As the obesity epidemic in New Zealand surges ahead, more people are looking for real solutions. But interestingly, obesity figures are rising despite the fact that overall, the population’s energy intake has dropped.
The explanation for this seemingly bizarre coincidence is actually quite obvious. New Zealanders are simply less active. Most experts agree that people will lose weight if their energy output exceeds the energy they consume. This is referred to as creating a calorie deficit, and from a biological perspective there’s simply “no way around it”.
Couple this with the negative effects of being overweight, and voila the birth, rise and success of the “diet culture”! Which according to Reuters is actually an industry worth over $279 Billion globally. And this relatively recent rise of the diet industry is something we really should take note of. Because, it’s growing and anyone considering this track as a solution could feel overwhelmed.
And considering the myriad of weight loss schemes out there, if one actually delivered results consistently, shouldn’t it have survived the test of time? Because after all, our own Ministry of Health and the Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand (BPAC) say that for anyone considering a diet, foremost on their list of priorities should be the longterm effectiveness of the diet and the health benefits. And this cautious approach is in line with many experts, including Traci Mann, who teaches psychology at the University of Minnesota and has been studying dieting for more than 25 years, the short answer to whether diets have withstood the test of time is “No, These companies make their money off failure, not success. They need you to fail, so you’ll pay them again. One-time customers are not the sort of thing that keep these diet companies in business”.
And I can personally add some observations to this. When I see people on diets alone, it typically follows a vicious cycle ultimately resulting in selfblame. Now, Mann has written extensively about the biological changes that occur. And, as it happens the odds are stacked against the dieter. According to Mann, “When people lose weight on a diet, they call it a success. And if the weight comes back on, they don’t say that the diet wasn’t successful — they say ‘I blew it.’ But that’s not correct. It’s all part of the diet”.
Now it’s unfair to say that there is no place for diets. There are various medical reasons people adopt a calorie restrictive diet not least of which may involve pre-gastrectomy surgery or controlling diabetes. But for those people it may be interesting to know that according to Ministry of Health and PABC there is “no consistent evidence that any one calorie-restricted diet is better than another at achieving weight loss”. So, there we have it, you could consider the less costly option. Good news indeed.
But if your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, our Ministry of Health suggests what most studies have also discovered. That you lose it at a realistic pace, that the food is healthy, leaves you satisfied and that you can maintain it long term. But just as importantly, it should be combined with regular exercise at medium intensity, because in the end it’s all about sustainability, and that simply doesn’t happen without positive lifestyle changes.
But, if dieting on a calorie restrictive plan is not the answer long term, it’s reasonable to say that similar practices in the exercise side of things would see similar results. This brings me to the “challenge fads” or time-specific programmes. These usually coincide with the onset of a new year or summer and last anywhere from 4 to 16 weeks promising huge physical changes.
Lee Suckling, a reporter with a master’s degree specialising in personal-health, says that “challenges rely on a four-part psychological format to get people on board, keep them on the programme and tell their friends all about how successful it is”.
A recent conversation with Toni, an exercise professional in the Auckland CBD highlighted a correlation between diets and running these intensive time-specific challenges where the focus is weight loss. But according to Toni, “The intensity during the challenge is extreme and comes to an abrupt end” She adds, “Participants find it very hard to maintain the routine without all the incentives, and usually end up putting the weight back on.”
So, where does the answer to long-term weight management and a healthier you lay. Well the solution is not that difficult. Yes, we need to look at nutrition, but we need to consider it in combination with manageable long-term lifestyle changes involving the right physical activity. What matters is that you make changes that are here to stay. And yes, there will be hard work along the way, but as you’ll look back, you’ll see improvements in everything you struggled with.
If you’re serious, contact me and we’ll design a programme that will work for you, we can do this … but It’s up to you.