Secrets of long-term weight-loss

Barely a day goes by when we do not encounter something on TV or in a magazine, promising to share the secrets of weight-loss, with a new diet plan or the latest weight-loss pill.

The only catch seems to be that you are required to pay for the secrets, often on a monthly basis in order to renew your stocks of the products or to get the next instalment of the plan.

For some people, the price tag is justified in their eyes, but is it? If you examine many of them, there are some question marks hanging over their promises – do they work? Are they healthy? Will you manage to maintain the weight-loss?

On closer examination the following answers seem apparent.

Do they work?

Possibly in the short-term many of them will. This is probably the result of the fact that they all involve some type of restriction in the diet, meaning that the calorie intake is likely to be reduced which will lead to weight-loss.

Are they healthy?

This is a big one for me and sadly not many of them are. Those regimes that recommend the removal of entire food groups or sources of macronutrients, such as carbohydrates or fat are certainly not healthy. The human body needs an adequate supply of carbohydrates, protein and fat in order to function, so eliminating any one of them cannot be healthy. Each of these food groups provide some vital, key nutrients, so to remove them could put you at risk of having an inadequate supply leading to deficiency.

Will you manage to maintain the weight you lose?

It is a frequent experience that after completing a weight-loss regime that weight is regained. An increase of a kilo or two is fine, but many people find that they regain almost all of the weight they initially lost, if not more. The result is embarking on another period of the diet or switching to a new one; the so-called “yo-yo dieting effect”. This certainly isn’t healthy for your body!

Weight-loss regimes that involve the removal of entire sources of macronutrients are extremely difficult to maintain long-term. Without a lot of willpower can may give up, feel defeated and worse, quite ill. The only time a food group should be eliminated is in the case of an allergy or intolerance to those foods and should be done with the support and guidance of a dietitian or nutritionist who is experienced and qualified in supporting and guiding you through the process.

Furthermore, following a very precise and scripted diet plan often means that you do not have to make any decisions for yourself. This can be seen as a good thing as it takes the pressure and ownership off you, but it also means that you do not learn the skills needed to make informed decisions about your food.

Skills such as reading and understanding food labels, portion sizes, etc, are all basic skills that if you can master will set you up for being more informed and in control of what you eat. This can be a real support to maintaining your weight-loss.

So what is the secret to weight-loss?

Well, if you put it in its most simple terms, the secret to weight comes down to energy in (what we eat and drink) and energy out (the energy used to live, function, go about our daily lives and the exercise we do). If the amount of energy in equals the amount of energy out them our weight will stay the same.

If we decrease the amount of energy in (through eating less calories) or increase the amount of energy out (through doing more exercise) we lose weight (creating an energy deficit). Sadly however the same is true in reverse, which leads to weight gain.

An important part of long-term successful weight-loss and maintaining a healthy weight comes from the choices that we make. While we are all individuals, there are some common skills that we all should have to support us in making those informed and healthy decisions about food and drink.

Of course we won’t necessarily acquire those skills overnight, which brings me to my next point – how quickly can you lose weight?

Most of us want a quick fix - a method of achieving something with minimum effort and time, but it may be helpful to remember that being overweight didn’t happen overnight. For most of us it creeps on over the years and so to expect to lose it overnight isn’t realistic.

It is surely better and healthier to lose weight gradually and steadily over a period of months, rather than rapidly over a few weeks if it means that throughout the process you will develop the skills and knowledge to make those informed decisions about food and nutrition and have time practice them. This will ultimately be one of your biggest assets to maintaining that weight-loss.

So, next time you see a weight-loss advert promising overnight results, stop and question whether it is actually something that will work out for you in the long-term.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Ryton, Tyne And Wear, NE40
Written by Steven Pearson-Brown, RNutr. FRSPH. MRSB. MSc. PgCert. BSc. (HONS)
Ryton, Tyne And Wear, NE40

Steven is passionate about ensuring the public are able to access information about nutrition and its role in health and well-being that is accessible and based on solid facts. He feels strongly that as everyone is individual that information and advice should be tailored to that individual, addressing their personal needs and ambitions.

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