Have we got your attention? Thought so ☺
Hi, I’m Lou Wilkinson (registered dietitian) and Iron Stride have asked me to write a blog post for you lovely people about some of the main nutritional concerns people have.
When people find out that I am a dietitian, they usually ask something along the lines of ‘how can I lose weight, or what is the secret to weight loss?’
The truth is that there really is not a secret formula or product to help shift those pounds (sorry!). There are a few basic concepts that will deliver results if you get to grips with them and incorporate into your lifestyle.
Let’s have a look a few of these in this blog post.
1. Which diet is the best?
There are loads of different 'diets' that are talked about in magazines and on social media - some are sensible (e.g. Mediterranean Diet) and some are not (e.g. Detox tea). Fad diets do not work long-term. The only pounds that you are likely to lose are from your wallet. Some may result in short-term weight loss (although this is often due to a reduction in calorie consumption, rather than a 'miracle product'), and this may work for some, but remember it could be at the expense of your overall health (if you dramatically reduce your calorie or fat intake you will be unlikely to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements). Think about eating for optimum health by following a balanced diet (including starchy carbohydrates, lean protein sources and plenty of fruit and vegetables) and the weight loss will follow! Many advocate following the "80/20" rule - that is, choose nutritious foods 80% of the time, and eat what you like for the other 20%! Some people split this over a day (i.e. plan your breakfast and lunch but have what you want for dinner), or over a week. The point is not to think about having 'cheat days' or eating 'bad food'. Try to get away from labelling food good and bad. All food serves a purpose - it might be to nourish us from the inside out, or it might just make us smile when we are feeling under the weather (e.g. ‘fun’ foods like cake!). If you have one ‘bad day’, it doesn’t matter! Just focus on getting some nutrient-dense foods in the following day!
2. How much should I be eating? Some people like to calorie count, which is fine in the short-term, but it is better longer-term to choose options based on their nutrient profile (as opposed to the number of calories they contain). If weight loss is your only goal then you need to increase your calorie deficit. You can either eat less calories or move more - or ideally do a bit of both! In order to calculate the amount of calories that your body needs to function each day (based on your activity levels) you can use online calculators (see here). These are ok for a guide, but things do change based on age, and any other underlying health issues (a dietitian can help calculate your nutritional requirements specific to you). The important thing is to try not to restrict calories to a point where you will not be able to meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. The reason that the average UK dietary guidelines advise 2000 kcals for women and 2500 kcals a day for men, takes into account the other nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy (e.g. protein, vitamin C, iron etc.). If you need to lose weight, aim to lose about 0.5-1kg (1-2lb) a week until you reach a healthy weight for your height. You should be able to lose this amount if you eat and drink about 500-600kcal fewer a day than you need. Swapping a chocolate bar and a packet of crisps a day for a slice of malt loaf and some plain popcorn will nearly get you to that saving!
3. Fantastic Fibre!
Fibre is not always the first on the list when we talk about eating well. Perhaps it is because the positive effect it can have involves poo and people do not always like talking about that (I personally don’t think we talk about poo enough...but that is for another time!). In fact, if you are struggling to lose weight fibre could be your missing link. Fibre does a number of important jobs in the body but can work wonders in not only filling us up (so that we are less likely to make unhealthy choices), but also feeding the good bacteria in our gut. Even better is that high-fibre foods are not expensive! In the UK, we should be aiming to consume 30g/day (we just about manage on average 18g/day). Good sources of fibre include: - Wholegrain cereals (branflakes, weetabix or shredded wheat) - Beans, lentils and chickpeas (including hummus) tinned is fine! - Wholegrain pasta, rice and bread - Vegetables such as sweetcorn, broccoli, carrots, and frozen peas - Fruits such as oranges, dried apricots, apples and bananas
Try making some swaps to higher fibre foods and monitor your hunger levels! It is best to introduce high fibre foods gradually though if you do not eat much at the moment - switching too quickly can upset your bowels!
4. Sugar…oooo honey honey
There has been a lot of focus on sugar recently - which is a good thing, we consume far too much of it! The science behind it is a little complicated, but sugar itself rarely makes us 'fat', it is more indicative of the overall quality of the diet (i.e. if you consume too many sugary foods, chances are the rest of your diet isn't that balanced). The problem with consuming too much sugar long-term is that it can lead to developing Type 2 diabetes which brings with it further health issues. It will also play havoc with your teeth! Reducing the obvious sugar in your diet is the easy bit (sweets, fizzy drinks etc), it is often the 'hidden sugars' that are in ready-made foods like pasta sauces and yoghurts that can sneak into our diets. The advice has recently changed, for children and adults over 11 years to aim for no more than 7 teaspoons (30g) 'free sugars' per day. To put this into perspective, a single can of Coca-Cola contains 39g! 'Free sugars' mean sugar products that are added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present. Milk is excluded from this limit though. Remember that maple syrup, honey, agave, and other ‘healthy’ branded syrups are all still counted as 'free sugars'. If you have a sweet-tooth, aim to gradually reduce the amount of sugary foods or drinks you have a day (i.e. step down from 2 teaspoons of sugar in your tea to 1 teaspoon, then ½ teaspoon until you can cope without it at all). If you do this over time, you won’t feel like you are missing the sweet hit so much, and your taste buds will adapt. Remember that we are all different - and there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to diets. Nutrition is a pretty diverse topic (that is why we spend 3 years at university learning about it!), and it would be impossible to write about everything in one blog post.
Dietitian's don't have all of the answers - the body is a pretty complicated system and research will always be finding out different ways of how what we eat affects our health. The most important thing is to enjoy it, and have fun discovering new foods that you know are doing you good!
Until next time…. Lou ☺
Louise Mole RD is a Registered Dietitian & PhD student. Mum to a 1yr old daughter 👧 & 2.5yr Labrador 🐾. Likes baking (and eating) cakes 🍰