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About the LiveLighter campaign

The LiveLighter campaign features hard-hitting, and at times, confronting advertisements. This is a deliberate approach designed to generate surprise and concern about the potential long-term health consequences of being above a healthy weight, and to convince people to stop and think about their health. Evidence suggests that this is one of the most effective ways to deliver public education campaigns. 

We need to make a strong impression to cut-through the many messages in the media, including the barrage of advertising from the junk food industry. We know that our ads, when compared to more positively framed messages, are more effective at getting people’s attention and motivating them to make behaviour changes. The advertisements are supported by a comprehensive website with tools and resources to support people in making changes to what they eat and drink and how much they move.

We always conduct research before committing to a TV-led advertising campaign. Given the sensitive nature of this issue, we test our advertising concepts with a wide range of people from different genders, ages, backgrounds and locations around Western Australia. The advertisements are also rigorously evaluated after they go to air to check that the messages are reaching and being understood by the target audience and are effective. Read more about the evaluation of the LiveLighter campaign.

Toxic fat is not made-up, but it is scary. The images in our advertisements are from real footage taken during medical procedures in Australia. While 'toxic fat' isn’t a medical term, it helps people understand that there are different kinds of fat in the body. The fat around our internal organs (visceral fat) can be harmful to our body because it releases chemicals, such as hormones and cytokines, that are dangerous to our health. Learn more about toxic fat.

Cancer Council WA consults with local medical professionals, such as gastrointestinal surgeons, to ensure that the language and imagery that LiveLighter uses in its advertising is realistic and provides an accurate depiction of the health consequences of being above a healthy weight.

Education campaigns like LiveLighter are one part of the puzzle. However, a comprehensive approach is needed to address rates of overweight and obesity in the Australian population.

While it's important to encourage individuals to eat well and move more, the environment we live in greatly impacts our ability to do this. The modern world has been labelled an ‘obesogenic’ environment for the way that it nudges us towards sedentary behaviours and unhealthy foods. This is why LiveLighter also advocates for healthier environments. We want to see less promotion of junk food, more access to healthy food, better food labelling, and infrastructure and policies that enable people to be more active.

Modifying the environment we live in to support and facilitate healthier behaviours is critical for our health and well-being. We need to work as a community to improve the environment around us; to make healthy options more available and accessible. This will require the introduction of new regulatory and policy mechanisms to ‘nudge’ people towards healthier behaviours and change cultural and social norms. All levels of government, not-for-profit agencies, businesses (including the food industry), and individuals have a part to play.

Being above a healthy weight increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and 13 different types of cancer. We want to help people understand why they need to take action and what changes they can make. Eating less junk food and more healthy foods, drinking less sugary drinks, being more physically active, and avoiding weight gain are all great ways to improve your health and wellbeing.

The LiveLighter public education campaign aims to show the medical consequences of being above a healthy weight and motivate people to make changes to their eating and exercise behaviours. The advertisements focus on the risks associated with carrying excess fat, particularly visceral fat stored deep inside our bodies around our organs. We certainly don’t want to make people feel bad about their size or shape.  

The potential impact of our campaign on reinforcing negative societal attitudes towards people living in larger bodies is something that LiveLighter have considered since the start of the campaign, but it has been a particular focus for us over the last few years.

We have tracked negative attitudes to people living in larger bodies since the campaign launched, and while stigmatising beliefs are unfortunately still prevalent in the community, we have not seen an increase in negative perceptions since the campaign began in 2012.

Eating disorders have a complex pathway, and result from the interaction between psychological risk factors, sociocultural influences, and biological and genetic predispositions. Somewhere between 4% and 16% of Australians have either disordered eating or an eating disorder. About 67% of Australian adults have a high BMI. We acknowledge that there can be an overlap in these populations (e.g. people with disordered eating may also have a high BMI).

High body weight is a risk factor for a number of the most prevalent, debilitating and costly chronic diseases in Australia. More than half of the diabetes burden is due to high body weight (almost 5% of Australians have diabetes). High body weight is a risk factor for 13 types of cancer, and about a quarter of coronary heart disease has been linked to high body weight.

