DietDoc's got the answers

As an award-winning dietician/nutritionist, Dr Ingrid/DietDoc runs a popular and essential forum where users can get professional and up-to-date advice on all things relating to nutrition, diet, weight-loss and menu planning.  Read about a new miracle diet and wondering whether you really can lose 5kgs in 5 days?  See DietDoc's FAQ's - she's probably already covered it. 



You can find DietDoc's articles and healthy diet plans in the Diet Centre.  Take a look at some interesting issues sent in by readers, and if they don't cover what you need to know, send your question in to DietDoc.

Q: Slimming pills

There are new slimming pills on the market by the name of Supreme Slim. Have you ever heard of it, and if so do you have any information as to whether it is safe to use.

A: No I have not yet seen the ingredients of Supreme Slim, but I am sure that all these over-the-counter slimming pills contain more or less the same potentially harmful ingredients. You can compare the ingredients in the product with the list of slimming pill and potion ingredients on this Website by clicking on 'Diet' at the top of this page, 'Weight loss' and then on 'Diet Detective'. You should be able to identify the various side-effects caused by the Supreme Slim slimming pill ingredients. I suspect that you will be given a strict diet to use with the Supreme Slim product and that any weight you lose will be due to the diet and not to the product.

Q: Bulimic girlfriend

I am in search of help for my bulimic girlfriend, but we have a unique situation, as most people do. I am 25 and she is 21 we lived together here in Cape Town for 5 months until her inability to purge (because she was afraid I would find out) turned into some kind of psychological rejection/dislike of me because she can't experience the rush/high of purging. This put immense strain on our relationship until she subsequently moved out and we broke up. A few days later, in attempt to salvage our relationship, she admitted to me that she has been struggling with bulimia since high school, and her parents aren't supportive of her disorder in any manner.

Thus, I would like to help the person I love as much as anyone of my relatives, maybe even more, but with my salary I do not think I will be able to afford treatment. So I write to you with the hope of help of some sorts. I would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction or refer my situation to someone that can help.

A: Your girl friend is lucky to have someone as caring as you in her life. Bulimia is an Eating Disorder which needs to be treated with a team approach. Your girl friend should consult a clinical psychologist (they are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Psychologists', or she can ask her GP to refer her), to help her work out what underlying psychological problems are driving her to self-destruct, and to learn most positive ways of dealing with these problems. She should also consult a clinical dietitian to assist her to get back to eating normally again.

Visit the Association for Dietetics in SA Website at: and click on "Find a Dietitian" to find a dietitian in your area. If you are in Cape Town and environs you can contact the Kenilworth Clinic (021) 797-1400, who have an Eating Disorder unit. However if you have limited funds, then it may help to contact the Medical School at UCT to ask if there is an Eating Disorder clinic at Grootte Schuur Hospital. Try and persuade your girl friend to go for expert help ASAP. There are quite a few articles concerning bulimia on this Website: click on 'Diet' at the top of this page and then do a Search with 'bulimia' to obtain more information and also some data to convince her to get assistance before she ruins her young life.

Q: overweight 13 year old

I am 13, overweight with acne, please help?

A: Please ask your parents to take you to a Dermatologist to help you with the acne. Because your are 13 years old, I would recommend that you ask your parents to arrange for you to consult a clinical dietitian (visit the Association for Dietetics in SA Website at: and click on "Find a Dietitian" to find a dietitian in your area). You are still growing actively at the age of 13, so you will need the dietitian to work out a slimming diet that still contains all the nutrients you need for healthy growth, but helps you lose some weight. Don't use any slimming pills or starvation diets, rather see a dietitian. One of the most important ways of helping teenagers to lose weight is exercise. You need to do about 60 minutes of active exercise like skipping or swimming or cycling every day. If you don't already participate in sport at school, ask your parents to arrange that you start doing an active sport like tennis or swimming 3 times a week and on the other days of the week you can skip or cycle. You will have to see to it that you stick to your exercise routine, but it will do wonders for the overweight and for your appearance.

Q:  Realistic weight-loss diet

I've just had a baby and I need a sensible diet plan to lose the "baby fat".

I just need some advice, I have been spoken to people regarding which diet is the best, and they all gave me different answers. I am 26 yrs old, 1.63m and weigh I want to lose 15kg (it doesn't matter how long it takes me). I had my 2nd child 10 months ago and I'm now ready to lose all the babyfat.

My problem is with a meat eating husband and a monthly budget I can't make two seperate meals, it's just too costly. And I cant go to the gym, no time with the kids and full time career.  Pls pls pls I want to lose weight with an user friendly diet.  Where can I get a diet program that wil suit me?

