About the LiveLighter campaign

The LiveLighter campaign features hard-hitting, and at times, confronting advertisements. This is a deliberate approach designed to raise awareness and stimulate public debate about this important public health issue.

We need to make a strong impression to cut-through the multitude of messages in the community; including the barrage of advertising from the junk food industry. LiveLighter offers a healthy alternative, providing a wealth of information, resources and tools to support people in making and maintaining positive lifestyle changes.

The Heart Foundation and Cancer Council always conduct research before committing to an advertising campaign. Given the sensitive nature of this issue, we tested the concept with a wide range of people from different genders, ages and backgrounds. These advertisements tested extremely well in terms of capturing people's attention and delivering the important messages about the serious health consequences of being an unhealthy weight.

For a more detailed look at the science which informed the LiveLighter campaign, download a factsheet.

It's part of the solution. All levels of government, the community, the food industry and, of course, individuals have a part to play. We need to work as a community to improve the environment around us, to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It's important to reach and maintain a healthy weight, make healthy choices about what to eat and drink and lead a physically active lifestyle.

Some simple ways to LiveLighter include:

The LiveLighter public education campaign aims to provide new insights into the health consequences of unhealthy weight. The campaign provides encouragement and support to change eating patterns, food choices and increase levels of physical activity.

The advertising messages do not focus on body shape. Instead, the advertisements draw attention to, and provide understandable explanations about, central adiposity (internal fat deposits). These deposits (which can coat the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas) increase the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and some cancers.

The LiveLighter campaign is being comprehensively assessed by Australia's leading experts in the evaluation of public education campaigns. The advertising messages have been thoroughly tested to ensure they are effective and unlikely to generate unintended consequences.

In developing the campaign, we met with senior researchers and clinicians in the eating disorders field, including with the Eating Disorders Program at Princess Margaret Hospital and members of the National Eating Disorder Collaboration - not for approval or endorsement, but to seek their advice on identifying and mitigating risks of unintended consequences.

Obesity is a major public health problem and the leading cause of burden disease in Western Australia. LiveLighter has been developed to address this important public health challenge.

If you're concerned about a loved one, or for more information about eating disorders and where to seek help, please visit www.nedc.com.au

Supporting and encouraging people to make healthy choices is vitally important, but much of the environment around us is skewed towards us gaining weight rather than losing it. For example, food advertising and the number of takeaway outlets in an area can affect an individual's food choices. Everyone has the right to know the truth about what they're eating.

Changing the environment we live in, to support healthier lifestyle choices, is vital. Governments have a fundamental role in creating an environment that encourages positive lifestyle changes by individuals, families and communities. These "decision-makers" need to help make healthy choices the easy choices.

About the LiveLighter Meal and Activity Planner / Website

For best results, the LiveLighter experts recommend following the LiveLighter Meal and Activity Planner as closely as possible.

For the first four weeks of your Planner, you'll be given meal suggestions for each day of the week. From there, you'll gradually start to make your own Healthy choices.

Absolutely! Many of the LiveLighter recipes are designed to serve 4 (or more). To save on money and cooking, you might choose to eat last night's left-overs for lunch the next day. This can be particularly useful if you're single or a couple.

If you do this, remember to watch your portion size.

It is important to find the balance between not working hard enough and working too hard. This is called moderate intensity. If you don't work hard enough, you will not achieve your goals. If you work too hard you risk injury. Here are a couple of ways to find out if you are working at a suitable level:


During moderate activity you should be able to carry on a conversation, but will need to pause for breath from time-to-time - this has the added benefit of allowing your companion to speak. If you start to provide one-word answers the activity is becoming vigorous.

Heart rate

Heart rate is another way to gauge the intensity of exercise. The simplest way to measure heart rate is to count your pulse at the wrist or neck for 15 seconds and multiply the number of beats counted by four. This answer gives you the beats per minute. Inexpensive heart rate monitors are also available.

Moderate intensity exercise is when your heart rate is 50-70% of maximum. Maximum heart rate can be estimate by subtracting your age (in years) from 220. For example, if you are 40 your maximum heart rate is 220-40=180 beats per minute. Use the chart to estimate your target heart rate.