In Australia, overweight and obesity are responsible for 7.8% of the total burden from cancer. Between 2003 and 2015, the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) attributable to overweight and obesity increased by 27%. It is anticipated that increasing overweight and obesity, if not addressed, will cost Australia in excess of $87.7 billion over the 10-year period from 2015/16 to 2024/25. To support the community to live healthier lives, we need to address the risk factors of body weight and dietary behaviours. LiveLighter was established 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 get in touch with the Butterfly Association (tel. 1800 334 673 or visit the website for information, counselling and guidance on treatment options).

A directory of Perth based health professionals, services and programs that specialise in eating disorders can be found on the Women's Health and Family Services website.

The amount of physical activity you do is what will determine how fit you are, not your weight. Everyone, regardless of their weight or shape, will benefit from being active every day.

Being above a healthy weight puts you at an increased risk of certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and 13 types of cancer. But this doesn't mean that every person living in a larger body will have these problems, and it doesn't mean that every person who is in the 'healthy' weight range is healthy. We know that our risk of developing these health conditions depends on a lot of things, including how much extra weight we’re carrying and where that fat is stored, as well as our eating and exercise habits.

About the LiveLighter Meal Planners

For best results, we recommend following the LiveLighter 12-week meal and activity planner as closely as possible. For the first four weeks of your 12-week meal plan, you'll be given meal suggestions for each day of the week. From there, you'll gradually start to make your own healthy selections.

The 3-2-1 meal planner is a bit more flexible. You will be provided with tasty dinner recipes that you can mix and match to suit your preferences, as well as a guide for building healthy breakfasts and lunches rather than specific recipes.

A higher BMI indicates that someone is at a risk of having other health conditions like diabetes. This doesn’t mean that all people with a higher BMI have these conditions or that people with a lower BMI can’t have health concerns. As we can’t meet everyone in person before they sign up to a plan, we rely on BMI as a screening tool.

As our 12-week meal planner may not be the safest and most effective option for people with certain health conditions, we ask anyone at higher risk of developing these conditions to talk to their doctor before starting our 12-week meal planner. Your doctor can also check if you're eligible for free consultations with a dietitian, exercise physiologist or other professional through Medicare — your doctor will have all of this information.

If you’d prefer not to visit your GP you might instead like to try our new, more flexible meal plan that gives you a plan for dinners, and then a guide for making healthy breakfasts and lunches. It‘s called the 3-2-1 and you can find out more about it here. There are also plenty of great recipes and healthy lifestyle tips here and here.

Our system automatically calculates your estimated energy needs based on your age, sex, height and weight. Then we apply a physical activity level factor - the more active you are, the more energy you will need. If you’d like to read more about the calculation we use, visit the Nutrient Reference Values website (warning: this is a very technical document).

The 12-week planner can create meal plans for those with energy needs of between 5000kJ and 13,000kJ. We don’t go any higher than this because we use LiveLighter recipes which are all quite low in kilojoules. This means that the volume of food you’d have to eat of LiveLighter meals to reach your estimated energy needs gets a bit silly.

For people with a higher energy need we recommend using the 3-2-1 meal plan instead. You can find out more about it here. The 3-2-1 meal plan gives you a plan for dinners, and then a guide for making healthy breakfasts and lunches.

Unfortunately our 12-week meal planner does not allow you to generate a shopping list.

You might like to instead try our newer more flexible plan – the 3-2-1 meal planner.

Unfortunately, we don’t have an option to swap recipes on the 12-week meal planner, or have other versions of the 12-week meal plan such as a vegetarian plan.

You might instead like to try out our newer more flexible meal plan that gives you a plan for dinners, and then a guide for making healthy breakfasts and lunches. It‘s called the 3-2-1 and you can find out more about it here.

For this meal plan you can switch your dinners around to choose only those that suit your dietary preferences.

