YOUR HEALTH | Why diets aren't the answer to long term weight loss

Experts says diets don't work for sustainable weight loss, instead seek out lifestyle changes that will improve your overall health and help weightloss. Picture: Shutterstock
Experts says diets don't work for sustainable weight loss, instead seek out lifestyle changes that will improve your overall health and help weightloss. Picture: Shutterstock

Q: Gained some Corona Kilos? Dieting won't help...

This year hasn't been easy on our health. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a massive change to our daily schedules, and many people have reported turning to food for comfort and entertainment. And something has to happen to all that baking you've done!

CSIRO recently surveyed its nearly 4000 participants Total Wellbing Diet community to explore the lifestyle challenges faced this year. Of the respondents who have gained weight during the COVID-19 outbreak, 61 per cent reported an increase in junk food consumption and 63 per cent reported an increase in snacking.

Report author Dr Emily Brindal described the findings as reflective of the challenges that millions of Australians are facing as they struggle to maintain wellbeing amidst a significant lifestyle shift.

The research also showed that some personality types are finding this time more challenging than others. Those identified as highly emotional eaters also reported higher decreases in their average wellbeing levels than others," said Dr Brindal.

It is the emotional and psychological impacts on diet that is key here. As many of us look to shed the kilos to help us look and feel good, we need to remember that diets don't work for effective, sustainable weight loss.

Diets are restrictive, often difficult to follow, cause stress to the participant, and may end up causing disordered eating and/or nutrient deficiencies.

If losing weight is your ultimate goal, then dieting will likely help you lose weight in the short-term. But we've found that as soon as dieters 'go off the diet', the weight is regained.

In fact most dieters gain back the weight in the long-term.

You've almost certainly heard the official advice on losing the weight for good: make changes you can stick to. You can seek out sustainable changes to your lifestyle that will improve your health and help you lose weight.

Aside from what you eat, how you eat is important in coaxing your brain into better choice. Making meals relaxing and distraction-free is an effective measure for preventing overeating. Make an effort to sit down and eat with your family or friends, using no devices, at least once daily.

The other really important component of maintaining a healthy weight is the need to move more. It's good for your body, mind and relationships.

Some simple 'rules' to go by

A balanced diet based on wholefoods - food in its most natural state - is a good place to start, and is not really a diet but a way of life.

Eat the rainbow: fill your plate with fruits, vegies, nuts, legumes and wholegrains. Don't avoid carbohydrates: to keep your brain at its best, seek out quality carbohydrates such as wholegrains (like quinoa and brown rice) and sweet potatoes.

Daily protein will stabilise blood sugar and regulate appetite. Good sources include fish, eggs, poultry, lean meat or legumes - and should comprise a quarter of your plate. The right fats will satiate you provided you opt for good fats: seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil and oily fish.

Drink more water: aim for two litres per day. Season with herbs and spices, not salt and sugar. You don't have to deprive yourself. Indulge in treats but limit them to special occasions.

To help these habits stick, remind yourself of the bigger picture. Making these changes will set you up for a healthier life, reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, and many different cancers.

  • Today's answer is provided by Sydney General Practitioner Dr Jill Gamberg, through HealthShare, a digital company dedicated to improving the health of regional Australians. Submit questions, and find more answers, at healthshare.com.au.

For help with body image or eating disorders contact The Butterfly Foundation 1800 334 673 or butterfly.org.au or Reach Out reachout.com.