20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 65 70
100% 200 195 190 185 180 175 170 165 155 150
90% 180 176 171 167 162 158 153 149 140 135
80% 160 156 152 148 144 140 136 132 124 120
70% 140 137 133 130 126 123 119 116 109 105
60% 120 117 114 111 108 105 102 99 93 90
50% 100 98 95 93 90 88 85 83 78 75

About sugary drinks

Fruit juice contains only juice (sometimes a small amount of added sugar, salt and spices as well). There is a limit to how much sugar is allowed to be in fruit juice. Fruit drinks however often contain only a small amount of fruit and a lot of added sugar.

Fruit juice can be a good source of vitamins and minerals but contains a lot of sugar which is found in the fruit naturally. A glass of orange juice contains the juice from about five oranges so it's better to eat the piece of fruit and get the benefits of fibre, and have a glass of water to quench your thirst. If you like drinking juice try to limit it to half a glass a day (125 ml).

Diet soft drinks contain artificial sweeteners and little or no sugar or energy (kilojoules). Because of this, switching to diet drinks can help some people lose weight. Just like sugar-sweetened soft drinks though, they contain no nutritional value and are harmful to your teeth. Some studies show that when people drink diet drinks they can also tend to over-eat other foods.

Dairy products like milk are a good source of protein and calcium but they also contain unhealthy saturated fats. Choosing low fat dairy products is a simple way to reduce the amount of saturated fat you and your family are eating. (Note: children under 2 years old should have full cream dairy).

There are many different kinds of sugar. Sucrose is ordinary table sugar and it is made up of two smaller sugar building blocks, or molecules: one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Fructose is the natural sugar you find in fruit.

Corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn that can then be used in food products. It's cheaper to get the sweetness from corn than it is to get the sweetness from sugar cane however it is not used very much in Australia. It is different from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is more processed and has more of the sugar building block fructose in it than ordinary table sugar.

If you are doing vigorous activity for more than 90 minutes a day then a sports drinks may help you re-hydrate faster. If you're doing less exercise than that you don't need the extra sugar or electrolytes and plain tap water is the best drink for you.

Unsweetened tea or coffee (with low fat milk) is a good drink to have in moderate amounts. The caffeine can have a dehydrating effect so make sure you drink plenty of water too.

No. Most sugary drinks only give our bodies sugar, this gives us energy, but it doesn't give us the other good things that healthy food gives us. We need protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre to keep our bodies healthy.

If you do a lot of exercise and burn off all the extra energy from sugary drinks then that's great - you probably won't gain weight from the sugary drinks alone. However, it's important to remember that sugary drinks aren't the only things that give our body kilojoules. All the food (and alcohol) we consume gives us energy too. For example, you might be cycling far enough to burn off a can of lemonade, but if you also eat too much food (and don't do any more exercise) you are likely to gain weight. It's also important to remember that as well as adding extra energy to your diet, sugary drinks aren't good for your teeth.

The amount of energy we burn when we exercise (or even just when we lay around on the couch) depends on a lot of things, not just our age. In the Sugary Drinks Calculator we also take into account your height, weight, age and gender.

Sugar is a source of energy (kilojoules) for the body. If we eat or drink more energy than we burn then we will gain weight. This is usually in the form of fat (also known as adipose tissue). This adipose tissue is stored under the skin as "grabbable" fat, but also in and around our vital organs as visceral fat. In general, the bigger your grabbable gut is, the more likely you are to have visceral fat around your vital organs.

Adipose tissue doesn't just sit there, it has nerves and blood vessels and the ability to produce chemicals, including hormones. The more adipose tissue you have, the higher the levels of certain chemicals in your blood. These can disrupt the normal balance of the body and have a negative effect on blood pressure, blood clotting and the body's ability to react to insulin among other things. Having a grabbable gut and visceral fat puts you at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and several cancers.

About the calculations

The nutrition information is from the NUTTAB 2010 database which is produced by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. This information is an average of several brands or types of the same food product. We calculate the energy content by multiplying your weekly sugar intake from sugary drinks (in grams) by 16 (the number of kilojoules of energy stored in every gram of sugar). We calculate the sugar content in teaspoons by dividing your weekly intake from sugary drinks (in grams) by 4 (the number of grams in a level teaspoon (5 mL) of sugar, or one sugar cube or sugar sachet).