Our system is set up to delete meal plans if you don’t login to the website for a while. This is because it assumes that if you don’t login then you don’t want to continue the plan at this time.

If your plan has been deactivated, but you'd like to keep going with the plan, please get in contact with our team at

About sugary drinks

100% fruit juice contains only juice. However fruit drinks often contain only a small amount of fruit juice and a lot of added sugar.

Whole fruit is a great snack choice. Yes, there’s sugar in fruit, but it’s bundled up with fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. So what happens when you juice a fruit? You squeeze all the sugar into a glass and throw away the fibre - that’s the best bit! 100% fruit juice can be part of a healthy diet if you have small quantities of it (no more than half a cup occasionally).

Although diet soft drinks are low in sugar and kilojoules, they’ve been linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. We think this is because drinking something sweet can prime our body to crave sweet things more often. This means we might be more likely to reach for that cake or chocolate later on. Diet drinks are also highly acidic which makes them bad for our teeth.

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 sugar found naturally in fruit.

Corn syrup is a sweet syrup made from corn that can be added to food products, however it's not used very much in Australia. It's different to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is more processed and has more 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.

Plain tap water is the best drink choice. It’s cheap, quenches your thirst and has no kilojoules.

Other healthy drink options are sparkling water (add lemon slices, cut up strawberries, mint or cucumber slices for extra flavour), plain reduced-fat milk or tea or coffee without added sugar.

Low-sugar drinks are also an option if you’re not quite ready to make the switch to water. Flavoured water with minimal or no added sugar and plain coconut water has less sugar than other sugary drinks.

Most sugary drinks only give our body sugar. This provides us with kilojoules, but it doesn't give us the other nutrients we get from eating healthy food. We need protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre to keep our body healthy.

Regular physical activity offers some protection against weight gain from the additional kilojoules provided by sugary drinks. However, sugary drinks may contain more kilojoules than you think, and you often cannot fit enough exercise in the day to use up this extra energy. 

A 600mL cola contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar and over 1000kJ, which is a similar number of kilojoules to these meals and snacks:

  • Muesli, fruit and yoghurt
  • Tuna and salad sandwich
  • A banana and a handful of nuts
  • 5 pieces of sushi

It's also important to remember that as well as adding extra energy to our diet, sugary drinks aren't good for teeth.

Sugar is a source of energy (kilojoules) for the body. If we eat or drink more energy than we need then we will gain weight. This is usually in the form of fat. 

Scientists used to think that fat tissue was just our body’s way of storing extra energy that we didn’t need. It was assumed that fat was just stored under the skin and didn’t really do much. Now we know that body fat is also stored deep inside our bodies, including on our organs. This is called visceral fat.

We know that body fat doesn’t just sit there. Fat tissue produces chemicals and hormones which travel around our bodies. Visceral fat produces more of these chemicals than the fat under our skin. These chemicals can disrupt the normal balance of the body and negatively impact on blood pressure, blood clotting and the body's ability to react to insulin and therefore regulate blood sugar levels. They are also associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

About the Sugary Drinks Calculator

The sugar and kilojoule information has been calculated by LiveLighter dietitians using the Australian nutritional analysis software Foodworks. The nutritional information used in the calculator is an average of several brands or types of the same drink. We calculate teaspoons of sugar by dividing sugar intake from sugary drinks in grams by 4 (the number of grams in a level teaspoon (5 mL) of sugar).

For example, a 375 mL can of cola 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 for our body 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.

To calculate the potential weight that could be gained from consuming sugary drinks, we first convert the sugar consumed from sugary drinks into kilojoules (multiply the grams of sugar by 16). We then we convert that into the amount of fat that would be needed to store that amount of energy (divide by 37).

For example:
(Grams of sugar x 16) ÷ 37 = grams of fat needed to store the energy from sugary drinks

This calculation assumes that the energy consumed from sugary drinks is additional to our kilojoule requirements.

