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7 Stay-Slim Strategies

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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Want to know the best ways to stay in shape in 2009? I searched the latest scientific journals for expert insights and hot tips for you and your clients. Here are seven tips I found.



1. Eat a nutrient-rich diet

A healthy, nutrient-rich diet is a good idea for everyone. Now, it appears to be a key strategy for weight management instead of the overly simple focus on cutting calories. The idea here is that vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial food chemicals help give our body the nutrients we need to optimise metabolic function and avoid a condition coined as `malnutritive obesity' or `malnubesity'.

Take home message - In addition to helping your clients count calories, help them make every calorie count towards a nutrient-rich diet. Encourage more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish, whole grain cereals and other healthy food choices.

Reference - Malnutritive obesity (`malnubesity'): is it driven by human brain evolution? McGill, A. T., Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, Vol 6, No. 4, Winter 2008.

2. Eat protein

The findings of this January 2009 paper state, “A protein-enriched diet induces satiety, improves body composition and results in weight loss.” Put simply, protein-rich foods including lean meats, chicken and fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, soy and some grains can help you feel fuller, sooner at a meal and feel fuller for longer after a meal.

Take home message - Check when you clients eat protein and include protein-rich foods at each meal where possible. Cereal and milk for breakfast, tuna and salad for lunch and chicken and cooked vegetables at dinner are good examples.

Reference - Protein, amino acids and the control of food intake. Potier, M., Etal. Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, Vol 12 No 1, 2009.

3. Eat dairy

Dairy is a nutrient and protein-rich food, so tick both boxes above. It may also have other slimming properties that researchers are yet to put a finger on. This study, like many previous, found a general trend that as dairy consumption went up, waist measurements came down in the 2000-plus middle-aged French adults surveyed. The waist-shrinking properties of dairy weren't linked to calcium, so the hunt goes on to reveal dairy's slimming secrets.

Take home message - Check how much dairy your clients consume. Unless they have an allergy to cows' milk protein or are intolerant to lactose, encourage three of more serves a day. A glass of milk, a slice of cheese and a tub of yoghurt achieve this target.

Reference - Dairy consumption and 6-year changes in body weight and waist circumference in middle-aged French adults. Vergnard, A.C., Etal., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 88, No. 5, Nov 2008.

4. Drink water

As part of a larger study comparing popular diets over 12 months, researchers took a look at water drinking habits in 173 women aged 25-50 years who reported drinking less than 1 litre of water per day. After the scientists eliminated all other variables, including food intake and physical activity, they found that both the absolute amount of water consumed and also the relative increase in water consumed during the study predicted better weight loss.

Take home message - Check your clients' water intake. Aim for two or more litres (8 cups a day) a day. Have a generous gulp of 300-500 mL before lunch and dinner to pre-fill your stomach to speed up appetite suppression signals from your belly to your brain.

Reference - Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey, J.D., Etal., Obesity, Vol 16, No 11, Nov 2008.

5. Breastfeed

Women naturally gain weight during pregnancy and are also naturally eager to return to their pre-pregnant weight after birth. This is where breastfeeding helps out, by passing on calories in breast milk to the new born. A woman's energy needs and metabolic rate are greater when breastfeeding too.

This new study interviewed over 25,000 Danish women about breastfeeding habits and their weight. They discovered that for women who gained up to 12 kilograms during pregnancy, breastfeeding for 6 month post partum could eliminate pregnancy weight gain. For women who gained more pregnancy weight or were very large before pregnancy, breastfeeding wasn't fully effective.

Take home message - Tell your female clients that breastfeeding is not only good for your baby but is also good for getting you back in shape after baby is born.

Reference - Breastfeeding reduces postpartum weight retention. Baker, J.L., Etal., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 88, No. 6, Dec 2008.

6. Manage eating triggers

If you want advice from people who have been obese, lost weight and kept it off, the US Weight Loss Registry is the place go. A review of weight loss maintenance in its several thousand successful slimmers has revealed that managing eating triggers is vital to keep weight off. Although study participants lost their weight by different methods, including obesity surgery and behavioural programs, the common bond was the need to manage stress, boredom, disinhibition and dietary restraint to ensure the weight stays off.

Take home message - Help your clients identify and manage their eating triggers. Common triggers are stress, boredom, tiredness and relationships.

Reference - Weight-loss maintenance in successful weight losers: surgical vs non-surgical methods. Bond, D.S. Etal. International Journal of Obesity, Dec 2, 2008 (online).

7. Rely on support

Individual personality characteristics are emerging as a strong predictor of adherence to weight loss programs. One key element is reward dependence, which involves the ability to rely on others for support and motivation. People who exhibit low “reward dependence” appear less likely to stick at their diet and exercise program to get lasting results because they don't recruit people to keep them on track.

Take home message - Inform your clients that personality traits have a big impact on program success. Even when they think they can do it alone, they should use your regular support to stay on track.

Reference - Personality and attrition from behavioural weight-loss treatment for obesity. De Panfilis, C. Etal. General Hospital Psychiatry, Vol 30, No 6, Nov-Dec 2008.


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