With 60% of Australian women over 18 being overweight or obese, it’s not surprising that diets sell. In fact, research by IBISWorld estimated that Australians’ spending on weight loss counselling services and related low-calorie foods and dietary supplements will reach more than $452 million in 2019-2020. Despite this, our waistlines continue to increase. So where are we going wrong?
The main problem is that ‘diets’ don’t work, lifestyle changes do. Most diets are too restrictive which makes them unsustainable in the long term. If the diet cuts out whole food groups, makes it difficult to socialise or requires hours in the kitchen it is unlikely to be something you can stick to for long.
The key is to find an eating plan you can adopt for the long term. One which is good for your health and for your waist. And while different types of eating plans will work for different people, there are some key habits that will help anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off for good.
Losing weight – the habits that count
- Eat mostly nutrient-dense, minimally processed wholefoods. This means building your meals and snacks around vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and lean protein foods.
- Limit discretionary foods. These are foods (and drinks) we choose to eat for pleasure that don’t provide much nutritional value and tend to be high in energy – think chips, confectionary, soft drinks and sweet biscuits. You don’t need to cut them out entirely if they are things you enjoy but you do need to keep these to a minimum when trying to lose weight and still meet your nutritional needs.
- Let your appetite guide you. Recognise when you are hungry and when you are satisfied and aim only to eat when you are hungry (but not starving, or you will overeat) and to stop when you are satisfied (and not over-full).
- Work on your eating habits. Sitting at the table to eat (and not on the run, in the car, or in front of the TV or computer) and eating slowly can make a real difference to how much you eat and how satisfied your meal leaves you feeling.
- Move more. If you are not currently exercising then start small (even if it’s only 5-10 minutes per day) and gradually increase the duration and intensity over time. Also try to get as much movement in your day as you can and avoid sitting for long periods at a time.
- Improve sleep. Poor sleep can contribute to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight. Lack of sleep worsens insulin sensitivity, leads to hormonal changes which influence weight and can also affect levels of satiety hormones which in turn influences hunger and appetite. Being tired also makes it harder to get enthusiastic about exercising and eating well!
- Reduce stress. Like poor sleep, stress can worsen insulin resistance and lead to weight gain. It can also contribute to emotional eating. Taking steps to reduce your stress levels and finding ways to manage stress, including scheduling time for rest and relaxation, should be an important part of your health and weight management plan.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes, so forget the latest fad. Instead, make healthy food choices, watch portion sizes, listen to your appetite, move more and get enough sleep and rest. It won’t make front page news or a bestseller, but it works!
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Need more help with losing weight? Consider seeking advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can help you to develop an eating plan suited to your individual needs while taking into account any other health problems you may have, and the types of foods you enjoy eating. To find your local APD call Dietitians Australia on 1800 812 942 or search on the website.