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 which takes 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, has a MET of around 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 more energy required to do that activity. Once we know your energy intake from sugary drinks, we can estimate how long it would take you to use the extra energy consumed doing various exercise activities.

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 rating out of 5 stars.

Health Star Ratings are designed to help people easily choose healthier options when comparing similar packaged food products on the supermarket shelves. The star ratings are designed for packaged foods. So many foods that deserve 5 stars (like fresh fruit and vegies) don’t show them.

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 means mostly eating foods from the five core food groups, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables which are not packaged, so do not usually include a Health Star Rating. 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, rather than using stars to compare a yoghurt and a breakfast cereal.

The Health Star Rating is designed to go on foods and drinks that are packaged. However, packaged foods and drinks are not currently required to have a Health Star Rating, meaning that it is up to food companies whether they would like to include one or not. Food companies sometimes only put them on their healthy items or flavours. Some food companies don’t use them at all, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a not a healthy option.

A number of factors are considered when calculating the number of stars a product should have. Foods and drinks that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fat and/or energy (kilojoules) will generally have a higher Health Star Rating. The amount of fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes in packaged foods also contributes 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 difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Foods and drinks high in added sugar, such as lollies, chocolate, sugary drinks and biscuits, are not recommended for good health and will generally have a lower Health Star Rating because of the lack of other nutrients, such as dietary fibre. Foods higher in naturally occurring sugars, like yoghurt and milk, will generally have a higher Health Star Rating.

The ingredients list can be found on the back or side of packaged foods and drinks near the nutrition information panel. The ingredients list states exactly what ingredients are in that product. This is particularly useful when determining whether the sugar contained in the product is added, or is naturally occurring from fruit and milk products. 

Ingredients will be listed from highest to lowest by weight. If fat or sugar are near the front of the list, the product is probably not a healthy choice. A long ingredients list often means the food is highly processed.

About junk food

Junk foods are high in added sugar, salt, saturated fat, and/or trans fat, while being low in fruit, vegies, fibre and wholegrains, and tend to come in much bigger servings than we need. Junk foods 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 of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that our body needs to function well. 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 eaten occasionally and in small amounts. This recommendation is based on evidence that eating too many junk foods increases the risk of developing overweight and obesity and associated chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and 13 types of cancers.

Ultra-processed foods are made using industrial processing techniques and contain ingredients to enhance taste, texture, appearance and shelf-life that are not generally used in home cooking like “flavours”, intense sweeteners, colours, thickeners, emulsifiers, ultra-processed forms of sugar (e.g. high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, dextrose), isolated proteins (e.g. soy protein isolate, whey protein) and non-traditional preservatives.

These foods tend to be highly packaged, heavily marketed and use low-cost ingredients to maximise profits.

Examples include vegie chips, packaged biscuits, mass produced bread, soft drinks, margarine, instant soup, lollies, crisps and packaged sausage rolls and party pies.

Ultra-processed foods have been modified in ways that make them profitable for the industry creating them, but detrimental to human health. While it’s okay to have them in small amounts, ultra-processed foods now make up a staggering proportion of the Australian diet, with approximately 42 per cent of our energy (kilojoules or calories) coming from these foods.

There is a growing body of research linking high intake of ultra-processed foods to a range of health outcomes, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Poor sleep (duration and quality)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease related mortality

As the amount of ultra-processed foods in our diets increases, it also reduces the space available for more nutritious and less processed foods that are linked to health benefits.

Learn more about ultra-processed foods

Junk foods affect health both directly and indirectly.

Direct health effects:

  • Junk foods are high in saturated and trans fat which increase the risk of heart disease
  • Junk foods that are high in salt increase the 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.
  • Carrying excess body fat can lead to many serious chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, 13 types of cancer, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Australians are eating too many junk foods and drinks and not enough fruits and vegetables. On average, 35% of adults' and 39% of childrens' daily energy intake is coming from junk foods and sugary drinks.

As well as eating too much junk food, only 7.5% of Australian adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables and only half of us eat enough fruit. Only 1 in 20 Australian adults eat the recommended amounts of both fruit and vegetables.

