Our resident nutritionist, Alex Dobbs, shares her expertise on how best to approach a weight loss programme.
Tried and Failed
Hands up how many of us have tried, in vain, to lose weight by means of the latest fad diet? How many have been disappointed with their progress and thrown in the towel shortly after starting?
Firstly, before we talk about weight loss, let’s talk about the weight gain. It can creep up on us over weeks, months, and perhaps even years. Therefore it is unrealistic to expect it to come off in days. Genuine weight loss takes genuine effort and time. It is a long term goal. It requires some planning, motivation, willpower and above all self-belief that you can achieve it.
What doesn’t work
Taking weight loss supplements
My best advice is to stay away from these as they may increase your metabolic rate allowing them to ”burn fat”. But only as long as you take the supplement. Furthermore, some have adverse side effects like:
Increased heart rate
High blood pressure
Cleanses or Detox Plans
At best, cleanses cause weight loss from water and stool weight. But they can be dangerous. They carry risks of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and more.
Losing lots of fluid without medical supervision is risky, and when it’s combined with fasting, even riskier. Your body is uniquely fine-tuned to detoxify and excrete toxins. So cleanses are unnecessary and can lead to serious complications by messing with your body’s system.
Instead of detoxifying, be more mindful of what you eat. If you want to cleanse or detoxify your body, drink plenty of water and eat lots of high-fibre foods.
Skipping meals, or dramatically reducing your food intake for a period of time. This only works while you are doing it. Your body will switch to a “fasting” mode if too many calories are cut out. The reverse is that it will start holding on to weight as soon as the diet returns to normal, and you may find yourself gaining more weight than you were carrying before the crash diet.
Dramatically changing your diet without prior consultation
Most of us don’t know what suits our body without being able to “listen to” our body and being in harmony with it. A Nutritional Therapist like myself can help you find out what kind of food suits your body best, and you can adjust your diet accordingly without going hungry or denying yourself foods.
Personally speaking, my body works best on a good balance of proteins, fats and carbs. I do have to be careful not to eat too many carbs as I put on weight quickly and feel mentally sluggish and tired. I don’t sleep well then. I found out I cannot tolerate gluten, and since not eating it I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, more than I have ever had. Without proper advice, I would have never detected this and would still be trying to cut out food groups ad-lib.
Cutting out all fat from your diet
You need fat for too many bodily processes, it burns into highly useful energy and builds your body. By all means, cut out that “heart attack special” fry up breakfast with all sorts of puddings and wedges, etc. You can also go easy on cheese and milk in general. But do increase your intake of nuts, seeds, vegetable oils like olive or coconut oil, and eat full-fat yoghurts. Good fats can raise HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood, which may help reduce heart disease risk.
Usually, a bad idea as you rely on your body to help you release energy from stored fats. Your body will want to replenish the energy to these cells and will end up holding on to fat for the morning “fast” tomorrow. Better to eat something, however small the portion may be. And don’t use coffee or cigarettes to wake you up! Start with a glass of water or herbal tea if you find your body does not like waking up to food.
Focusing on diet alone
It is possible to lose weight through diet alone. However, without it, only a portion of your weight loss is from fat. You risk also losing muscle and bone density. Exercise stimulates the growth of metabolic tissues. Losing weight through exercise means you’re burning mostly fat. As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75% diet and 25% exercise.
We’re all under enormous stress at the moment so it might not be the best time to completely overhaul your lifestyle right now. So don’t put pressure on yourself, start small. Pick one thing you would like to focus on. If you’re working from home it might mean you’re snacking more, so aim to cut down on that or switch to healthier snacks like fresh fruit or veggie sticks.
In addition, why not use your old commute time to exercise? Whether that’s going for a quick walk within your 5Km before breakfast, a lunchtime run or an after-work cycle. Aim to increase your daily activity gradually each day. Every little bit counts and it will help both your physical and mental health.
There is also a range of home workouts available from Gym Plus. The new Accelerate Membership allows you to build fitness and confidence at home with unlimited access to live online and on-demand classes, virtual fitness assessments with Gym Plus trainers, access to the FitSense app, nutritionist advice and more…..
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