By Amy Paturel
Consider this your crash-course in slimming down… and keeping the weight off.
So, are you ready to ditch some kilos and kickoff your 2017 wellness journey? First, you’ve got to start with the right vocabulary:
A is for Alcohol
You booze, you lose: a daily serving of alcohol may be better for keeping off weight than abstaining. Alcohol may increase leptin, a hormone that curbs your appetite for sweets. To get the perks with minimal kilojoules, choose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (497kJ per 148ml).
B is for Buddies
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine compared solo dieters to teams of dieters. After 10 months, the latter were more likely to have maintained their loss (66 percent versus 24 percent).
C is for Cortisol
Your adrenal glands secrete this stress hormone to help you handle threats, but too much can be bad news. Researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK have linked high levels of cortisol to increased snacking on junk food. Spend the cash you’d pay for a big dinner on a stress-reducing massage instead.
D is for Density
A year-long study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found women eating water-rich food low in kilojoules but high in nutrients (like veggies) as part of a low-fat diet lost more weight than those who only cut back on fat. They were less hungry than the low-fat-only bunch too, most likely because they ate 25 percent more food by weight. Go for grub with an energy density (kilojoules per serving divided by weight in grams) of 8.4 or less.
E is for Estimation
Developing an eye for appropriate serving sizes and controlling your portions can make or break your diet. Commit these serving-size visuals to memory:
• 85g lean meat = a standard deck of 52 cards
• 1/2 cup of fruit, vegetables or grains = half a tennis ball
• 28g cheese = 3 dominoes
F is for Fructose
A study published last year in the journal Hepatology found that feeding fructose-laced water to rats increased their risk of obesity. Ditch the artificially sweetened juices and fizzy drinks and get your fructose from fruit – a form that researchers say could be kinder to your waistline.
G is for Grapefruit
Kick off every meal with half a ruby red or one cup of grapefruit juice and you could speed up your weight loss. Subjects of a 2006 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food who ate half a grapefruit before each meal lost more weight after 12 weeks than those who didn’t (1.6kg versus less than 500g).
H is for Hydration
Studies have shown that drinking water can slightly increase your kilojoule burn rate. The researchers behind one such study at Franz-Volhard Clinical Research Centre in Berlin estimate that sipping six extra 236ml glasses a day can burn 72 732 more kilojoules (about 2.3 kilos of fat) per year.
I is for Insulin
The amount of this sugar-regulating hormone that you secrete may dictate the diet you should follow. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that high insulin secretors dropped about 5.9 kilos on a low-carb diet but only about 1.4 on a low- fat/higher-carb diet. Look in the mirror: if you store fat in your belly (have an “apple” body shape), you’re more likely to secrete excess insulin and benefit from fewer carbs.
J is for Journal
If you write down everything you eat, research has shown, you can cut your intake by 500 to 1 000kJ a day. “In my 35 years of working in health and weight management, I’ve found that writing down what you eat is a good tool for getting started and also focusing on your weight-loss journey,” says Mary Holroyd, chairperson and founder of Weigh-Less. “It definitely makes you aware of how much you’re eating and it can also help give you more variety if you document an eating plan. You’d be amazed to see how much you eat every day if you write it down.”
K is for Ketosis
The point at which your body runs low on carbs and starts burning fat stores for fuel, ketosis can jump-start a diet or bust a plateau. Studies show that dieters who restrict carbs typically lose more weight during the first three to six months, but after about a year their results are comparable to those who go low-fat. So after dropping those initial kilos, it’s okay to have wholegrain pasta and bread again – in moderation.
L is for Leptin
Fat cells secrete this hormone to tell your brain you’re full. But researchers have found that fasts and extremely kilojoule- restrictive diets can lower leptin levels, prompting you to eat more. To keep this hormone in balance, strive for a slow, steady weight loss – no more than 0.5 to 0.9kg per week.
M is for Milk
You might get better results from your workout if you imbibe moo juice. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that downing two cups of skim milk after intense weight-lifting workouts built more muscle and burnt twice as much fat as drinking carbohydrate beverages (such as a sports drink). But go with real cow’s milk – in the study, drinks made from soya had no effect.
N is for Numbers
Nobody enjoys weigh-ins, but research shows that people who hop on the scale once a day are more likely to lose and to maintain their loss. Make a standing appointment for yourself – just don’t obsess over the number you see.
