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We all know that overweight is now a serious problem. In the UK, for example, 65% of men and 56% of women are overweight or obese. And it is hard to lose weight because everywhere we look we are encouraged to consume more.  

If you want to check whether you are overweight, forget the scales. All you need is a tape measure. Measure your waist at about the level of your belly button, with your tummy relaxed. Women should measure less than 80 cm, and men less than 94 cm. If you measure more than this, check out our Top Tips for losing weight.

Top tips for losing weight

  • Eat only when you are hungry – not because you are upset or bored.
  • Eat slowly – put down your knife and fork (or put your sandwich down) between mouthfuls.
  • Don’t do something else while you are eating (such as TV, reading). Concentrate on your food and enjoy every mouthful.
  • Pause in the middle of the meal to assess how truly hungry you are still. Then stop eating when you have had enough.
  • Use a small plate.
  • Get enough sleep – sleep deprivation can lead to over-eating.
  • Forget fad diets – it is how you eat rather than what you eat that matters.
  • Gradually increase the amount of exercise you take: every little helps. Maybe you could use stairs instead if the lift, walk instead of using the car, or make enough time to get off the bus one stop before your destination. Don't be embarrassed about exercising in public, read the amazing 39 stone cyclist's top tips for getting on a bike for inspiration and take the first step.

Being overweight can cause some problems that you may find embarrassing. Here are some of them.

A red rash under the breasts is a problem for many overweight women. This does not mean you are unclean. It is simply that some skin fungi thrive in warm, moist folds of skin, and of course these skin folds are deeper if you are overweight. For more information, see redness under the breasts.
Red rash in the groin occurs for similar reasons to the rash under the breasts. For more information, see jock itch.
Sweating seems to be a common problem. This may be partly because if you are overweight you have to put more effort into any movements that you make. Have a look at the sweating section for advice.
Stretch marks can occur, especially following yo-yo dieting. (Another good reason not to go on fad diets.) There are some treatments, so look at the stretch marks section.
Leaking urine when you cough or sneeze is a very common worry if you are overweight (International Journal of Obesity 2008; 32:1312–8). When we are overweight, fat accumulates inside the abdomen, as well as under the skin. The ‘pelvic floor’ muscles that support the bladder, and help to prevent leakage, cannot cope with the weight of this fat in the abdomen. For more information, look at the section on incontinence of urine.
Sexual problems seem to be more common in overweight people. If you are very overweight, actually having intercourse might be problematic and, in men, erection problems are more likely (International Journal of Impotence Research 2005; 17:391–8). A Swedish survey of overweight women found they had less satisfactory sex lives, and were more likely to try to avoid having intercourse (International Journal of Obesity 2008; 32:1312–18). This might be partly to do with feeling generally unattractive. It was also partly because they were worried about leaking urine during sex (which was more likely to happen than in women of normal weight). Another study, in Italy, reported that being overweight did not affect sexual desire, but did cause problems with becoming sexually aroused, lubrication, and orgasm (International Journal of Impotence Research 2007; 19:353–7). The good news is that if you lose some weight, your sex life should improve; this has been shown by several research studies.

Fast Facts ObesityFast Facts medical handbooks are written for doctors but read by patients too.
The new edition of Fast Facts: Obesity by Drs Haslam and Wittert is out now.

Just 5% weight loss can have a massive effect on your health. Find out how  your family doctor or practice nurse can help you to lose weight and keep it off. 



Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Wednesday, July 23rd 2014


Find out more from GP and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond about the causes of enlarged breasts in boys and men, and what you can do if they are causing you pain or discomfort, in his video on male breast enlargement.

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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 09/11/2015 at 10:38

I am overweight, weighing at around 180 lbs. My butt is lumpy, to say the least. Crater like. Its big and wide but there's very large indents in my behind that prevent me from wearing certain underwear or pants because of how abnormal the bumps in the butt are. Anyone that could give me advice would be appreciated.

Posted by Pip on 02/06/2014 at 08:56

At what stage should you step in and tell a loved one you're concerned about their weight? I want to help a friend who has been struggling for a while but I don't know what to say or how to say it, as I don't want it to affect our friendship. Thanks.

Posted by Optional on 05/04/2013 at 03:09

Im 22 I weigh 190 & im 5 feet tall I been having the pimple and lumps constantly growing om my butt do any one know if being over weight causes that

Posted by Optional on 08/10/2012 at 04:43

I wanted to make a statement of hope. I have been 395lbs. for 20years. I just figured out last year if I gave up everything processed, my body could function the way it was made to function. I have lost 100lbs., no exercise,no soda,no sugar, no flour,no chemical! and eat yogurt daily, drink lots of water, eat fruits, veggies and lean meats.(Butter,instead of margarine.)It was that simple!

Posted by philip on 25/06/2012 at 04:17

i weight 127kg and my height is 186cm what can i do to loss weight

Posted by puppylove on 26/01/2012 at 12:13

i dont no wht to do im 10 and im over 100 pounds im so enbaressed please please wht do i do

Posted by Optional on 17/08/2010 at 07:24

excellent site easy to navigate and accessible.

Posted by Optional on 30/06/2010 at 05:47

We should incorporate healthy lifestyles in every aspect of our daily living

Posted by tashiya on 23/06/2010 at 06:03

please help me loss wait

Posted by Michelle on 25/04/2010 at 12:42

Hi,i have been trying to loose weight for years to no availe,now i am 16stone and feel terrible,i have lost weight only to put it on again and more with it. Is there anything i can take to loose it and keep the weight off.I would be very greatfull if you can help me, Thaking you michelle,from Ireland x

Posted by Optional on 03/03/2010 at 10:49

iam22virgin,6kg overweight.trying to lose weight.have severe foul smelling white discharge & irregular bowel syndrome.i will go 2bowels only when i eat something after i get sensation some liquid like coffee or something.


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