a bus. Enjoy the ride and save yourself the cost of the latest fad diet book!

The impact of small changes over time

Although weight management is lifelong, the good news is that relatively small changes in behaviour make a big difference to our weight over time.

The importance of behaviour change in weight management is underlined by the concept that a small excess of calorie intake over expenditure on a daily basis can lead to a large increase in weight over time.

For example, eating 100 calories (equivalent to less than two digestive biscuits) more than the calories we use up each day for a year provides an excess of 100 calories x 365 days = 36,500 calories.

As 1kg (2.2lb) of body fat is equal to 7,000 calories, in the above example eating less than the equivalent of two digestive biscuits per day over and above our daily energy expenditure would result in gaining over 5kg of body fat on one year.

Effective weight management via a 500 calorie daily deficit

Just as small increases in energy intake over expenditure can cause large gains in weight over time, relatively small efforts to reduce intake and increase activity, maintained over time, can result in a significant reduction in weight.

As 1kg (2lb) of fat is equivalent to 7,000 calories, a daily deficit of 500 calories per day will result in a 1kg loss of fat over 2 weeks. (500 calories for 14 days = 7,000 calories = 1kg fat).

It is important to incorporate both reduction in energy intake and an increase in daily activity to ensure weight loss success and maintenance of the weight loss over the longer term. Thus the 500 calorie daily deficit could be made up with 300-400 calories reduction in daily intake and a 100-200 calorie increase in daily activity to use up calories which have been stored as body fat.

Illustration of 500 calorie daily deficit

Everyday activity

Modern living has made being involved in physical activity rather optional. Fifty years ago the majority of the population was involved in manual, physically demanding jobs - having to be active to get paid. Now there are many more sedentary occupations and people feel that they need to pay to be active by joining a gym.

However evidence suggests that the people who do well managing their weight in the long term are more likely to do so by simply increasing their daily activity - making small changes like walking a bit more or choosing more active alternatives when going about their daily routine.

As you can see from the table below, doing many simple things in a more active way can result in significant increases in calorie expenditure and weight loss. This can amount to 8,800 kcals, the equivalent of losing 1.1kg (2.5lb) each month or 13.6kg (30lb) per year!

Chart of KCals used in daily activities

Take the 'everyday activity' option - use the FREE GYM!

Long term weight management success

Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry

The National Weight Control Registry1 is an American Initiative which invites people to register online if they have been successful in losing 30lb (13.6kg) of weight and have maintained this weight loss for one year. There are 5,000 registered members who have lost an average of 66lb and kept this weight off for five and a half years. This is how they did it...

Characteristics of "successful losers"

  • Incorporate activity into their lifestyle
  • Have regular meals
  • Learn to plan ahead
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Make Small Changes

How is long term weight management accomplished?

45% of registry participants lost the weight on their own. The other 55% lost weight with the help of some type of programme.

98% of registry participants report that they have modified their food intake in some way to lose weight.

94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking

Maintaining weight loss

Most registered members report maintaining a lower calorie and low fat diet and continue to participate in increased levels of activity

  • 78% eat breakfast every day
  • 75% weight themselves regularly to monitor
  • 62% watch less than 10hours of television per week
  • 90% participate in activity for an average of about one hour per day

Re-Defining Success (RDS) Calculator

Significant health benefits are associated with modest weight loss of 5-10% of bodyweight. Weight loss success should therefore be considered when a 5-10% weight loss target is achieved and maintained.

The Re-Defining Success (RDS) Calculator is a useful tool to calculate a target body weight following a 5% and 10% weight loss from present weight. Once appropriate weight and waist reduction targets have been calculated, the RDS Calculator can be used to print a personalised change plan and weight management progress record.

The recommendation for a healthy rate of weight loss is 0.5-1kg (1-2lb) per week. The RDS calculator uses this recommendation to suggest an appropriate and realistic timeframe to reach 5% and your 10% weight loss targets.

Re-Defining Success (RDS) Calculator


1. The National Weight Control Registry