How can I shed some weight? That is the million dollar question of all time. A simple Google search on the subject renders over 250 million websites promising miracle cures and theories.
“Statistically there are over 1.6 billion people in the world today who are overweight,” according to Kerryn Gibson, a qualified paediatric and sports dietician.
Why are more and more people becoming overweight? What are we doing wrong?
“If the answer and solution were that simple there would not be an obesity epidemic,” said the Duban-based dietician.
There is no ‘quick fix’
The point is that successful weight loss is not easy to achieve, she noted, adding that there is no such thing as a ‘quick fix’. “If something sounds ‘too good to be true’ then it probably is,” Gibson warned.
“Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight comes from your personal commitment to do so, and personal motivating factors that outweigh any other desire. Slim people are not just ‘naturally that way’, neither are they ‘lucky’. They have made a conscious decision to lead a healthy lifestyle and probably work hard at maintaining this on a daily basis through diet and/or exercise. You have to be ready to lose weight and have to be committed to act on that desire to lose weight.”
She went on to explain that the concept of energy balance is a simple one.
“It is well known that a nutritional intake in excess of a person’s nutritional requirements will result in weight gain.”
It is all about nutritional intake
Gibson said a person who understands their nutritional requirements and who can demonstrate discipline when it comes to their nutritional intake will lose weight.
“People are capable of being disciplined in various aspects of their life; acquiring a university qualification, starting a company, training for a marathon, raising children - these all require discipline.
“If we can be disciplined in so many other areas of our lives why can’t we be disciplined with our nutritional intake,” she asked.
The question then comes down to what possible psychological and emotional variables influence our eating habits.
Another variable at play is the idea that a commitment to a healthy lifestyle for weight maintenance is forever and this is a daunting thought, said Gibson.
“Most other areas of our lives requiring discipline tend to have an end point in sight. The trick knowing how to achieve a balance between being disciplined for around 80% of the time so that for the other 20% we can let our hair down a bit and indulge ourselves on the spoils that the food and beverage industry has provided us with. Because let’s be honest, as much as government tries to intervene, the processed and convenience foods and drinks are here to stay.”
Gibson pointed out that decisions on nutritional intake that people make every single day are ultimately what determine their weight.
“It is often small mistakes that people make on a daily basis, such as cappuccinos over filter coffee, which add up and result in a person over consuming nutrition. This might be an excess of 500kcal per day and if this happens consistently over time, it will result in weight gain.”
The trouble is that our nutritional requirements are constantly changing based on factors such as age, body composition, activity level and health state to name a few, said Gibson. “Therefore our nutritional intake should be dynamic to meet our requirements.”
What about fad dieting?
Fad diets do not work for the long term, she said. “They do not work because they only address one variable – nutritional intake. Although a ‘one size fits all’ approach may work initially, it is seldom maintained.”
She said a person committed to losing weight cannot ignore all of the variables contributing towards their nutritional intake.
“These are unique to each person battling with a weight problem. I challenge you to consider the variables at play that have contributed towards your own weight gain, loss and maintenance.
“Identify situations in your life that have triggered food intake. Question what events have made you want to lose weight. Which variables need to be addressed to help you along your path of achieving your goal weight? Unless these are addressed and taken into consideration you may in all likelihood always tend to being overweight.”
Consulting with a professional who can help you to achieve your goal weight and body composition is a worthwhile investment in your health, said Gibson.
“Dietitians are experts in nutrition. Our primary focus is to help people to individualise and be strategic with their nutritional intake. Every person has different goals, different nutritional requirements and different variables affecting what and why they eat.”
Gibson said every person should therefore have their own unique approach to eating.
“If one can achieve this then, just maybe, we can solve peoples’ weight problems and stop falling prey to the fake multi-million dollar weight loss industry.”