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Thursday 22 August 2019
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#ActuallyHealthy: Weight loss advice from a dietician

Janelle Zakour president of TT Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians
Janelle Zakour president of TT Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians

WE want to lose weight – and we want to lose weight now. That’s why at the beginning of the year our gyms, savannahs, yoga studios and zumba classes are filled to capacity with people chanting: “New year, new me.”

We’ve seen friends posting pictures of their keto meals, their new gym kit and positive messages about pushing their bodies to any capacity on their timelines. While great aspirations, we know for some, these goals don’t last.

There are those disciplined and dedicated human beings who can make it work – and those who go too hard, too fast and eventually crash and burn when they get slightly derailed. For six days of the week they could cut carbs, give up fats or convince themselves green tea is better than a caramel chiller. But that bad day hits, stressful moment occurs – and craving goes up and eventually they give in and overindulge in cookies, corn curls and chocolate.

How to escape that crash-diet-then-binge-eat trap?

President of the TT Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians Janelle Zakour has a few tips on a healthy way to lose weight.

Crash diets, juice cleanses and other fads do not work.

Zakour says if a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These diets may lead to quick, short-term weight loss, but they do more harm than good in the long run.

“While people can and do lose weight quickly on crash diets, weight regain is extremely common. This is because very low-calorie meal plans and liquid-based diets like juice cleanses do not foster healthy eating habits, which are necessary for successful weight maintenance," she explained.

"Research has suggested that following such plans may even lead to disordered eating, such as binge eating or further food restriction, and then the cycle repeats itself. This yo-yo dieting spurs an alarmingly growing world phenomenon now known as ‘diet culture,’ and is actually linked to an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and metabolic syndrome."

Instead, give yourself time to lose the weight. Losing 15 pounds in three months may seem great, but is unsustainable.

The healthy rate to lose weight is one to two pounds a week. Anything more is shocking your system and when your diet stops, you’ll put back on the weight.

Gradually introduce something into your body. Most people cannot hardcore change their routine. If you aim to go to the gym and work out every day when you’re accustomed to going home and vegetating, it would be unsustainable.

"Aim to improve health, not lose weight. It takes two weeks for a new habit to form. If we work on creating healthy habits, over time we create healthy humans," said Zakour.

Make small changes first and get your body accustomed to new food. Nobody who is accustomed to a sweet mochaccino with whipped cream can become attracted overnight to black coffee or coffee with almond milk. It takes a while for your taste buds to adapt.

Zakour advises: “Aim for small, achievable goals rather than one big one.

"Telling yourself that you have to lose weight seems like quite a daunting task. Instead, break it down into the things that you know you may have to do to get to that point. Maybe you need to include an extra serving of veggies with a meal? Maybe you could trade that soft drink for a sparkling water?"

Zakour strongly advised against restricting diets. After depriving yourself of all the wonderful foods you love, you’re going to want to eat them more. One cookie won’t make you put on five pounds, but several cookies over an extended period will. Instead, work on introducing a balance into your diet.

"Unless you have a specific disease or dietary requirement, no food needs to be off-limits. In fact, by totally eliminating certain foods, you may actually increase cravings and decrease long-term success. So if you’re feeling for that fresh-baked, chocolate chip cookie? Allow yourself the cookie. You’re not going to undo your good work with a treat for the soul. You still have leeway to allow for the occasional treat while still maintaining health."

Balance is key for a healthy diet. She suggests basing 80-90 per cent of your diet on whole foods, and consuming smaller portions.

"Choose whole, minimally processed foods. This is a far healthier approach than doing the opposite and consuming 90 per cent processed and ten per cent whole, like a lot of the population. It is up to you to create a healthy diet that you can enjoy and stick to for the long haul. If you need help, there are numerous dietitians in this country who are willing to help."

Eat foods high in fibre such as oatmeal, ground provisions and vegetables.

"Too little fibre in the diet is actually linked to an increased risk of mortality, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.

"Load up on whole grains, provisions, peas, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds and trade in that sugary fruit drink for an actual piece of fruit. Always increase fibre in the diet slowly and drink plenty fluids otherwise your gut won’t be happy."

She suggests cooking your own meals, as it's the only way to ensure you know exactly what goes into them. If you can't, then fill your plate with half vegetables, a quarter starch and a quarter meats. Serving sizes matter.

Zakour's mantra for her patients is: "Your primary source of sugar should come from fruits, so ditch the sugar."

If you’re really doing it to be healthy, you might as well be in it for the long run. Wellness is not a marathon. It is a long walk to freedom and it means working on avoiding non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks or strokes. Don’t be hasty. The crash diets won’t get you anywhere.

You’ll look great if you do it in six months, but you will put it back on quickly after. Take the time with yourself and give your body the time it needs.

"Avoid anything that says 'cleanse' or 'detox.' We have our own natural detox organs in the form of a liver and kidneys.

"Combine good nutrition with other healthy habits. Optimal health goes way beyond just nutrition. Exercise, good sleep and minimising stress is just as crucial. Try not to think of exercise as a punishment for what you ate, but as a celebration of what your body is capable of achieving."

Knowing the real motivation behind just losing weight also helps. What are you doing this for? If you are doing it to lose weight for Carnival, here is a link for you; but if you are doing it to be healthy, be kind to yourself and do it the right way.

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