O is for Omelette
Eggs are an ideal protein source, says author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Dr Jonny Bowden. Protein builds muscle, which fries more kilojoules per kilo than fat. Dietician Sue Filmer of Health in Motion in Cape Town, says, “Egg white provides 91 percent protein and a trace amount of fat and cholesterol, so it lowers the glycaemic index, which helps stabilise appetite and blood glucose.” Bonus: you’ll burn 25 percent of the egg’s kilojoules just
by digesting it (protein metabolism uses more energy than that of fat and carbs). A two-egg omelette takes you a quarter of the way to your protein RDA.
P is for Peanuts
Subjects in a study at Purdue University in the US received about 2 090kJ worth of peanuts a day to eat at their discretion. After eight weeks, they had gained an average of about 0.9kg – much less than the 3.6kg researchers had predicted. Probable cause: the high-protein and high-fibre nuts filled them up. And after 19 weeks, they’d also boosted their resting metabolic rates by 11 percent, possibly due to the fatty acids in the nuts. Take the edge off your appetite by snacking on a handful (a quarter cup) per day.
Q is for Quinoa
Quinoa (keen-wa) has more hunger-taming protein and fibre and fewer carbs than most other wholegrains. Swap it for white rice and other refined grains.
R is for Replacements
Researchers at the University of Kansas found that dieters who drank liquid meal replacements lost just as much weight over 52 weeks as those who used a weight-loss drug with regular meals. Who needs pills?
S is for Stress
Scientists at Georgetown University fed two groups of mice a diet of high-fat, high-sugar feed and measured how much weight they gained. Stressed mice (you don’t want to know how they pushed them over the edge) gained more than twice as much weight as the group with the same diet but no stress. The reason? Researchers believe that stress causes the release of a molecule that helps increase the size and number of fat cells. The next time you’re feeling the strain, do yoga (see Y) instead of dessert.
T is for Tea
The fat-busting benefits of green tea boil down to disease-fighting compounds called catechins. One study found that when subjects drank green tea containing 583mg of catechins per 354ml, they dropped more weight – and centimetres – than those who ingested tea containing only 96mg. Max your results by steeping your bag of green tea for as long as possible.
U is for User-Friendly
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association assigned 160 overweight and obese volunteers to one of four popular diets for six months. They found that the strongest predictor of weight loss wasn’t the type of diet but compliance with the selected plan. The lesson: find a plan you can live with so you’ll stick to it.
V is for Vinegar
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that swallowing 60g (about four tablespoons) of an apple cider vinegar mixture with a high-glycaemic-index meal caused test subjects to eat 830 to 1 150 fewer kilojoules over the rest of the day. We’d never advocate you downing the stuff straight, however. “If you enjoy the taste of apple cider vinegar, add it to some of your meals. It definitely won’t hurt you. But if you don’t like it, and you are simply doing it for the weight-loss effect, you are not going to be able to enjoy your meals anymore, and therefore won’t be able to sustain it. The only way that you’ll be able to achieve good eating habits is if you find ones you like that you can keep,” says dietician Kim Hofmann. So try mixing it into a low-fat dressing.
Try this easy apple cider vinegar dressing recipe:
– 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/2 tsp honey
– 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
– Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Method: mix the apple cider vinegar, honey and mustard until well combined, then gradually whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste.
W is for Weights
If you’ve put off pumping iron, get to it. According to experts, you burn kilojoules faster after a strength-training session than you would after a cardio session. And researchers at the University of Alabama found that lifting weights three times a week for 25 weeks caused women to lose an average of 1.8kg of body fat.
X is for Xylitol
Your goal is to cut kilojoules, and the skinny on a better sugar substitute is xylitol. “Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that provides approximately the same sweetness as sugar but with fewer kilojoules than regular sugar, which can aid weight-control efforts,” says Joburg-based dietician Celynn Erasmus. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols can raise blood sugar levels because they’re carbohydrates. But because your body doesn’t completely absorb sugar alcohols, their effect on blood sugar is less than that of other sugars. Sugar alcohols are a better low-kilojoule sweetener alternative if you have diabetes; however, you still need to pay attention to the total amount of carbohydrates in your meals and snacks. Beware: consuming too much sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect; usually more than 50g but sometimes as little as 10g can cause severe diarrhoea, gas and cramping, says Erasmus.
Y is for Yoga
A study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle found that normal-weight women who practised yoga for four or more years gained 1.4kg less over 10 years than those who didn’t. Grab a mat and get going.
Z is for Zs
When you skimp on sleep, your brain thinks you’re low on fuel and sends a message to your stomach to start growling. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that among 68 183 women, those who slept for five hours or less were an average of 2.3kg heavier than women who snoozed for seven hours. Want to stay slim? Go to bed.
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