Weight Loss - Common Problems
As a dietitian, one of the most common problems I see with weight loss patients is meal irregularity. It seems to be a widespread belief that skipping meals leads to weight loss; however the result is quite the opposite. To lose weight, particularly fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Calories consumed are from food, drinks and alcohol and calories burned are from your metabolism, physical activity and the thermic effect of food; a process which refers to the digestion and absorption of food.
The metabolism acts as the body's engine and the faster it works the more calories that are burned. When you skip meals, your body recognises this as a 'starvation period' and for all your body knows, you could be stranded in the desert without food for a week. Because your body's aim is to preserve life, your metabolism slows down to a rate where it burns minimal calories and holds on to the body's fat reserves so it has a fuel source available to burn if things get destitute. When you feed your body next, your metabolism is still operating at a slow rate and still burning minimal calories and storing fat. This makes it extremely difficult to lose weight, particularly fat stores. By eating regularly your metabolism is working at a faster rate so you will not only find it easier to lose weight, but you may also notice that you have more energy to function properly and remain alert throughout the day.
The most common meal that is usually ignored is breakfast. This is the worst meal to skip because your body has been waiting since dinner the night before to get fed again, which is often longer than 12 hours. Therefore if you do not eat breakfast your metabolism slows right down and the calories you consume later in the day are burned at a much slower rate than if you were to eat breakfast.
Thermic Effect of Food
The thermic effect of food refers to calories burned from digesting and absorbing food. Therefore you are actually burning calories simply by eating. If you eat small amounts regularly, you can burn more calories than by skipping meals and by including regular small snacks (preferably healthy ones) such as morning and afternoon tea, you can burn more calories than by consuming three large meals.
It seems that most of us have the greatest control over our eating earlier in the day. This is why breakfast is the most preferred meal to skip and most people are usually great at eating healthy for morning tea and lunch. It is late in the afternoon and after dinner however, that we lose control and the cravings kick in. This tends to be because we have restricted ourselves so much in the beginning of the day by eating minimal amounts or being extremely health conscious, that by the end of the day we are starving or dying to treat ourselves. I am commonly told by patients that they eat hardly anything during the day because they know they will be craving treat foods later in the day, so they think it is better to save the calories for then. I then explain to them that the reason they are experiencing cravings at the end of the day is because they have been far too restrictive at the beginning of the day.
They say to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a super model. By eating a decent breakfast and a substantial lunch, your body is not craving food toward the end of the day. This means it is easier to have a light dinner and avoid unhealthy snacks later in the day and evening because the body is already satisfied.
For those wanting to lose weight, I write meal plans designed to help lose a specific amount of weight in a realistic time frame decided by you (for example ½-1kg weight loss per week). The meal plans are written to achieve a specific calorie intake for each individual, which is worked out by using a scientific formula that can guarantee weight loss; permitting there are no medical problems or medications that may affect the rate of weight loss. Each meal plan provides food and/or drink options for three meals and two snacks each day, to help your metabolism operate at the fastest rate possible and also to increase the calories burned through the thermic effect of food. Meals plans also include some “treat” options such as chocolate, alcohol and takeaway foods so they are realistic and do not make you feel as though you are on a diet. Meal plans can be ordered through my website and a link is provided below.
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