For example if we look at one 375 mL can of cola, it has 41 g of sugar in it. To figure out how much that is in teaspoons we divide the grams of sugar by 4.
41 ÷ 4 = 10.25
So a can of cola has more than 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Fat is a more efficient way to store energy than sugar. Every gram of sugar contains 16 kJ of stored energy, while every gram of fat contains 37 kJ of stored energy.

First we convert the sugar in the drinks into kilojoules (multiply the grams of sugar by 16), and then we convert that into the amount of fat that would be needed to store that amount of energy (divide by 37).

For example:
(Sugar x 16) ÷ 37 = fat needed to store the energy from sugary drinks

Our body needs energy to keep us alive, even when we're just resting on the couch. The speed at which we use energy during this time is called Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). It's different for everyone and we can estimate it using the Harris-Benedict formula taking into account your age, gender, height and weight. When we do physical activity our body needs extra energy on top of our RMR. METs (Metabolic Equivalents of Task) calculate the amount of energy we need to do an activity based on our RMR (1 MET). A gentle activity, like walking around has a MET of 3. That means it takes 3 times as much energy to walk around than it does to relax on the couch for the same amount of time. The more vigorous the activity, the higher the MET and the higher the amount of energy required to do that activity. Once we know your energy intake from sugary drinks, we can estimate how long it will take you to burn this off.

Health Star Ratings

The Health Star Rating System is a front-of-pack labelling system which looks at the overall nutritional value of packaged foods and drinks and gives them a star rating out of 5 stars.

Health Stars are designed to help people choose healthier options when comparing similar packaged food products on the supermarket shelves. There are no Health Stars on fresh foods that should be eaten everyday for good health, such as fruits and vegetables.

Health Star Ratings range from 1/2 a star to 5 stars. In general, the more stars the healthier the food or drink.

Healthy eating includes eating foods from the five core food groups, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables which are not packaged, so do not have Health Stars. If you are choosing packaged foods, such as bread, yoghurt or breakfast cereals, remember to compare the number of stars on similar foods and choose options with the highest number of stars. For example, compare the number of stars on different pasta sauces.

No, Health Stars will only appear on foods and drinks that are packaged. Currently packaged foods and drinks do not need to have a Health Star Rating, meaning food companies voluntarily do it.

LiveLighter supports this public health initiative to help Australians choose healthier options when buying packaged foods and hope it becomes mandatory.

There are a number of important nutrients in foods and drinks that are considered when calculating the number of stars the product should have. Foods and drinks that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fat and/or energy (kilojoules) will generally have a higher number of Health Stars, as they are healthier choices.

The amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes in packaged foods also contribute to the Health Star Rating, as well as dietary fibre and protein content in some food categories.

The simple answer is yes. But the Health Star Rating System does not consider the differences in added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Foods and drinks high in added sugar, such as confectionary, sugary drinks and biscuits, are not recommended for good health and will generally have less Health Stars because of the lack of other nutrients, such as dietary fibre.

Yes, the Ingredient List on the back or side of packaged foods and drinks states exactly what ingredients are in that product. It is here where you can see whether sugar has been added, opposed to naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and milk products. Ingredient Lists display the ingredients in order of volume, so the first ingredient listed contributes the largest amount, and so on.

Health Star Ratings

It can either be only the Health Star Rating, or the Health Star Rating with the energy (kilojoules), saturated fat, total sugars and sodium (salt) content. Food manufactuerers can choose to list one other key nutrient, for example fibre, protein or calcium. The label can be displayed as 'per pack' 'per 100mL' or 'per 100g'.