The 2011-12 Australian Health Survey found that the junk foods and drinks contributing the most kilojoules to Australian adults' diets include:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • cakes, muffins, scones and similar
  • chocolate
  • cereal, nut, fruit and seed bars
  • pastries (e.g. meat pies)
  • sweet and savoury biscuits, and
  • sugary drinks

In recent years there has been a proliferation of food delivery apps. This makes junk foods more accessible, available and heavily marketed.

Junk foods are heavily marketed and promoted as a cheap, filling option, but in reality junk foods can be costly to your wallet and 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.

LiveLighter supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating which encourages people to enjoy a wide variety of foods from the five food groups:

  1. Vegetables and legumes
  2. Fruit
  3. Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain
  4. Lean meat, chicken, 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

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating also recommends that 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 to replace junk food, have a look at these LiveLighter resources:

Having a healthy diet is all about eating wholesome foods most of the time. That phrase ‘most of the time’ is important. While we don't recommend eating cakes and biscuits each day at morning tea, it really is okay to have a piece of celebration cake occasionally!

It's important to remember that, while junk food and sugary drinks used to be seen as a treat to be enjoyed occasionally, these foods are creeping more and more into our everyday diet. Junk foods are heavily marketed, available around the clock, and are cleverly formulated to override our normal hunger and fullness cues. 

To find out if you're eating too much junk food, see our Junk Food Calculator.

Weight gain is not the only problem linked to eating too much junk food. Junk foods can take the place of healthier foods in our diet, which means we don't get all the nutrients our body needs for good health. This was shown in the 2017-18 Australian Health Survey which found that adults and children have excessive amounts of sugary drinks and junk food while 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 is recommended, rather than getting your extra energy needs 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 use 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.

  • Be aware of how your environment affects what you eat (e.g. junk food advertising and availability), and how physically active you are.
  • Overhauling diet and exercise habits that have been with you for a lifetime can be extremely daunting. But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Start with a small goal – something you know you can achieve without too much struggle. These smaller ‘wins’ can help build your confidence, and can help you progress to tackling the bigger goals.  
  • 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 suggested dietary target (the maximum amount that is recommended each day for good health) is 2000 mg of sodium per day for adults. This is about 1 teaspoon of salt.

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

About physical activity

Australian physical activity guidelines recommend that adults are physically active for at least 150 minutes each week and do strength-training activities at least twice a week.

Two-thirds (66%) of Australians aged 18-64 years do at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week while 25% participate in strength-based activities at least twice a week.

Older Australians (aged 65 years and over) are less likely to meet physical activity guidelines, with 44% of older adults doing physical activity for at least 150 minutes each week and 16% doing strength-based activities at least twice a week.

Being physically active helps us to:

  • Build fitness
  • Reduce muscle and bone loss as we age
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Sleep better
  • Avoid excess weight gain
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  • Manage chronic diseases

LiveLighter's physical activity recommendations are based upon the national Physical Activity and Exercise Guidelines for all Australians developed by the Department of Health. 

Our key message is that doing some physical activity is better than none, and more is better.

We encourage all Australian adults to:

  • MOVE: Do at least some physical activity each week. Even if you don’t currently do much physical activity, you’ll see health benefits from moving a bit more
  • MOVE MORE: Be active on most days each week
  • MOVE HARDER: Each week aim for 2h 30min – 5h of moderate-intensity physical activity; 1h 15min – 2h 30min of vigorous-intensity physical activity; or an equivalent combination of both
  • MOVE STRONGER: Do strength exercises on at least 2 days each week
  • MOVE OFTEN: Minimise the amount of time spent sitting and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible

While being physically active is a part of weight management, exercise also independently provides many other health benefits such as reducing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

As the old saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet. Regular physical activity offers some protection against weight gain from additional energy (kilojoules) but provides no cover for a poor quality diet.

