Are you trying to lose some weight? So many people are these days. Our often sedentary lifestyles, with too much time spent slaving over our computers or staring at the TV, and not enough time spent taking a regular brisk walk, over the years can easily pile on some extra kilos. Before you know where you are, your clothes begin to seem tighter. Then you may even have to go up a size and buy some new ones. This insidious weight gain starts almost imperceptibly but in five or ten years’ time, with a combined lack of exercise and over-indulgence in food and drink, suddenly you’re feeling uncomfortably rotund! It’s time to take action, or start to develop associated impairment of your health. There’s also a loss of self esteem that comes with carrying too much weight, and a painful self-consciousness that can really detract from your enjoyment of your life.
There are various fairly obvious common sense approaches both to reducing existing obesity and to preventing its future return once those unwanted kilos are shed. These pretty much always require an all round change of lifestyle. None of the quick fix approaches to weight loss have any longterm merit because they do not tackle the habits that led to your weight gain in the first place. Further, if you lose weight very fast, chances are you’ll gain it back, plus some, just as quickly, because you’ll wreak havoc with your metabolic rate. If your body thinks it’s starving, because you’ve put yourself on a crash diet, its metabolism will slow right down, in an effort to protect your health. Our bodies are clever that way! It will hold on tighter to all the kilojoules you ingest! Far better to plan for weight reduction in a sensible, structured and well thought out way, which addresses how you live and how you eat, with a view to improving your all round health.
Recommended lifestyle changes to lose weight and then stay slim revolve first around the modification of your diet, to develop healthier eating habits more conducive to a slender waistline. This quite obviously is going to require some reduction in the amounts of energy in the form of food and drink that you ingest each day. This can be achieved with good common sense. Strategies include reducing the sizes of the portions of meat and starch foods you are in the habit of putting on your plate, while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, cutting sugar either out altogether or at any rate right down, reducing your consumption of alcoholic beverages and sweet soft drinks, and generally minimising your intake of starches. Those starches you do eat preferably should be of the whole variety, such as wholemeal bread, unrefined maize meal, brown rice and brown pasta. The increase in fruit, veg and fibre, will, of course, fill your stomach up with good healthy stuff, making you less likely to gorge on other things, and improving your general health with all the valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and the like, and roughage, that come with these. Many dieters these days favour diets with very low carbohydrate intake, cutting right back on mealie meal, bread, rice and pasta. But what about milk and dairy products? Where do they fit in, when trying to lose weight?
There is a widespread misconception that milk and dairy products can make you fat. However, much scientific evidence has proved that milk consumption from early childhood is actually associated not with fatness but with slimness! It has been found over and over again that those who drink milk and eat dairy produce on a regular basis, particularly in childhood, are more likely to grow up slim than those who don’t. Even those children and adolescents who consume milk flavoured with chocolate or strawberry or some other sweet addition, are likely to have a lower body mass than those who don’t consume milk. This may well be because children consuming satisfying, filling flavoured milk, drink fewer other sweetened drinks, which unlike milk, are full of naked calories and empty of anything of nutritional value!
Numerous studies in the past ten years have shown that calcium and in particular calcium from dairy products can actually contribute to weight loss on your diet, by speeding up the break down of body fat, and both children and adults who consume milk and dairy foods regularly are in any case far more likely to be slim and to stay that way, than those who do not. Although it is the calcium in milk and dairy that has been shown to assist with weight loss, there are other factors at play that are considered to be contributing to the weight loss and maintenance benefits associated with regular intake of dairy. Other components in milk such as the whey proteins, the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), the branched chain amino acids and the sphingolipids, are thought to be contributing. Studies in this area are current and on-going. Dairy calcium and whey proteins may also help to improve body composition during weight loss, by increasing fat loss while retaining lean muscle mass.
All this exciting new research coming out about dairy and weight loss, has found that people who consume dairy products while on a sensible weight reduction diet, lose more weight, and lose it faster, than those who are not taking dairy foods. Interestingly the extra weight the dairy consumers lose when compared with those not eating dairy, is also primarily from the waist area. This is medically proven to be significant in reducing disease. Carrying our extra weight around our tummies, specifically, is associated with developing more illness later in life.
Milk and dairy foods in addition also provide a wide array of many beneficial nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins, which are in any case essential to good health. The advice generally spread around these days, then, is to consume three dairy servings of some kind each day, whether or not you are currently trying to lose some weight. A typical serving would be a 150 gram pot or bowl of yoghurt, a 200 millilitre serving of milk, or a 30 gram chunk of cheese. Hardly a hardship!
But there’s more to your weight reduction lifestyle changes than just focussing on a new way of eating and then sticking with it for life. You also need to increase your physical activity, not just temporarily, but permanently. Our modern city lifestyles are generally way too inactive to maintain a healthy weight with ease. It’s not that difficult to introduce a bit more exercise, even in the busiest of lives. Climb the stairs every day, instead of taking the lift; park further from the office, then walk there. Take a twenty minute brisk walk round the block when you get home from work, or in the morning before you go to work. Go for a half hour swim at the nearest pool in your lunch hour, and swim some laps, to clear your head and burn some kilojoules. If you need other people to spur you on and keep you on track when getting fitter, join the HAC running club, or the Mountain Club, or a gym, and not only will you increase your fitness, you’ll also make some friends and start to look forward to your exercise sessions. Start gently, build up, then maintain. Those are the rules for increasing fitness levels sensibly. Your metabolic rate will increase, your heart and lungs will get stronger and more efficient, your muscles will firm up. Combined with your new healthier eating habits, you are now well on your way to a slimmer, fitter you!