As we find ourselves getting over the holiday season and back to some normality of our daily lives, we often reflect on those New Year resolutions that we made only a matter of weeks ago. The most notable and arguably the most difficult resolution for us all is weight loss. How do we find the tools and motivation to shed those extra kilo’s we’ve somehow managed to accumulate in such a short period of time?
I am sure many of you have tried some form of weight loss program or diet at least once in your lifetime, whether it was successful or not. But with every good intention there somehow seems to be the reverse effect. We start off on a mission to eat better, be more active and lose weight only to slip up and find ourselves right back where we started. How do we maintain the goals we set out to achieve and what is the most sustainable way of keeping them?
Australians of all ages generally have a poor diet with an alarming number of people not eating a balanced diet with foods from the 5 major food groups. Instead, we find ourselves overindulging in what dieticians call, ‘discretionary foods’ or what we call junk foods. Which are higher in sugar and salt and increase our risk of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The diagram below may look familiar to us all, but it has evolved over the years in that we now need to prioritise vegetables and fruits over carbohydrates and starches whilst maintain proportional amounts of proteins and dairy, whilst consuming those essential fats and minimising or even excluding salt and sugars from your diet.
What is in food?
To better understand weight loss, we need to understand what is in our food. Our food is made up of six main nutrient groups, these being water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. Water is essential and the body cannot go without water after a few days, its main purpose is to help carry nutrients around the body as well as eliminate waste products. Carbohydrates are the energy blocks for our body and come from sugars and starches which are regulated by insulin produced from our pancreas. Proteins are the building blocks for our body made up of complex chains of amino acids and they are key in the formation of muscle, skin and hair to name a few. Fats, which we often associated as being bad but for you are still essential, although be it in small amounts to build cell membranes. Having too much fat can build up in our arteries, what we know as ‘cholesterol’, and can lead to blockages. Minerals, such as iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium are all important for growth and regulations of our blood and tissue function. There are a multitude of different vitamins fat and water soluble, they all have specific functions to help maintain our body’s functions (e.g., vitamin C for immunity, vitamin D for our bones). So, by knowing these key points we can start to understand how important a healthy balanced diet is for our bodies to function.
There are a multitude of weight loss programs in the market today all offering us the best results in weight loss. Some names you might have heard of Jenny Craig, Weight watchers, CSIRO total well-being, just to name a few of the big ones. All these programs have a remarkably similar mind set in that they are educating us on what is an appropriate healthy diet, with attention to detail around meal plans and calorie intake. Why are these things important? Well, as I mention above most Australians are not consuming food from all the major food groups and over-indulging in ‘junk’ foods. These programs are designed around just that, having a balanced diet with low fat and low-calorie intake which leave you satisfied, and your energy levels sustained throughout the day. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet in particular, uses scientific evidence around appetite control and metabolism to help manage cravings, improve body composition and reduce energy demands. Whilst diet is a major part of weight loss, these programs also combine exercise to help achieve weight loss goals in a shorter timeframe.
Why do we need to exercise?
Exercise along with diet is the second most important function in weight loss. When we think about why we eat, we understand that we are providing our body with fuel for us to function day to day. This fuel depending on what we have consumed in our daily diet is then turned into energy with by products such as fat and waste for excretion. If we are overloading our body with too much energy, for instance having a large meal, unless we are doing rigorous or extended exercise the only option for our body is to store the by products of food for utilisation later. So, if we continue the same pattern over and over each day without adequately burning off what we have consumed the result is weight gain. On average 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise is considered adequate to help maintain our energy consumption from our daily diet. Whether it be a dedicated gym program to running, riding or even a walk each day around the block (be sure to stay sun safe also).
Are weight loss shakes effective for weight loss?
The simple answer is Yes. Weight loss shakes or meal replacements are one of the most effective weight loss regimes and can show results straight away. Some of the most common weight loss shakes or meal replacements around are Optifast, Isowhey, Tony Ferguson, The Man Shake, Flexi. These shakes all follow a similar format being they are very low-calorie diets. By replacing one, two or all three meals a day we reduce our total daily intake of calories whilst maintain appropriate levels of carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins for our daily requirements. Whilst they are effective in the short term, they are not necessarily sustainable in the long term. Unless we are educating ourselves around diet and making changes to our diet as we progress through our weight loss journey sustainability is unachievable.
Can my doctor prescribe medication for weight loss?
Yes, there are several medications currently available for weight loss. These medications primarily work around appetite suppression and helping us combat addictive habits. Although as with any medication they come with several side effects and they may not be suitable for everyone, especially those people on other medications or who have a history of cardiovascular issues so be sure to know your numbers in regards cardiovascular health. But whilst they can help initially to kick start our weight loss journey, they are not something we can continue to take long term, and this is where we need to educate ourselves around our diet and making sustainable lifestyle changes to continue maintain our weight loss goals.
Does Keto Diet work?
The Keto Diet is topic of great discussion when it comes to weight loss. Whilst it is highly effective for some people, there are positive benefits from implementing the diet but there can also be negative outcomes too. The Keto diet works around eliminating or having an extremely low carbohydrate diet intake, with most of the daily foods coming from fats. Yes, that’s right fats. By doing this the body enters a state of ketosis whereby the fats are burned for energy, during this phase ketones are produced, and weight loss can occur during this phase. But there are different types of fats, saturated fats, trans-fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats come from processed meats (bacon, salami & sausages) or full cream dairy (cheese & butter). Trans-fats which are sourced from fast foods. Both are ‘bad fats’ and can actually contribute to weight gain and obesity. Whist unsaturated fats such as olive oil, seeds, nuts and certain types of fish are the ‘good fats’ and are what the Keto diet revolves around. Whilst the Keto diet is quite restrictive in what can be consumed it too is not sustainable in the long-term and can also lead to nutrient deficiencies, adversely affecting our hearts and possibly increasing cholesterol levels. So be sure to discuss with your doctor if a Keto diet is a suitable option for you.
Is surgery an option for weight loss?
The most recent developments in weight loss have been surgical options such as lap band surgery or gastric bypass surgery. There have been increasing numbers of people opting for these procedures. These procedures work by restricting the amount of food that can be consumed, affecting how the food is absorbed from the intestines and altering hunger hormones. Whilst these procedures are remarkably effective at reducing weight they come with certain risks and possible complications. These procedures should only be used as a last resort or if we have pre-existing health conditions (e.g., diabetes, sleep apnoea or high blood pressure) which may be improved due to the procedure. Who qualifies for lap band or gastric bypass surgery? Most surgeons use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation to determine who is an acceptable candidate for surgery. People who have BMI of greater than 40 are considered obese and are prime candidates, but anyone with a BMI between 35-39 with significant health issues are normally accepted as suitable candidates as well. What are the risks of surgery? Like with any surgery there are risks going under the knife and anaesthetic, although these are minimal. However, 30% of people experience ongoing nutrient deficiencies which lead to conditions such as anaemia, osteoporosis or other metabolic conditions. Although these conditions can be avoided by ongoing vitamin supplementation from vitamins such as the BN Multi range. It is something to be aware of prior to making your decision.
There are many different avenues for us to pursue to achieve our weight loss goals, but they all ultimately lead back to the same place and that is having a healthy balanced diet. The quicker we can educate ourselves and implement an appropriate balanced diet, the sooner we will achieve those weight loss goals we have set for ourselves.