Christmas pudding, roast beef, ham shanks, mince pies, the list goes on and on. That’s before any of the drinks come into play. Holidays can often take a heavy toll on our waistlines! But is that fancy new diet the answer? The latest research says no, in fact your body fights against dieting.
What is the reason? Your metabolism slows down, making it necessary to eat less and less. This is often unsustainable (and not much fun) and leads to the dreaded yo-yo effect. Research shows dieting leads to weight gain due to metabolic responses.
Not to despair, there are still a number of things you can do to reduce weight gain and get yourself back on track after the holiday period. The key is to think long term, and the research backs this up.
Your weight normally fluctuates by a few kg from day to day, so don’t be alarmed by sudden changes. However, keeping an eye on your weight regularly is a very good mental tool. But don’t overdo it, I recommend weighing yourself once to twice weekly.
Use the NHS: BMI Calculator to calculate your BMI to see where you stand.
As with most things, it’s always best to know as much as possible before you commit yourself to anything. When it comes to calorie counting and nutrition, it can seem overwhelming at first glance but is really not difficult.
These come in many forms, the simplest being pure table sugar. The problem with carbs is that they cause an increase in a hormone called insulin, and too much of it causes fat gain. A good rule of thumb is that the harder carbs are to digest, the less insulin release they cause. Think rye bread, grains and oats, the more fibre the better. Processed sugary foods are the worst, especially juices and fizzy drinks.
With the highest caloric value by weight, it is very easy to over-consume fatty foods. While some fad diets of the past made fatty foods seem like the devil, we know now this is not true and a certain amount of fat is necessary.
Protein can be found in various sources, ranging from meat to milk as well as grains. Protein has the lowest caloric value per pound and can help you feel fuller. One amazingly versatile source of protein is a yoghurt-like cheese called Quark (something I discovered recently, give it a try!).
As long as you have a basic understanding of which foods to avoid (processed sugars, animal fats) you can just reduce the amount of calories you consume. There’s a huge amount of resources on hand to help, the NHS: Calorie Checker.
Hard to get around this one I’m afraid. Weight loss comes down to physics and the only remedy to consuming too many calories is exercise. Being aware of just how much exercise it takes to burn off calories is also a strong motivator to pass on that 3rd mince pie.
Being active not only helps to stave off the pounds but is a great way to stay healthy in general. People that do moderate exercise at least 3 times a week benefit from a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. They also age slower, as exercise makes your body produce important antioxidants that prevent ageing. Hard to argue against these benefits.
I get a lot of patients asking me about the effectiveness of weight loss supplements. Inevitably I have to tell them that with all products currently available, there is not enough evidence to show that any of these are effective. Whenever shopping for over-the-counter weight loss aids it is also important to look at the ingredients. A lot of products contain high doses of caffeine and Gurana extract (an herbal stimulant). Whilst they can reduce appetite, this usually only works for a short time and the side effects can present as heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and increased anxiety. It’s important to speak to your Doctor or Pharmacist whenever you’re considering starting any OTC products if you are already taking any medication or have any preexisting medical conditions.
If other methods have failed prescription medication is an option and the only one that has been well proven in clinical studies. The drug Orlistat (initially available in weaker form over-the-counter as Alli) is very effective at reducing weight. Also known as Xenical, it works by preventing your body from absorbing about 80% of the fat you consume. This might sound great but remember that Xenical will not be very effective if you consume a lot of sugary foods (which you shouldn’t do anyway). Xenical isn’t a magic cure, but it has helped many patients kick start weightless and change to healthier eating habits.
Before you go down the medication route make sure you have tried reducing your calories and cutting out problem food like processed sugars, snacks and fat. If your BMI is 30 or above (or 28 and above if you have a condition that prevents you from losing weight like diabetes) your GP can prescribe Xenical (the active drug Orlistat). Speak to your GP or pharmacist to get a prescription. You can check your BMI here.
Remember eating healthy is a mindset for life not a short term diet to be followed and then given up on. It’s a long game, keep your expectations realistic. There will be times when you slip up and have a few bad days, but that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it can be beneficial because it keeps your metabolism from slowing down (a reason why most fad diets don’t work in the long run).
If you have any questions about weight loss or your health in general don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help!