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. People who do more exercise will generally have higher energy needs. However, 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 use the extra energy in large volumes of junk food. A fast food burger, chips and drink can be nearly 6000 kJ – that’s equivalent to 2 hours of running! Many people overestimate how many kilojoules are used during exercise and underestimate how many kilojoules are in their favourite treats.

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 unhealthy foods and drinks.

While playing a team sport is one way to be physically active, there are lots of other ways to get more movement into your day. Physical activity includes just about any movement that results in energy expenditure. This includes:

  • Deliberate exercise or sports (e.g. running, playing football or going to the gym)
  • Incidental activity (e.g. playing with kids, hanging out the washing, walking to the bus, walking up and down the stairs)
  • Work-related activity (e.g. climbing a ladder, lifting boxes)

Sedentary time is time spent sitting or lying down (not including sleeping) that does not require a high expenditure of energy. Examples include using the computer, playing video games, reading or watching TV.

The amount of physical activity you need to do to lose weight will usually be higher than the minimum amount recommended for general health. The actual amount you need will depend on factors such as your current weight, height, age, sex and food intake.

If you don’t currently do much exercise, start slowly and gradually build up over time to the recommended levels. It may take some trial and error to find the amount of exercise that works for you in terms of being sustainable and helping you to reach your weight loss goals.

For individual advice, we suggest talking to a fitness professional (such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist).

In the vast majority of cases, exercising more is a surprisingly ineffective way to lose weight unless it is combined with changes to what we eat. Even so, being more active is valuable for its health and wellbeing benefits beyond weight loss. 

While it may seem hard to get started, becoming more active can help you feel better both physically and mentally. Here are some tips:

  • Anything is better than nothing! Start slowly. Try moving a little, and gradually doing more every day. Steadily increase the time and intensity as your fitness improves. It can be rewarding to watch your fitness improve, and this can motivate you to continue!
  • Choose an activity that feels comfortable.
    • Swimming may be suitable because the buoyancy of the water supports your body
    • Cycling is easier on the knees than running
    • Watching work-out videos at home means you can set your own pace
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. If an activity hurts, decrease the intensity or stop altogether. It’s ok for it to be a bit uncomfortable, but pain is a sign that there is something wrong. Going too hard can also make exercise seem like a chore which won’t help you keep it up in the long term.

We all know life gets busy, so it’s no surprise that lack of time is the most common barrier to being physically active. If you’re struggling to fit workouts into your week, consider the following ideas:

  • Schedule it into your day. Add a diary reminder or write it on a memo for the fridge.
  • Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, such as by taking active transport to work or school, doing stretches or using a stationary bike while watching TV, or making a goal to always use the stairs instead of the lift or elevator
  • Plan social activities that involve movement. Instead of watching a movie or sitting at a cafe, organise to go for a walk or ride, fly a kite, go to the park or zoo, or have a swim at the beach
  • Reduce screen time. Put down your phone and instead take a walk around the block or kick a footy in the park with your kids.

Regularly exercising during pregnancy has many health benefits, including maintaining fitness levels, improving your mood and reducing your risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia.

There are many changes that happen to your body during pregnancy that can impact on the type and amount of physical activity you are able to do. If you have any concerns, talk to a medical or allied health professional for advice specific to your situation.

Click here for more information about being physically active during pregnancy.

If you have an injury, physical disability or joint or muscle pain you should consider the following before starting an exercise plan:

  • Listen to your body - If it doesn’t feel quite right you may need to lower the intensity, modify your activity, or stop what you are doing altogether.
  • Consider your surroundings - Exercising in environments that are too hot or cold can negatively impact on your body. In summer, try and be active in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid prolonged sun and heat exposure. Exercising in the cold is generally safe, but keep in mind, exercise generates heat in the body — enough to make us feel it's much warmer than it really is. Performing exercise in water (hydrotherapy) may reduce pain and stiffness and reduce reliance on pain or anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Avoid harm - If you’re in a lot of pain, or you’re overly fatigued, it’s probably best to rest or take it easy to avoid further injury. Give your body some time to recover before attempting to exercise again.
  • Seek advice - If you have a health condition or injury, or you’re not quite sure where to get started, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) is a good place to start. An AEP specialises in developing exercise prescriptions and helping people overcome barriers to exercise.