A: I hear what you say. Your present BMI = 28,9 which is above the upper level of normal. It would be good if you can lose those 15 kg and I am glad that you are being realistic and planning to do this over a longer period.

Reduce your energy intake by eating an energy-reduced, low-fat, high-fibre diet (click on 'Diet' at the top of this page, 'Weight loss', ‘Balanced diet’ and then on 'Slimming Diet' for a copy of such a diet), and increase your energy output by doing regular exercise (running, jogging, skipping, cycling, swimming, join a gym or Walk for Life).

This diet is user-friendly because it does not make you starve or use 'strange' foods, etc. In fact you can serve your hubby the same diet just using larger portions and he will benefit because it should keep his cholesterol levels low.

If you are very busy and don't have time to go the gym, then start going for a brisk walk every day after work if possible or even simpler, buy a skipping rope and start skipping when you watch TV.  Start off with 5 min a day at a slow pace and gradually increase how long and fast you skip until you reach 30 min a day.  Do NOT push yourself until you are exhausted because then you will stop exercising which is counterproductive.

You can also lie on the floor next to the TV and do sit-ups, just remember to keep your knees bent so that you don't strain your back. sit-ups help for the tummy. Also start with about 10 a day and gradually increase the number of sit-ups you do as you get fitter and more energetic. The exercise is important because it promotes weightloss and make you feel more positive about yourself and life.


Q: Overweight ten year old

At the age of ten, my daughter is much larger than other girls her age, and it worries me.

A: If your 10-year-old daughter is overweight then it is essential that you take her to be assessed by a clinical dietitian (visit the Association for Dietetics in SA Website at: and click on "Find a Dietitian" to find a dietitian in your area). The dietitian will have to work out a diet for your daughter that helps her to lose weight, but still provides all the nutrients she needs for healthy growth and development. In addition you will have to assist your child to become more active on a daily basis. Researchers have indicated that physical activity (playing a sport, swimming, cycling, skipping, going to a gym) is one of the most important factors in weightloss in children. If necessary take her for brisk walks or jogging or let her join Walk for Life.

Q: Underweight

I am 18-years-old, and also 18% underweight. How can I gain the necessary weight properly?

A: If your metabolism is very fast, then it may be a good idea to have your gp check your thyroid function as an overactive thyroid can cause pronounced weight loss and prevent weight gain. Gaining weight is just as problematic as trying to lose it. Basically individuals who struggle to gain weight do not ingest sufficient energy for the high demands of their Basic metabolic rate and/or physical activity. I have written some articles on this subject. For basic information click on 'Diet' at the top of this page and then on 'Diet Basics' and 'Weight gaining' and read the articles. Companies like Nestle, among others, make meal replacement supplements Phone the Nestle Consumer Services at 0860 09 6789 and ask about Nutritional Supplements to boost your energy intake. You can purchase liquid meal supplements at most chemist shops.

Talk to the pharmacist about your need to gain weight and see which products he or she will recommend. Basically you need to eat more food either by gradually increasing how much you eat at each meal, or by taking supplements IN ADDITION to your regular meals (not to replace meals), or by having more snacks between meals. If you use a liquid meal supplement at the rate of 200 ml 3x a day, then you should gain 1 kg per week. Feedback from other Readers has indicated that they have successfully gained weight by using a meal supplement.

Q: Gall stones

I am a 42-year old female, healthy eater (low fat foods and plenty salads, fruits and veg), not overweight and fairly fit. A sonar scan was done today to establish the cause of my recent abdominal pain and nausea, and the radiologist found a gallstone, 2cm across. I've done some searching online for alternatives to surgery and would like to know whether the gallbladder cleanses (involving olive oil, lemon juice, apple juice and 7 epsom salts) could assist in breaking down the stone? Or maybe the shockwave treatment which shatters the stone into small pieces? I find hospital stays traumatic and dread anaesthetic. The after-effects of gallbladder removal are real horror stories. What are my options?

A: do not think that the gallbladder cleanses will work. The olive oil may make your symptoms worse, and the epsom salts will cause diarrhoea but not break up the stone. The options are to have the stone shattered by laser treatment or to have it removed. Nowadays the surgeons can use keyhole surgery to remove gallstones which does involve an anaesthetic, but only requires very small incisions to be made and rapid recovery. You will have to discuss these treatments with your surgeon because the size and location of the gallstone will determine how it can be removed. Also mention that you have an aversion to hospitals and anaesthetics to see if there are alternatives or not. Disregard all the horror stories other people enjoy telling you. There is no reason why you should have the same experience. Once the stone is removed you will certainly feel much better and no longer suffer from abdominal pain and nausea.

Read more:

7 factors that prevent weight loss

Diabetes and diet – the basics

(Joanne Hart, Health24, May 2010)

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