Sunday 23 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'Weight loss isn't rocket science'

Small sustainable change to diet makes all the difference to health

Ciara Kelly

Published 11/01/2016 | 02:30

Operation Transformation's GP Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Operation Transformation's GP Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Table manners: 'Nothing for you, Oliver, you're on a diet.' But a proper, sustainable diet can do wonders for one’s health and well-being.

It's 2016 and I had barely got used to 2015! December was a wonderful flurry of catching up with friends and family and that lovely whirlwind of nights out, socialising, dinners and parties.

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It is the perfect antidote to the long dark evenings and the nasty weather. Even if you're not one for the partying, the winter is a time for slow-cooked casseroles, hearty soups and nights by the fire. All of which, of course, adds on the pounds. 

In fairness, we're actually designed to put on a few pounds over the winter, evolutionarily speaking, as a layer of fat in the icy winter months is protective against the cold. (Indeed, that's why the Mediterraneans have diets designed to not put on weight - as being heavy in the heat is no joke). The only problem is, now that we have central heating, the winter layer of fat really holds no benefit for us and, in fact, just becomes a spare tyre that you need to think about losing during January.

I don't say that as some kind of stick to beat those who are overweight. The problem with carrying extra weight is it's really very bad for your health. Most people when they lay down that extra fat do so around their midriff; and it's not just a fatty layer under the skin of their abdomen, it's fat encasing their heart and other organs. It's fat impregnating their liver and it's fat clogging up their arteries and putting them at risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, arthritis, infertility, and affecting their energy levels, their mood, how they live their lives and often how they feel about themselves. It's fat that you really don't want to hang on to.

I have always found that weight gained quickly over a short period of time such as Christmas or a holiday, comes off relatively easily - almost as if it isn't really yours yet. Whereas if you don't lose it promptly after putting it on, it most definitely becomes yours, and, in fact, can become extremely hard to shift. So there is no time like the present with the bit of New Year resolution still making its presence felt, to adopt the whole New Year - New You idea.

Weight loss isn't rocket science. There are two key elements to it - diet and exercise. Or calories in and calories out, as a simple way of looking at it. I'm going to talk about exercise next week but this week I want to focus on diet.

I think it's important to mention that I'm not suggesting you go on a diet because in the main that is designed to fail - as in, if you adopt some strict system of calorie restriction for a defined period of time and then go back to your old ways - or indeed worse ways, when you stop that strict regime - you will put all that weight back on and then some.

When I talk about diet, I mean diet in general. What you eat on a regular basis. Any and all changes you make to your diet should be both healthy and sustainable if you want to achieve any real change in your weight or your health. So radical shifts or very low calories diets simply don't work. That's been proven repeatedly - despite the industry around it and the massive sale of diet books.

Small change that can be maintained over time is far more effective, and yes, you will fall off the wagon and yes you will have to get back on it as fast as you can to keep up the effort, but it's totally do-able. And it's worth it. You feel better. You live better. You live longer. Your skinny jeans are the least of it. Operation Transformation returned to our screens last week, and it's a great way to start the New Year. Go on. Just do it. @ciarakellydoc

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