About the physical activity calculator

LiveLighter’s physical activity recommendations are based on Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines developed by the Australian Government Department of Health.

The guidelines include:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
  • Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting.
  • Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible

You can find out more about the guidelines here.

The LiveLighter physical activity calculator uses a cut-off of 7 hours for the maximum total sitting time each day recommended and 30 minutes for how often sitting time should be broken up. As national guidelines do not supply quantitative recommendations for sedentary behaviour, these cut-offs have been developed based on discussion with a Victorian expert in physical activity research in combination with a brief review of the evidence. Key studies used in determining cut-offs include: 2013 meta-analysis conducted by Chau, Grunseit, Chey et al. and a 2017 study  conducted by Diaz, Howard,  Hutto et al.

Our calculator uses what are called “MET” values from the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities, which can be found here. A MET is a “metabolic equivalent” – that is, a unit to estimate the metabolic cost of a physical activity. You can think of a MET as a multiple of your resting state. For example: the energy cost of going for a brisk walk is 4 METS, which means you use 4 times more energy than if you were to sit quietly and rest.

The World Health Organization defines moderate-intensity physical activity as exercise with a MET value of 3-6 and vigorous-intensity physical activity as exercise with a MET value over 6. These definitions have been used for the LiveLighter Physical Activity Calculator. The LiveLighter physical activity wallet card has an easy guide for determining whether the physical activity you are doing is considered to be of 'light', 'moderate' or 'vigorous' intensity.

The easiest way for you to determine the amount of moderate and vigorous-intensity physical activity you do during the week is to use the LiveLighter Physical Activity Calculator. Simply choose what activities you do, and the calculator will figure out whether you are meeting physical activity guidelines for the week. If you fall short, that’s ok, because some activity is better than none. Because more is better, the calculator will suggest easy options on how you can close the gap. 

About alcohol

Weight gain is one of many risks associated with drinking alcohol. Alcoholic products are the single biggest contributor to unhealthy food and drink intake among Australian adultsThe 'empty' kilojoules in alcohol can lead to weight gain and excess weight, increasing the risk of 13 types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and stroke. 

Many people are in the dark when it comes to the kilojoule content of alcohol. Part of the reason for this is the lack of nutrition labelling. Every other packaged food and drink in Australia is required to display a nutrition panel, with total kilojoules per serving and per 100g. However, alcohol is treated differently, leaving people with a lack of information about what they are drinking.

The LiveLighter alcohol campaign aims to help Australians understand the kilojoule content of alcohol by comparing different alcoholic drinks to various junk foods. The community has a right to know how many kilojoules they are drinking.

The alcohol industry is big business in Australia, however alcohol companies have cottoned on to the fact that Aussies are becoming increasingly health-conscious and concerned about the potential of alcohol to cause harm. It’s not surprising then that marketers try and trick us into thinking that some alcoholic drinks are better for us than others.

However, the truth is that all of all types of alcohol, including red wine, organic cider and low-carb beer are bad for your health, increasing the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and some cancers. Alcohol can also have a negative impact on our mood, sleep and energy levels.

Any claims that there are health benefits from drinking alcohol should be treated with caution. Previously, researchers believed that red wine had health benefits for our heart. It now seems that the research on alcohol and heart disease overestimated the benefits. The World Health Organization and the Heart Foundation now say that there is no merit in promoting alcohol consumption as a preventive strategy.

When it comes to cancer risk, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. For best health, avoid drinking alcohol. If you drink, stick to the following guidelines to minimise your risk:

  • Have no more than 10 standard drinks per week (to reduce long-term health risks)
  • Have no more than 4 standard drinks in a session (to reduce the risk of immediate injury)

Not drinking is the safest option for people under 18 years and women who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding.

