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News flash! Diets do work. The trouble is, just not forever. When you lose the weight and stop the diet, what then? “My philosophy is living the healthiest life you can enjoy rather than living the healthiest life you can only tolerate,” notes Ottawa diet guru Dr. Yoni Freedhoff who, through his clinic at the Bariatric Medical Institute, has helped thousands of Canadians shed unwanted pounds or steered them to an improved nutritional path that lowers their risk of serious diseases such as diabetes.
“Even if there were a diet which was head and shoulders better than every other, if you don’t like that style of eating you won’t do it forever,” he warns. The evidence about weight loss is pretty clear when you look at the U.S.- based National Weight Control Registry, a study that followed over 10,000 people since 1994, says Dr. Freedhoff. Participants have lost an average of 67 pounds, and they did so “every which way there is. What (diet) works for one might not work for others.”
Dr. Zentner, an obesity medicine specialist, maintains that we all have individual eating personalities. “Emotional eaters use food as a crutch, a reward. They eat out of boredom or stress,” she told me. “Calorie drinkers consume fancy coffees, wine, juices. Did you know a pina colada was equivalent to a Big Mac in calories?” Portion distorters and fast-food junkies are other diet personalities, she says. But even when you determine what type of eater you are, you still have to find the right plan. “This isn’t a quick-fix issue,” she says of dieting.
“Allowing ourselves to make mistakes and learning from them can shape our success.” And eating healthier doesn’t depend on willpower – even though a recent Weight Watchers survey found that 71% of Canadians believe it does. New research indicates that humans experience two different types of hunger: Homeostatic, a type of hunger controlled by the brain’s hypothalamus which tells us when to start and stop eating, and hedonic or eating for pleasure.
Magnetic resonance imaging has shown that the thought or sight of tempting foods light up the brain’s reward centres. According to Weight Watchers International’s chief scientific officer Karen Miller-Kovach, we are hard-wired to eat delicious food when it’s presented. “With these food cues all around us, we need to learn how to clean up the places where we live and work, plan for situations where we have little control, and establish routines that make the healthy choice the automatic choice.”
“As a species we want shortcuts and are offered them constantly through diet books and low-fat foods,” says Dr. Freedhoff. “People get so caught up in the minutiae of dieting. But if you can make the vast majority of your meals from scratch, take time to cultivate a love affair with your kitchen and teach that to your family, then you will probably do pretty well.”
There are no shortcuts, he adds. “Losing weight is about informing yourself, planning, cooking and exercising. If you think you just have to avoid something like bread or sugar, it won’t last. Losing weight and maintaining that loss takes time. In our jobs, our parenting, our relationships, we have good weeks and bad. The same is true about weight management. If you think you need to be perfect, you will be disappointed.”
The National Weight Control Registry (Nwcr.ws) found:
To keep weight off, most maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and do high levels of activity. 78% eat breakfast daily; 75% weigh themselves at least once a week; 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week; 90% exercise about 1 hour per day.
By the numbers
According to Weight Watchers, 52% of Canadians are obese or overweight and that number will rise to 70% of adults aged 40 or over by 2040. 52% of Canadians who started a weight loss program last year were unsuccessful.
Kick-start healthy eating
Begin the day with two glasses of lemon water or organic ginger tea for digestion, cleansing and a boost of antioxidants. – Don Gauvreau, founder, SD Pharmaceuticals.
Ten ways to never say diet!
1. Assess your current lifestyle and eating habits.
2. Devise weekly meal plans to get you organized, help cut down on tips to the grocery store and reduce your reliance on takeout.
3. Limit your intake of foods and drinks high in fat, calories and sugar and low in nutrients.
4. Be aware of when you eat and why. Listen to your body – eat when hungry, stop when full.
5. Pick one eating and activity change and stick with it for several weeks before adding a new one.
6. Try improving your diet with the help of the Dietitians of Canada’s online tool at www.eatracker.ca.
7. Enjoy the occasional indulgence but follow a healthy meal plan most days.
8. Find out the nutrient content of foods you buy by searching online at www.dietitians.ca.
9. For healthy recipes, check out the Dietitians of Canada’s latest book, Cook!
10. Keep a well-stocked pantry of healthy ingredients so you can easily cook at home and avoid fast food.
-- Dietitians of Canada
What’s your best?
Ideal weight is nonsense, says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (Bmimedical.ca). “When it comes to numbers on scales there are variables within our sphere of control, but there are also variables that are not – like genetics, life’s obligations, palates and medical co-morbidities. There are things you can change, and things you maybe cannot or are unwilling to change in order to lose weight.” He suggests we aim for best weight, instead: “Best weight is whatever weight you reach living the healthiest life you can.”
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