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Lose weight, avoid the fads

Kate Freeman

How to avoid weight loss pitfalls this Spring.

A Canberra winter can leave even the most self-controlled individual with a few extra kilos. The reason? We generally tend to eat a little more and move a little less. Here’s my excuse: the thought of a morning or evening walk/run in conditions so bitterly cold that the wind feels like it penetrates your whole body is not really my cup of tea. A cup of tea, however, all warm and aromatic is exactly what I’d like, whilst sitting on the couch, perhaps with a little somethin’ somethin’ to nibble on.

Enough of the excuses. Spring is on its way!

If you’re looking at regaining some control over your eating habits and losing some kilos in the lead up to summer, I’d like to give you some wise advice. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is trying to sell you some kind of product that promises to be your missing piece of the weight loss puzzle or the key to your success. Here five weight loss pitfalls that you should avoid this weight loss season.

1. Detox Teas

Just because a tea has the words ‘skinny’, ‘thin’, ‘detox’ or other weight loss insinuating word, doesn’t mean it can actually make you lose weight. They can’t. Their websites, full of faceless testimonials, make outrageous claims about how the tea will alkalise your body, boost your metabolism and manage your blood sugar levels. I’ve even found one site saying that their tea was recommended by nutritionists. Ummm, not me.

The truth is, your body’s blood PH is neutral (slightly alkaline at 7.4 for the chemistry nerds) and needs to stay that way otherwise you’ll die. Alkalising your body isn’t something you need or should want to do. You boost your metabolism by exercising regularly and perhaps trying some weight training and you control your blood sugar levels through choosing portion controlled, good quality whole foods. A tea cannot and does not do those things.

My suggestion

Drink regular tea, green tea, peppermint tea, camomile tea or other flavours and enjoy their fabulous variety of aromas. They’re a great way to stay hydrated in winter and if you’re a tad addicted to coffee and drink more than two or three espressos per day then swapping one or two of them into a tea will be good for your waistline and your wallet. Not to mention reduce your caffeine intake.

2. Meal replacement shakes

Often supplementing one or more of your meals each day, these programs will suck you in with their powerful marketing strategies and extravagant health claims. Yes, you’ll lose weight, but you can’t eat like that forever. What are you supposed to do when you finish? There’s no point losing weight, particularly from a health perspective, if you’re going to put it straight back on again.

Many shake companies claim to offer you all the nutrition you’ll ever need by reciting key nutrients such as omega 3 fats, fibre, iron, calcium and antioxidants. The truth is that food, particularly fruits and vegetables, contains hundreds and thousands of naturally occurring chemicals thought to promote health in our bodies. The main consensus of researchers is that the health benefits don’t come from individual nutrients (like vitamin C) but from the combined effect of these chemicals consumed in a whole food.

My suggestion

Stop for a moment and make a decision to opt for slower weight loss results because you’re losing weight in the same way you intend to maintain it. Successful long term weight loss means you’ve actually got to learn how to eat differently to what you are now. No shake or other supplement program is going to help you do that.

3. Garcinia Cambogia

This is a powder, supposedly extracted from a fruit (I would bet money that the whole product is probably a fake), that contains a ‘special’ ingredient, hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is supposed to stop the metabolic process of the body converting carbohydrates to fat. It also claims that it’s a colon cleanse and specifically targets stubborn tummy fat.

Basically, it’s a laxative, encouraging rapid emptying of your bowels, that contains a chemical (HCA) to stop a process that actually happens to only 5% of the carbohydrates that we eat. And no matter what you do, you cannot manipulate where your body stores or removes fat.

Most of the carbohydrate we consume is NOT converted into fat. It’s stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen or it’s burnt by our cells until it’s all gone. Before you stone me for heresy, you must understand that the biochemical pathways that govern fat and carbohydrate metabolism are extra-ordinarily complex and one special powder extract from a so-called super fruit is not going to help.

My suggestion

Head to your local market (Southside, Northside, Fyshwick, Belconnen, Capital Region) once or twice a week. Buy a box full of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruit and eat them at as many meals that you can. That way you’ll consume plenty of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals (plant based chemicals that promote health). I’ve consulted with clients that have lost weight with this one recommendation alone!

4. The Lemon Detox Diet

Claiming to be the most superior detox on the market, this one has gained some popularity and been around for a long time. It’s a combination of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and a very special combination of palm and maple syrup. It’s also popped up as a special celebrity diet over the years under a range of different names. It makes the same claims as other detox programs like that it removes toxins from your body and rejuvenates you, while you lose weight.

If there’s one thing you must believe from this article today it’s this: You DO NOT need to detox your body. Think about it. If you did need to detox your body (which you don’t), how does a special lemon drink with a tad of sugar, that enters your highly acidic stomach, then moves onto the small intestine where it’s neutralised and digested by enzymes, detox the body? I’m confused. Could someone please explain the physiology on this one?

You lose weight on this program because it’s practically starving yourself. Once finished, what next?

My suggestion

If you like it, have a squeeze of lemon in your water. In fact, you can buy these really cool drink bottles that will infuse your water with lemon or lime all day! If it helps you stay hydrated that’s totally fine to do, but please don’t stop eating altogether and only drink a lemon water concoction thinking it’s the answer to your weight loss woes. I promise you, it is not.

The best way to promote health in your body is to stop drinking so much alcohol, dial back your caffeine habit and swap some processed foods for fruit, nuts, vegetables, legumes and seeds. Choose lean, whole meats, chicken and fish.

Try this chicken soup, it feels like it’s healthy and it actually is.

5. Superfoods in powder form

Just recently, whilst perusing the ‘health food’ isle at my local supermarket I came across powdered superfoods. There was cacao,  goji berry, maca, twister, pomegranate and acai powders, just to name a few. They all made claims that they were ‘raw’, ‘organic’ ‘natural’ and rich in antioxidants with levels far superior to regular food.

Powders are generally made by dehydrating the food (removing the water) and then grinding down or processing it into a fine consistency. The reason a powder contains more antioxidants than it’s fresh counter-part is because once you’ve removed the water you concentrate the other components of the food, including the antioxidants.  There is no scientific evidence to suggest that eating food this way is superior and with the exuberant price tag I saw, not possible for everyone all the time either.

My suggestion

Save your money. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains, lean meats and whole dairy. You really don’t need to eat these funky products to be healthier. If you want to use them, great, they won’t do you any harm, but don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re going to offer you an extra level of health. They won’t.

Try my beef and vegetable stir fry.

In summary

I’m on a mission to remove the rules from healthy eating. Food is not just about ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ or finding that one special product that will solve all our problems. It’s about balance, learning to choose well for yourself and finding the eating pattern that works for you. If you need help with your nutrition, the team at The Healthy Eating Hub can help.


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author