There are more than a few of us who might have gained weight during the recent period of lockdown where more baking, comfort eating, stress eating, lack of quality sleep, snacking and initially not being able to go for a jog might have added a few kgs to the scale.
If this rings true for you, are you waiting for Monday to start being healthy again? Or after the next phase of lockdown ends? Or were you waiting until you could go back to the office? Or when spring arrives?
The thing about weight gain is that your habits need to change.
“You cannot keep doing what you are doing and expect the weight to change, so procrastinating is not helping anyone, you need to start today”, said Claire Julsing-Strydom, a dietician in private practice from Bryanston in Johannesburg.
“The fact is that in real life, we are all going to go on holiday or experience life changing events that might shift our weight, the key thing is to always come back to your correct weight.”
If you have gained weight over the December holidays or during lockdown, you need to put energy and time to getting it back to where it needs to be.
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She says there is a danger to small bouts of weight gain. The 1kg or 2kg that creep up now and then is how she ends up seeing patients who weigh 120kg and do not know how they got there.
“Haphazard eating over time is what slowly accumulates weight,” she explained.
Claire, who is used to virtual consultations which is a service she has been offering for years, long before lockdown, with patients as far afield as New York and Australia, says that while some of her patients were battling with healthy eating during lockdown, quite a lot of patients are thriving, embracing their health goals and putting effort into nutritious cooking. But it is a decision they have made.
Claire says that people need to stop being on diet and off diet, and only starting on Monday.
“This all or nothing mentality about weight needs to end,” she said and explained that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle.
“Eight per-cent of the time we need to be eating well but 20 per cent of food is going to be pleasure food.”
By not depriving yourself and still including the food that you enjoy, she says that you are in a much better position to change bad habits and lose weigh.
“You are still going to eat the pleasure foods, but you need to learn how much you can have, how often you can have it and develop a plan of action for yourself,” she said.
This is just some of the sound advice from Claire who says that of her patients who have most successfully lost and kept off their weight, these are not the ones waiting to start yet another new diet next week, but those who never really went on ‘a diet’ in the first place.
“The ones that weigh the most are the perpetual dieters waiting for Monday,” she said.
Her biggest goal with her patients is to educate them about what their bodies really need.
She says that no one ever sits us down and teaches us about nutrition. How much energy do you need every day? How many carbs, fat and protein do you need?
“I want their knowledge gain on the nutrition front to be so significant that they never battle again,” she said
People who understand nutrition are also less likely to fall for fad diets or the fearmongering that goes with the marketing of over-the-counter weight loss pills.
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The good news is that weight is a volatile marker, and it is something you can shift.
“You can change your weight tomorrow by having a decent day of eating today,”said Claire.
She also reiterates that we must not get fixated with the number on the scale.
“If you have picked up weight during a holiday or during lockdown, you are not stuck there, you can very quickly make shifts to your everyday dietary patterns”.
She says the bottom line is that you can never ignore total caloric intake.
In order to lose weight, you must have an energy deficit, but the quality of those nutrients is also important as all foods have a metabolic impact.
Simply put, this means a lot of vegetables, and portion control for everything else.
“Quality is key, quantity is key. If we do not get those factors right and do not eat the right amount of food that you need, you will not lose weight,” she explained.
She also says that there is just no quick fix. “You are going to have to fundamentally change your lifestyle behavior and patterns to help you achieve good weight loss.”
There are different aspects to helping with weight loss. She says people need to seek out the support they need in an area that they battle with when it comes to losing weight.
This could include seeing a dietician, a psychologist, looking at prescription medication or seeing a bio kineticist or personal trainer.
We also need to steer away from the stigma when it comes to using medically approved weight loss medication.
Claire says that healthcare practitioners do not tell patients with high blood pressure that they need to stop being stressed, they give them medication to manage their blood pressure.
Similarly, for suitable patients who can benefit from therapeutic interventions utilised together with diet and exercise, this too can be very helpful and can help achieve the best outcome for some patients.
Overweight and obesity is a global pandemic and numbers are continually increasing.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
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“Our modern-day environment promotes weight gain; it promotes an unhealthy diet. If you are not making a conscious effort to eat well, to be healthy, to look at your total energy, to look at your portion control, to understand what your energy requirements are, how much food you should be eating in a day, what the nutrients are that you need to be getting in a day, you will by default gain weight, simple as that,” she said.
Claire says that people often do not know where to start when it comes to losing weight and may be confused and overwhelmed by all the available information.
The bottom line is that you need to start eating for you, adopt healthier eating habits to change your health status now and for years to come.
Claire recommends that a body composition assessment and consultation with a dietician is a good way to assess your muscle mass, your fat percentage and to learn more about what nutrition your body needs.
Claire has been working with the iLiveLite programme from iNova Pharmaceuticals to develop dietary guidelines and has created different meal plans to suit various lifestyles and energy requirements.
If your health and how you might look come summer is not motivation enough, you can also enter the iLiveLite2Gain journey, a 12-week transformation journey of real people to become better versions of themselves.
The iLiveLite programme provides free tools and information to people who are trying to lose weight, and keep it off.
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