A standard drink contains 10 g of alcohol. A standard drink can be quite different to the amount you actually have in your glass. For example, a glass of wine at a restaurant or a can of fancy beer is often 1.5 – 2 standard drinks.

One standard drink is:

  • A small glass of wine (100mL)
  • One middy of full-strength beer or cider (285mL)
  • One nip of spirits (30mL)
  • One can of mid-strength beer (375mL)
  • One can of full-strength pre-mixed spirits (250mL)

Find out how many standard drinks are in your usual pour.

Not only is alcohol high in kilojoules, there’s also strong evidence that it increases the risk of seven types of cancer including mouth and throat (oropharynx), voice box (larynx), oesophagus, liver, bowel, stomach and female breast. It is estimated that alcohol causes 3% of all cancers, or around 3,500 cancer cases, in Australia each year.

When it comes to cancer risk, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. It’s not just heavy drinking that increases cancer risk. Even drinking small amounts increases the chance of developing cancer. The more you drink and the more often you drink, the greater your risk.

LiveLighter dietitians estimated the kilojoule content of various alcoholic drinks and junk foods using the Australian nutritional analysis software Foodworks. The comparisons between alcoholic drinks and junk foods included on the About Alcohol page show items with a similar kilojoule content to each other.    

  • If you do choose to have alcohol, set yourself a maximum number for the night, count your drinks and stop when you reach your limit
  • Organise social catch-ups that don’t centre on alcohol. Head out for lunch with the family and friends or plan a scavenger hunt for your work function
  • Have alcohol-free days
  • Put up your hand to be the designated driver
  • Try some of these refreshing drink alternatives
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones like sparkling or plain water 
  • Choose lower-alcohol options like light beer and low-alcohol wine
  • Eating before or while you drink alcohol will help it be absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks, for example, try a white wine and sparkling mineral water

Absolutely not! Food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Stay safe and eat something healthy before or while drinking to reduce your risk of harm from accidents and injuries.

Eating less or exercising more to compensate for the extra kilojoules in alcoholic drinks can put your mental and physical health at risk. To reduce your kilojoule intake,  cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink  rather than trying to offset the kilojoule load in other ways.

LiveLighter recipes

LiveLighter has almost 400 healthy recipes available to suit all tastes. We showcase ways of making tasty food without adding bucket loads of sugar, fat and salt... and that doesn't involve buying fancy “superfood” ingredients or spending all day in the kitchen.

LiveLighter's recipes are consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The focus is on including plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit, wholegrains and lean meats and alternatives. We craft our recipes to meet LiveLighter recommendations around eating food that is low in saturated fat, sugar and salt. Every recipe has a nutrition information panel so you know exactly what's in the food you're eating.

For people with special dietary requirements, there’s a filter below the recipe search bar to find recipes that suit your needs. If you’re looking for simpler recipes, try searching our Back to Basics series.

We all know that water is the healthiest drink. You can drink it straight from the tap, or try some of our favourite jazzy water combos – pineapple and sage cucumber skewers citrus and  strawberry and mint

We’d love people to switch straight from soft drink to water, but we know for some people, in some situations, that’s just not feasible. That's why we've also created a range of delicious, low-sugar drink options to bridge the gap and help people to confidently break up with sugary drinks.

These drinks have a maximum of 5 g of added sugar per serving. That’s about 1 teaspoon. The World Health Organization recommends sticking to under 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.

You'll also see naturally occurring sugar coming from fruit and milk. We don't go bananas on this though, and have a maximum of 5% sugar for water-based drinks and 6% for milky drinks (plain milk is about 5% already so we needed more wiggle room!). This is about half the sweetness of a soft drink – with all the benefits of the nutrients in fruit and milk!

The fruit content is capped at ½ a serve of fruit per glass. We know that fruit is best eaten in its whole form. The effect of blending fruit on the fibre content and rate of digestion (and therefore blood glucose effect) is not well known. So to be on the safe side, we follow the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating’s advice about juice and stick to ½ a serve.

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