About junk food

  • Junk foods are high in added sugar, salt and (saturated and trans) fat, and low in positive nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also referred to as 'energy-dense nutrient-poor' foods and drinks as they contain a lot of energy (kilojoules or calories) and very little nutrition. The term 'discretionary foods' is used in the Australian Dietary Guidelines to describe these foods.
  • Some examples of junk foods include hot chips, pies, sausage rolls, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, processed meats, commercial burgers and pizza, crisps, lollies and sugary drinks.
  • Junk foods are not a necessary part of the diet, and should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts. This recommendation is based on evidence that junk foods are associated with increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some cancers.
  • If we eat or drink more energy (kilojoules) than we use, we gain weight in the form of fat or 'adipose tissue'. This adipose tissue is stored under the skin ('grabbable' fat) and also in and around our vital organs (visceral or 'toxic' fat). In general the bigger your 'grabbable gut' is, the more likely you are to have visceral fat around your vital organs. Toxic fat increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, several cancers and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Junk foods affect health both directly and indirectly.
  • Direct health effects:
    • Junk foods are high in saturated and trans fat which increases risk of heart disease
    • Junk foods that are high in salt can increase risk of high blood pressure and stroke
    • Junk foods are low in fibre, fruit and vegetables. Diets low in these increase the risk of bowel cancer.
  • Indirect health effects
    • Eating too much junk food can lead to overweight and obesity.
    • Being overweight puts a lot of strain on our bodies and can lead to many serious chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, several cancers, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Many people who are overweight or obese are now perceived to be a 'normal' weight. If you don't realise you're an unhealthy weight you're likely to continue with unhealthy habits, including eating lots of junk food.
  • Australian adults and children eat too much junk foods and drinks every day and not enough fruits and vegetables.
  • The energy (kilojoules) eaten in the form of junk foods and sugary drinks makes up over one third (36 per cent) of the total energy Australian adults eat every day and 41 per cent of the energy Australian children eat each day.
  • As well as eating too much junk food, only seven per cent of Australian adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables (five serves every day for women, and six serves for men) and only half of us eat enough fruit (two serves every day). Only 1 in 20 Australian adults eat the recommended amounts of both fruit and vegetables.
  • Often the junk foods which are highly processed, packaged and accessible are most commonly eaten.
  • The most recent Australian Health Survey found the most commonly eaten junk foods are hot chips, burgers and pizzas from fast food outlets, soft drinks, chocolate, meat pies, fruit drinks, biscuits and cakes.
  • No, junk foods are heavily marketed and promoted as a cheap, filling option but this is not the case. Junk foods can be costly on your wallet and on your health.
  • A lot of meals and snacks using much healthier ingredients can be made for less at home.
  • Sugary drinks (including soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and flavoured waters) are costly, while water from the tap is safe and (almost) free in Australia.
  • If you would like to learn more about healthier and cheaper alternatives to junk food, see the LiveLighter Healthy Takeaway booklet.
  • Foods that are advertised as low fat or low carb may be high in other unhealthy ingredients, such as added sugar, salt and fat, and low in fibre, fruit and vegetables. This is why we recommend that people don't just look at one nutrient and consider the whole food.
  • Foods containing fats are not all unhealthy, in fact your body needs some fats for good health. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, or 'healthy fats' are important. Foods containing high amounts of these healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish. Saturated fat and trans fats ('unhealthy fats') should be limited, as these types of fats can lead to high cholesterol and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. These are found in animal products (like butter, cream and fatty meat) and many processed and packaged foods (like deep-fried food, biscuits and chips). Foods that are heavily marketed and promoted are more likely to be higher in the unhealthy fats.

LiveLighter supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating which encourages people to choose foods from the five food these groups every day. These food groups include:

  1. Vegetables and legumes
  2. Fruit
  3. Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain
  4. Lean meat, poultry, fish and alternatives
  5. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives, preferably reduced fat
Dairy - 1 cup of milk, 2 slices of cheese or 200g tub of yoghurt Fruit - 1 medium piece apple, 1 cup chopped or canned fruit, 2 small pieces of fruit Vegetables - 1/2 cup cooked brocoli, 1/2 cup beans, peas or lentils, 1 cup of raw vegies
Grains and cereals - 1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice, 1 slice wholegrain bread, 3 crisp breads, 1/2 wrap Meat and alternatives - 2 eggs, half chicken breast, 100g canned tuna, 1 cup beans, peas or lentils

As well as eating foods from the five food groups every day, the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating also recommends people:

  • Choose water first, preferably tap water.
  • Eat moderate amounts of oils and spreads high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, canola oil).
  • Limit intake of discretionary (junk) foods and beverages to only occasionally and in small amounts.

