Losing weight too quickly can be damaging and may not last. RG Best Health sought expert advice for healthy, sustainable ways to lose, and keep off, unwanted pounds.
While each of us is unique in many wonderful ways, there is one thing a lot of us have in common – frustration with our weight and the desire to be healthier. To achieve this, some turn to exercise. Some to dieting. But one thing many people get wrong is being too hard on themselves. If you go too far, too fast, it won’t last.
Myra Dill founded eFit 18 years ago in response to doctors needing more support for overweight patients. As well as being a personal trainer, she worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 20 years and has a food science and nutrition degree. Five years later she was joined by Jenille Deveson, who is also a personal trainer and health coach.
They both specialise in behavioural change, which, said Ms Dill “is the direction that most of the trending for managing weight is going in.”
What is ‘behavioural change’?
“The old ways of doing meal plans and really focusing on diet as a sole entity, are not as successful as treating the individuals’ emotions, social impacts, environment, and realising what the triggers are that are causing people to make poor food choices,” she explained.
In their experience, major triggers are the people around you and emotional stress such as being a parent with a family to take care of, or if you care for ailing family members. “Any sort of emotional thing that comes in your path that’s maybe overwhelming, people will turn to food and that can definitely be a trigger,” said Ms Deveson.
So, what’s the answer? It is learning to understand what your triggers are, adjusting your behaviour to handle those triggers, and achieving “balance”.
But what works for one doesn’t work for all. It’s easier for men, for example, to lose weight faster than it is for women. What worked for a woman in her 20s, likely won’t work for her in her menopausal years. That’s why finding a coach who can tailor an approach to your body and situation, as well as provide much needed support, can make all the difference.
For anyone, the most important way to make healthier food choices is adjustment, not a complete overhaul:
“Most of the time, the best diet is the modification of what you’re already doing into healthier portion sizes and adding in whole foods,” said Ms Dill. “Sometimes that means lower carbohydrates. Sometimes it means restricting junk foods or saturated fats. Some people need more protein.”
The keto diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, has become popular, but Ms Dill warned that “the only keto that we are in favour of, nutritionally, is one that has a more healthy plant-based fat in it rather than saturated animal fats.” This is because animal fat, such as bacon, cheese and cold cuts, is less healthy overall.
Plant fats are anything that grows such as olives, avocados, seeds, nuts, coconut, and chickpeas.
While the eFit coaches don’t say no to all dairy products and animal fats, they should be limited and chosen carefully. For example, if you like cold cuts, buy them from behind the butcher’s counter instead of in a packet.
“Essentially, what we would do is discuss with you what we would swap,” explained Ms Dill. “What are you doing right now, what can we put in there that you’re still going to like the taste of, and what can we take out that’s either halting your body shedding fat or hurting your heart?”
Swaps could include replacing butter in a sandwich with avocado or hummus. Choosing wholegrain instead of white bread, and adding colour to your meal such as tomatoes or peppers.
In the spirit of balance, nutrition won’t work on its own if you aren’t moving. To get down to your ‘happy weight’, people need to exercise too, but what you do has to be what you enjoy.
Ms Dill and Ms Deveson recommended 20 to 30 minutes of movement most days. Some of their clients who work at a desk all day will use a photocopier on another floor, for example, forcing them to walk around the office more.
Walking, they added, is one of the best exercises you can do: “Walking is cardio. A lot of people disregard it, but it’s low impact and really good for you. Bermuda is beautiful so we encourage people to get outside and move.”
They also recommended swimming if you want to be easy on your joints, as well as stretching and strength exercises: “You want to keep the oil in your joints because as you get older, you’re going to need that mobility, you’re going to need that flexibility. It’s about longevity,” said Ms Deveson.
Good stretching and strength exercises could include lifting weights, Pilates or Tai chi:
“Strength does not have to be staring at a dumbbell,” said Ms Dill. “A lot of times, I’ll just incorporate strength movements. A lunge is a strength movement.”
At the end of the day, however, added Ms Deveson, “even if you lock yourself in your bedroom and dance for 30 minutes, that’s exercise. It’s creating happiness in your brain. The idea is to move and find something that works.”
Support and Success
One of the biggest mistakes people make when embarking on a weight management programme is to be “too aggressive” and “too hard on themselves”, they said. That’s where an encouraging support network can make all the difference.
“Imagine if every time Tiger Woods missed a putt, he quit and gave up golf,” said Ms Dill. “People do this all the time. If they have had a bad day of making choices, they quit, and they quit because they think they’ve failed. That’s not failure. That’s just learning from your mistakes, correcting, and moving on.”
“It’s not like you exercise and you lose weight. It’s the marriage of better habits,” added Ms Deveson. “Eating well, drinking water, and getting enough sleep.”