25 Jan 2018

The surprising truth about weight loss

From Afternoons, 1:33 pm on 25 January 2018

If you're trying to lose weight, remember 'good' fats are still fats, says dietician MaryRose Spence, the author of Everyday Diet Secrets: The Truth about Weight Loss.

Healthy food choice are not necessarily the same as weight-loss food choices as both so-called 'good' and 'bad' fats are dense in calories, Spence says.

"We've got a lot of our population walking round overweight, snacking on nuts. And they'll come in and say it's a healthy snack.

"Half an avocado has the same calories as three slices of bread.

"The little Frooze Balls that are dried fruit rolled in coconut, they're dense in calories.

"We've got people using coconut oil thinking it's healthy. It's a very high-calorie product."

avocado toast

Photo: goodween123/123RF

What leads to one person losing weight may not give someone with different levels of body fat and muscle mass the same result.

Your level of muscle mass can also have a big effect on your appetite, Spence says.

"If you did a lot of sport at school and you were well-muscled, chances are by the time you're 40 you may well have a problem with your body fat. That muscle gives you a high metabolic rate but it also pushes on your appetite.

"For people who are well-muscled, exercise is only about 20 percent of the weight loss equation.

"The higher your muscle mass when you run, the bigger your appetite when you get in. That's why you've gotta be very careful [not to overeat]."

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Photo: 123rf

Alcohol has a big role to play in weight gain and loss, and Spence recommends people save it for weekends and special occasions if possible.

Because alcohol pushes down your blood sugar level it can stimulate the appetite for up to 36 hours, she says.

"It's a very good appetite stimulant and also it dehydrates us so that again stimulates our appetite."

Keeping hydrated and getting regular protein are two of Spence's tips for appetite management.

"I'm talking about using protein on a regular basis, maybe redistributing it throughout the day. Instead of having a large serving of protein at night, putting some at breakfast, some at lunch, some at the evening meal."

MaryRose Spence

MaryRose Spence Photo: nutritionconsultants.co.nz

She's okay with people getting a mid-morning protein hit via a latte: "I'm interested in the protein in the milk they're having rather than the caffeine."

For mid-afternoon protein, she recommends a tub of yoghurt with a piece of fruit.

"The piece of fruit is just a carbohydrate, it won't help you for that long, maybe it'll help you for 20 to 30 minutes. But when you put it with some protein it will take you much longer, possibly for a couple of hours."

High-protein diets like the Paleo Diet may help people lose weight in the short-term, for most people they're not sustainable as a lifestyle, Spence says.

"It's a well-balanced diet we're looking for. I can't recommend taking a food group out, I can't recommend taking carbohydrates out.

"I'm looking at how to help people lose weight forever. I think they need to understand a lot better how to put their meals together, rather than picking up on a whim like that."

The one thing Spence likes about fasting is that it can show people that they can get through the day without eating so much, she says.

"People just eat. We've got access to food everywhere. On days where people are fasting they've got to learn to say 'No thanks, no thanks'. And I think that is something we forget how to do … That's good that they're starting to do that so maybe it'll help them in the long term."