5 basic weight questions

Losing too little, losing too much or not losing at all - it can be difficult to reach a good balance when it comes to reaching and maintaining an ideal body weight.  DietDoc tackles some frequently asked questions.

Detox diet – I've heard talk of 'detox diets'. What exactly does this entail?

Detox is a programme or diet based on the belief that our bodies are overloaded with toxins from our lifestyles and environment, and that these toxins could be expelled by changing eating habits, eliminating certain foods and drinks, and/or making other lifestyle changes. The core message is to cut out so-called "toxic" foods (such as trans-fatty acids and preservatives) and substances (such as alcohol), and to replace them with so-called "detoxifying" foods (such as brown rice, fruit and vegetables) and water. The aim is to give your body a break from handling its usual load. Some detox programmes are little more than fad diets or fasts – on one, for instance, you eat nothing but apples for two days. This could be dangerous. Ideally, a detox diet should be followed under the supervision of a registered dietician.

Diet tips – I work in an office. How can I maintain a balanced diet?

Try to eat a balanced, varied diet as monotonous diets lead to imbalances and deficiencies. Sitting for hours on end, and eating fat-loaded snacks from the canteen and tea trolley, will pile on the kilos. Choose a sensible, balanced diet that uses low-fat, high-fibre foods to reduce your energy intake without leading to deficiencies and endless cravings. Avoid fad diets and slimming pills. Fad diets, which are either lacking in one or more macronutrients (e.g. carbohydrates) or food groups, or are so low in energy that they make you feel weak and wobbly, should be avoided. Combine a good eating plan with regular exercise to achieve the best results. Never skip breakfast, drink plenty of water (but not too much), and take healthy snacks and drinks with you to work.

Weight gain – I am struggling to pick up weight. Can you help?

There are a variety of reasons why some individuals are very thin and struggle to gain weight. If you've been born with a very rapid metabolic turnover, then you need to increase your daily intake of healthy foods to compensate for the rate at which you burn energy. If you're constantly exposed to very high stress levels and anxiety at work, or in the home, then you should try and address the underlying problem by consulting a clinical psychologist to help you cope and reduce the stress. If you're a compulsive exerciser, you need to slow down a bit. Take a day’s break in between bouts of exercise and start eating more healthy foods, including carbo-boosters to supply you with the energy you are burning so relentlessly.

Diary products – I'm afraid that too much dairy will make me gain weight. How much diary can I safely consume?

Milk and other dairy products should be consumed regularly. Milk, yoghurt, maas, and cheese are all excellent sources of calcium. The biggest stumbling block to using milk and dairy products is the fact that the public in general, and teenagers and women in particular, tend to avoid milk and dairy products because they believe that these foods contain too much fat. Full-cream milk or yoghurt, and many cheeses, do contain animal fat which can contribute to heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancer, but there are skim or low-fat varieties available which you can use with total confidence. In general, people need to drink about three glasses of skim milk a day (use over cereal at breakfast, in hot beverages and in milk dishes, like custard) and one or more portions of low-fat yoghurt or low-fat cottage cheese.

Weight loss – I lost quickly and now I'm not losing.  Why?

It's known as reaching a plateau.  As your body becomes lighter, fewer kilojoules are burnt during activities, which means the overall energy expenditure also lessens. 

Lowered energy expenditure and the reduction in lean mass both assist in restoring energy balance from any initial reduction in kilojoule intake, and can even slow progress from the extra training sessions often undertaken when trying to lose weight

The initial per day kilojoules reduction is no longer effective for losing more weight, because the body no longer identifies a kilojoule deficit. There will always be an adaptation to match any lowered kilojoule intake because the body needs to preserve energy for continued existence. 

When you go on a diet, it is important to begin by reducing kilojoule intake slowly, to limit the loss of lean weight and help keep your metabolism high. Also, any exercise done within the first 10 - 15 workouts needs to be light and for longer durations to enable the energy system to adapt to the change. 

If kilojoules are cut too much too soon the body is forced to burn more protein especially when carbohydrate stores run low. This lowers the metabolism and dieters hit a plateau. As a result dieters tend to give up and go back to their old eating habits and the body shoots back into a positive energy balance, which causes many dieters to regain double the weight lost

Weight loss – I diet and exercise regularly, but I don’t seem to be losing weight. What could be the problem?

There are a variety of reasons why people don’t lose weight. One of the prime reasons for failure is the fact that your weight may already fall into the normal range. Check your body mass index (BMI) to establish this. Another problem is that you could be eating too little. As soon as your food intake falls below a certain critical energy level, the body gets a message that your food supply has been cut off. It then switches off most of the mechanisms that will help you to lose weight. Certain medical conditions could also be at the root of your problem. If you suffer from an under-active thyroid, insulin resistance or polycystic ovarian syndrome, you may find it very difficult to lose weight, even if you are on an energy-restricted diet and doing exercise. It is, therefore, important to get your health checked out. And, lastly, certain medication can also promote weight gain. If you're taking medication, particularly on a chronic basis, and you struggle to lose weight, the problem should be discussed with your doctor.


More info:

5 common diet mistakes

Visit the Weight Loss centre

Send your questions in to DietDoc

(Joanne Hart, Health24, June 2011)

Source:  DietDoc, Dr Ingrid van Heerden

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