For practical ideas about healthy options instead of junk food, have a look at our

  1. Eating a small amount of junk food occasionally is okay. For example, a small piece of birthday cake during a celebration is fine, but eating cakes and biscuits at work morning teas each day is not a healthy eating habit.
  2. An important issue with junk food is that it is no longer just seen as a treat to be enjoyed occasionally. It is promoted heavily and is cheap, convenient, tasty and available all the time. It has become part of peoples' every day diets, instead of being a 'sometimes food'.
  3. To see whether you are eating too much junk food, see our Junk Food Calculator.

The issue with junk food is not just that it can cause weight gain. When people eat a lot of junk foods, it takes the place of healthier foods in their diet. They therefore don't get the nutrients their bodies need for good health. This was shown in the 2011/12 Australian Health Survey which found adults and children consume excessive amounts of junk food every day and are not meeting recommendations for healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

  • How much energy (kilojoules) your body needs each day depends on how physically active you are as well as other things such as age, gender and height. Doing a lot of exercise also means that your body needs additional nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. To make sure your body is getting the nutrients and energy it needs to stay healthy and perform during exercise, eating more servings from the five core food groups for energy is recommended, rather than consuming your extra energy requirements from junk food.
  • Junk foods and sugary drinks are very energy dense (meaning they contain a lot of kilojoules per gram), and you often cannot fit enough exercise in the day to burn off the extra energy in large volumes of junk food. People who participate in exercise that is both long in duration (more than 90 minutes) and moderate-to-vigorous in intensity may need to refuel in the form of sports drinks, energy gels and sports bars. These are very specific foods for a specific purpose, but are junk foods to most of the population.
  • In short, you cannot outrun a poor diet.
  • Australian adults and children eat too much junk food and these dietary choices can cause serious health concerns including overweight and obesity.
  • In recent years, LiveLighter has tackled a number of health issues facing West Australians through our heard-hitting ads. These include highlighting how unhealthy sugary drinks are, as well as the effects that a 'grabbable gut' and toxic fat around your vital organs can have on your health. With our new ads, we are broadening our approach and looking at other common junk foods
  • Be aware of how your environment affects what you eat (e.g. junk food advertising and availability), and how physically active you are.
  • Take action to eat less junk food and get more exercise.
  • Promote healthier environments in your community. This could be in your workplace, at your sports club, or at your child's school.

About the junk food calculator

The nutrition information about the foods in the calculator comes from the AUSNUT 2011-2013 food nutrient database.

One teaspoon of fat weighs 4.7 g. One teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 g. Teaspoons of sugar and fat are rounded to the nearest whole teaspoon in the calculator display.

The upper limit (i.e. the most that should be consumed to stay in good health) is 2300 mg of sodium per day for adults. This is about 6 grams, or 1 teaspoon of salt.

Energy requirements are calculated using the Harris-Benedict equation and a Physical Activity level of 1.3. This is an estimation only and your actual needs may be different.

Energy intake is based on the average Australian adult daily energy intake of 8,700kJ. Your individual energy needs may be lower or higher than this depending on your size, age, gender and activity level.

Additional FAQs

Toxic fat is not made-up, but it certainly is scary. The images in our advertisements are from real footage taken during a procedure in Perth, Western Australia. The term 'toxic fat' helps people understand that there are different kinds of fat in the body, the fat around your vital organs release chemicals (hormones and cytokines) that are dangerous to your health.

Our focus is to promote healthy weight, healthier food and drink choices and increased physical activity. The advertisements are supported by a comprehensive website with tools and resources to encourage and support healthier lifestyle changes.

The amount of physical activity you do is what will determine how fit you are, not your weight alone. While it is possible to be overweight and fit this may not necessarily mean you are healthy. Everyone, regardless of whether they are in the healthy weight range or overweight, will benefit from being active every day.

Being overweight or obese puts you at an increased risk of certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high blood cholesterol that can make you 'unhealthy'. But this doesn't mean that every person who is overweight will have these problems, and it doesn't mean that every person who is in the 'healthy' weight range is healthy - it's all about eating a wide range of healthy foods and moving your body more as part of a healthier lifestyle.

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