By Nicole Dynan, Accredited Practising Dietitian
One of the most common questions I get asked ask as a dietitian is ‘how do I lose weight?’ Unfortunately there’s no simple answer to this. Conventional wisdom says you should burn more than you eat, while others say eating like our caveman ancestors will help you shed the kilos.
While there may be benefits to these approaches, I believe there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer to losing weight. Fads come and go, but people want facts. This is where a dietitian can play a pivotal role in helping people achieve real and lasting weight loss.
All too often I see people start a new diet and drop off time and time again because of social influences, high stress, and lack of motivation – just to name a few. Knowing how to deal with these barriers is where dietitians come in.
In fact, research shows that support from a nutrition professional is the best way to succeed in losing weight.* This is probably because we not only provide expert advice and personalised support but also accountability.
Accountability is key. You’re more likely to stick to your gym sessions if you had a personal trainer waiting for you at the gym, checking your form and reps, rather than just turning up when you feel like it. Sure, you may know what to do, but it’s how you do it that really counts. The same applies to a dietitian.
You may know what kind of meals to eat, but how do you deal with those critical times like birthday cakes at work? Or when you’re eating out? Do you know the difference between healthy fats and bad fats? And what protein sources that will give you more bang for your nutritional buck?
Talking to someone who is trained to help with diet issues can help you understand the answers to all these questions and how they relate to your situation.
Another key part of my job is simply discussing misconceptions about food. Two of the most common ones are ‘carbs make you fat’ and ‘don’t snack’. Let’s take a closer look at these myths:
All carbs are not created equal. Refined, highly processed carbohydrates such as lollies, cakes, biscuits, white bread and white rice can send your blood sugar levels to the moon (and back) and leave you craving more; ending in a cycle of blood-sugar spikes and over-eating.
Choosing low GI, wholefood carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains, on the other hand, can help fuel your body for better concentration, to burn fat and optimise exercise performance.
Remember, cutting out a food group or restricting your eating is always going to be difficult to sustain. Over-eating any macronutrient, whether it is carbohydrate, protein or fat, can lead to weight gain.
So before you ban the potato or sweet potato, think twice about how you cook and eat it – a single, medium boiled potato or baked sweet potato can be delicious and satisfying. Deep frying them or adding lashings of sour cream and butter may prove to be the real cause of the problem.
While snacking can increase the number of times you are eating foods in a day and potentially increase the amount of food you consume, it’s not a problem when you’re main meals are balanced and snacking comes from hunger, than from other triggers such as a party, social influences or stress.
If you have tried for years to lose weight with one style of eating without success, it may be worth speaking to a dietitian about what snacks to eat that won’t put a dent to your otherwise healthy eating plan.
In any case, eating to your appetite can help remove the worry around eating to a schedule. Getting back in touch with your appetite and eating when you have a good level of hunger (but are not starving) can put your body back in the driver’s seat – and get you to your ideal weight.
So if you’re looking to lose weight, or have tried many times and seem to fall off track, having a dietitian is a great way to manage your barriers to success and stick to your weight loss goals.
*2013 Guidelines for Obesity report