The Weight of the World


With winter looming in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s easy to let go of our health.  Much of the weight gained throughout the year happens during a short period eg Christmas, holidays, where we over-consume on yummy foods.

If weight loss was easy then obesity would not be present in our world today. Weight management is a complex game involving individual biology, environment and behaviour.  Exercise, self-motivation, perseverance, moral support and accountability are key to losing and sustaining weight loss.

Set-point’ is more than just a tennis match

Set point is the unconscious homeostatic control that the body has over body weight.  Similar to body temperature, pH level, blood pressure or blood glucose levels, our body controls and facilitates a narrow bandwidth of body weight.  What is not commonly understood is that following strict weight loss programs, changes in metabolic rate (slowing down metabolism for example) that occur can last many years after the program has ceased and is one reason why putting back on the lost weight frequently occurs.   The trick to preventing this is to alter our weight set-point.

Obesity research shows that obese patients do not lack willpower and are not lazy, rather, they have a high set- point. To lose weight effectivity we need to focus on lowering that set-point so that when the weight disappears we don’t rebound back to where the body is pre-set.


So how do we go this? 

  1. The first thing we should master when dieting is reducing the palatability of the food, make it more bland and less rewarding to consume, but still allowing us to feel satiated. When we reduce hyperpalatable foods we will help to facilitate successful weight loss. Include wholefoods which are naturally lower in calories and restrict high calorie dense processed foods containing added sugars, salt and flavourings. Instead, eat home cooked meals full of nutrients.
  1. Include adequate protein and fibre which have been shown to reduce the stimulation of the reward centre of the brain which can further improve satiety. Protein-rich diets are recommended as part of successful weight management programs.  Higher protein diets increase thermogenesis, improving glucose homeostasis, increasing the satiety hormones and reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin.
  1. Do not skip a meal to lose weight. Research has shown that skipping a meal you normally have in order to lose weight has been associated with an increase risk of obesity and may drive patients to consume unwanted snacks later on.   Aim for at least 20-25g of protein with your first meal. Use a good protein powder – hemp, whey, pea – to help make life easier.
  1. Restrict either carbohydrate OR fat (studies show that both approaches work equally well), while keeping protein constant.
  1. Take diet breaks to avoid diet fatigue. Stick to a strict diet for the first 6-8 weeks, then allow ‘ad lib’ eating of healthy, low hyperpalatable foods for 2 weeks and cycle on and off like this to continue weight loss.   It’s important to reward yourself and support achievement.  Increase exercise during this time.
  1. Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Since poor sleep appears to correlate with obesity it’s important to develop a bedtime ritual, make sure your room is dark, your bed is comfortable and your body temperature is cooled down before bed to allow you to fall asleep quickly. Avoid screens 1 hour before bed, turn off wifi to avoid EMF emissions while sleeping and avoid day time naps.   Studies have shown that blue light from screens has the largest impact on suppressing melatonin levels causing a shift in circadian rhythm. Stress, anxiety and depression which can also contribute to weight gain will all be reduced with adequate sleep time.
  2. Regular support, checking in, accountability and feedback are very important.
  3. Keeping track of what you eat using an app – studies have shown that those who track what they eat have more success in weight loss.
  4. Regular eating patterns contributes to the outcome of weight loss diets.
  5. Exercise 45mins of moderate-high intensity x 4 times/week. Being accountable is important. Studies show that patients who reported to a gym or trainer to exercise tend to lose appreciable amounts of weight.


Maintaining Weight Loss

Long term we want to keep off the weight we have worked so hard to lose.  Once you have reached your weight loss goal it’s time to become mindful.

  • Drink plenty of water – 2 litres/day
  • Eat 3-5 cups vegetables per day
  • Include protein at every meal or snack
  • Eat more veggies than fruit
  • Keep fruit to 1 piece/day. Berries are a great option and high in anti-oxidants
  • Limit starchy carbs to 1 or 2 small serves/day
  • Include healthy oils and plentiful nuts and seeds daily
  • Reduce alcohol to 1-2 times/week
  • Eat seasonal food, organic preferably
  • Enjoy food as a social occasion
  • Keep up your exercise and sleep routines