Weight loss tips, eating right, which diet, how much exercise?
For those of us trying to lose those extra kilos things can sometimes be a little confusing. There is an abundance of advice out there which can leaving many disheartened or frustrated.
Weight Watchers Chief Scientific Officer, Gary Foster, was in Australia last week and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask him some questions around weight management and Australia’s rising problems with obesity and it’s effects, now and in the future.
See below for my Q & A with Gary Foster, where he offers some great insights into the current state of the obesity epidemic and some simple steps to assist people with weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle.
Q. In regards to obesity, what do you see as the main contributing factors?
A. When it comes to obesity, there are two primary inputs:
- One is on the intake or food side,
- And the other is on the output or the activity side.
On the food side, a couple of things are happening. One is the portion sizes have become much larger over the last 20 years. Also, just the ubiquity of food everywhere, anytime makes it really difficult. Not only is food more available and more accessible but the amount of food and their portions, are much higher. There is really good behavioural science behind what people eat because of what is served to them. If the portion is larger, it is not like people keep it or take it home, they tend to consume what is served.
On the activity side, we’re much more sedentary than what we have been in a long time, mainly due to changes in occupation – many of us are in sedentary occupations. It turns out there is data that we spend more of the day sitting, than we do standing or moving. It’s not a surprise that given on the one hand we’re eating more and on the other hand we’re moving less. That is the perfect storm for increasing body weights over time.
Q. If we continue down this path what do you think the outcome will be?
A. Unfortunately, the outcome is pretty clear. We’ll be increasing rates of obesity, which has its own serious medical, psychological and economic consequences. In addition, it’s almost a clear gateway to diabetes. Diabetes is a disease fraught with complications, psychological issues particularly depression and also from a national health system point of view, it’s going to lead to extraordinarily high costs. That is just the disease most linked to obesity. There is a lot of others – sleep apnoea, increase blood pressure, increased CDP risk factors. All of these things occur when you have a serious condition of obesity, but it is also the gateway to many other conditions that are costly both at the individual level and the society level, particularly diabetes.
Q. We are all busy, what simple steps can we take to make a change towards a healthy lifestyle?
A. One thing to do, is to approach this in a realistic fashion. There is a certain impulse when people want to make behaviour change to shift into all or nothing mode. If you’re eating your favourite food seven or eight times a week, a lot of people just say “I’ll just cut it out, I want have it anymore. I’ll never have chocolate chip cookies again.” That’s also not a great way to live your life – to take out foods that you love and to never have them.
The first thing, is to look for a program, or an approach that is inclusive rather than exclusive. A program like, Weight Watchers’ Your Way – it allows you to tackle food, fitness and feeling your own personalized way.
It is a holistic, lifestyle approach, rather than a quick-fix diet. If you see a long list of ‘you cannot do this, you shall not do that’, you can’t eat this food, you must eat that food, that’s a thing to steer clear of. Instead, look for a program that suggests gradual changes. Those changes should include foods that you like, exercise that isn’t burdensome or painful. It’s a little counter-intuitive because a lot of people starting the process are so zealous, so enthusiastic that they make the change drastic. Instead, think of reasonable changes that can be sustained rather than dramatic ones that will ultimately be short lived.
Q. When it comes to losing weight many struggle and ‘give up’ when we don’t see instant or ongoing results. Diet and weight loss advice is also very confusing these days (with paleo, sugar-free, no carbs etc). Can you give some advice to the many people trying to make a change but don’t know where to start?
It’s very true that there is a lot of confusing advice out there and it comes from everywhere from what you read in the newspaper to what government panels recommend to what you see in the media around recent research studies.
Science always evolves, but in essence, there foods you want to eat more of and less of aren’t really changing. The trick is not be lured into “any one food is the best food or the worst food” but all of it can be used in moderation and that sounds like an old tried and trued adage, but that truth give folks a lot of flexibility and avoids this yes / no, black / white, success / failure mentality.
One of the things that we know from behavioural science is that thinking styles affect outcomes in very significant ways. Your body listens to what your minds think all the time. If your mind says I must, I should, those are the imperatives that make behaviour change really difficult. Be realistic in your expectations – there will be some weeks where you’ve done exactly the same thing and some weeks the scale changes and other weeks it doesn’t.
Focus on the behaviours that your changing, so that you’re eating differently, moving differently and have taken a position where you’re taking care of yourself.
Those are all non-scale victories to celebrate. Most of the time, the scale will follow that pattern, but if it doesn’t, don’t get dissuaded. Stick to the great behaviour changes you’re making and you’ll ultimately see success on the scale as well.
Gary Foster is the Chief Scientific Officer of Weight Watchers
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