As winter turns into spring and clothes get skimpier, we start thinking about shedding the few extra kilos picked up in the colder months. Being a healthy weight isn't just about appearances, though. SA the fattest nation
Overweight is reaching epidemic proportions in South Africa, which is now the fattest nation in sub-Saharan Africa. A study published in the medical journal the Lancet earlier this year revealed that seven out of 10 women and four out of 10 men in SA have 'significantly' more body fat than what is considered healthy.
Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives and the dinner plate is no exception. Many people are using apps, online communities, or searching Google to shed extra kilos. Today, Googling the nutritional value of just about any food you can think of takes seconds. Want to know whether there's more vitamin C in a tomato or a cup of blueberries? Google will tell you (according to one website, the answer is one tomato).
Online communities like the US-based Spark People give online support through other members who share their weight loss goals and successes, recipes, caloric information, and their daily lives through blogs. They also come with apps that allow you to track and record what you eat ' and its calorific value ' throughout the day. Then there are local online weight loss communities. Arguably most successful one to date is SleekGeek.
Founded in 2012, SleekGeek has taken South Africa by storm and currently has 20,000 members. Founder Elan Lohmann explains the success: 'It's simple, people are finding the support they need from our community to change their lives for the better ' that's why it works. People see other people just like them changing their lives. ' SleekGeek emphasises healthy eating, with a particular focus on low-carb diet plans, and strongly encourages its members to make exercise a part of their lifestyles.
Calories in, calories out? Weight loss may not be that simple an equation but no matter who you speak to you'll find consensus on one thing: if you want to lose weight, you need to exercise. The general recommendation is to exercise for 30 minutes five times a week.
Exercise junkies say the trick is to find a form of exercise you enjoy. Rather than being too hard on yourself about getting in your allocated number of minutes of exercise a week, focus on experimenting with different ways of moving until you find one you enjoy. Then do it often ' or switch it up. There's no need to stick to just one activity.
Count chemicals not calories
Another way health specialist are starting to dismiss the 'calories in, calories out' theory is by suggesting you cut out calorie counting completely. The Patrick Holford programme, and low-carb high-fat eating plans do this, but they compensate for the calories in fat, for example, by cutting out calorie-dense carbohydrates.
Felicia Rubin, pharmacist and integrative health practitioner at Wellness Warehouse, says that people looking to lose weight should 'stop counting calories and start counting chemicals'.
She advises people looking to lose weight (and fat) to start reading labels and paying attention to additives, preservatives, and especially artificial sweeteners.
'Eat what grows in the earth, not what comes out of boxes,' is Rubin's food philosophy. 'The closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you and your weight.'
Artificial sweeteners, for example, have been found to cause weight gain. She advises avoiding fortified foods like cereals that advertise added vitamins and minerals, too. These are often highly processed and may contain artificial additives.
did you know?The World Health Organisation predicts that diabetes driven by obesity will double across sub-Saharan Africa over the next 20 years. Overweight and obesity are also linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, so working towards being your ideal weight should be a priority. OUR EXPERT'S TIPS
Consulting nutritional therapist for Wellness Warehouse Andrea Jenkins says that one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy weight is eating foods that don't have a huge effect on raising blood sugar levels. That's because this keeps the production of insulin at normal levels. The hormone insulin, in excess, can cause the body to store fat. Keeping insulin levels steady keeps the appetite steady so weight is lost ' and stays off.
Nutritionist Patrick Holford believes in monitoring the body's glucose response to the food ingested. The GI, or glycaemic index, of a food refers to how much it makes your blood sugar spike after you eat it. Holford advises watching the GL rather than the GI of foods. His formula for GL takes into account not just how much or how quickly a food makes blood sugar spike after you eat it, but also how much carbohydrate is in it.
Research shows a low-GL diet is designed to keep blood sugar even and cause more weight loss on the same calories. This way, you won't go hungry or compromise on your health. By limiting the amount of simple carbs you eat and keeping GL levels within range, you should not ever feel deprived because you're not 'not allowed' anything or because you're underrating.
Eat three meals and two snacks a day to keep your blood sugar stable
Eat foods with a high fibre content and add a squeeze of lemon juice to your meal to further lower the GL of food
Avoid foods made from processed flours and avoid processed grains
Have small amounts of nutrient dense soft carbohydrates like sweet potato, butternut and pumpkin and slow releasing fruits like berries
Avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, refined carbs, and anything else that causes a surge in blood sugar
Always eat a protein with a carbohydrate (like seeds, nuts, hummus) to slow down the release of sugar from carbs into the bloodstream
Try supplementing with essential fatty acids, 5HTP, chromium picolinate, extra vitamin C, glucomannan, HCA, and a multivitamin
Andrea Jenkins is a nutritional therapist who studied at Patrick Holford's Institute of Optimum nutrition, UK and is now based in Cape Town. Contact her on [email protected]
“Wellness Warehouse strives to help you live life well but because we are retailers and not medical practitioners we cannot offer medical advice. Please always consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements, complementary medicines or have any health concerns and ensure that you always read labels, warnings and directions carefully, prior to consumption.”