Fitness

Wednesday 23 July 2014

A good diet is not just for summer

Dr Nina Byrnes

Published 13/05/2013|04:00

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Only 5% manage to keep weight lost off long term.

It's getting to that time of year again. The days are longer and we are all starting to think about what summer may bring.

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Okay, the weather hasn't been exactly great but we can still live in hope that the summer months will bring some warmth and sunshine.

Summer weather, of course, also means shedding layers and this time of year for many also brings into focus those bulges and bumps that were hiding behind the winter layers.

Shops and magazines start to promote all kinds of creams and potions to help reduce fat and cellulite and, of course, the dreaded diet word starts to surface.

Losing weight is a simple chemical equation – you must take in fewer calories than you burn.

There are numerous weight-loss diets out there.

All of these diets will cause weight loss if followed but how to keep it off is the issue.

Long-term portion control is extremely important, piling plates, supersizing bars and meals easily leads to overeating.

In a perfect world, everyone who needed to would be able to lose weight and keep it off, but we don't live in an ideal world and so my advice is if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Science backs this up. Relapse to unhealthy eating is not failure. Those trying to lose weight will comment on how terrible they feel when stopping a "diet".

Many comfort themselves by returning to unhealthy habits and weight gain can occur very quickly again.

Evidence shows that if you relapse and move forwards and try again with each new attempt the chance of permanent weight loss maintenance increases.

Anyone can lose weight, but only a small percentage, about 5pc of people, manage to keep it off at one year. Eating well, moving and keeping an eye on your weight are the keys to long-term weight loss. Emotional eating is a real buzzword in diets these days and it is essential to address for successful long-term weight loss.

In emotional eating, food has become the drug of choice to relieve feelings of sadness, stress, boredom or loneliness.

Carbohydrates can release a feeling of calm and comfort.

Certain foods high in sugar and fat (like chocolate or ice-cream) are associated with a surge in the body's natural pain relievers.

There are a number of common emotional eating habits.

First is social eating where food becomes a reward.

Are happy occasions and celebrations always associated with food? Secondly, situational eating: Do I grab food on the go? Do I eat just because something looks or smells nice rather than being actually hungry.

Situational nibbling and snacking can lead to many extra unneeded calories.

Thirdly, identify your feeling and emotions around food.

What may seem just like a sugar craving may be revealed as a need for calm, social contact, or happiness.

Lastly, eating sugary food leads to a cycle of binging that is often followed by a sugar crash which leaving you feeling drained, low and guilty.

Finding healthier ways to achieve natural feelgood energy surges such as exercise can help break the cycle. When it comes to losing weight, motivation is key.

So here are my top tips to inspire motivation, encourage change and hopefully maintain a new lifestyle:

1 'DIET' is a dirty word.

Eating habits are built up over a lifetime and change can only happen slowly.

2 Make the person you ARE the one you like.

You don't need to lose weight to like yourself.

3 Visualise goals and aim for them.

For example, being able to run around with the children, or go shopping comfortably.

4 Join a weight-loss group, or involve family or friends, there is strength in numbers.

5 Set realistic goals. Focus on 1/2 to 1kg (1 to 2lb) a week.

6 Focus on the feelgood factor, not the cosmetic reasons for weight loss.

7 Put time aside to eat, avoid eating on the run or in front of the TV, enjoy the social aspect of mealtimes.

8 Keep a food diary, especially early on.

Identify the why and where of eating habits

9 Find new ways to cope with emotions.

10 Remain positive – don't see relapse as failure – it's a normal part of change. Take the process a day at a time.

Good luck! And here's hoping for a summer to show off the new you.

Irish Independent

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