Hi! Welcome to Say Tomato! The podcast about sustainable diets, ethical food, living lightly on the planet and … tomatoes.
My mantra is that it’s never too late to get healthy, so whatever your age, your current state of health, or your weight – take heart! Sit back and enjoy the talk.
In the old days I always dreaded January, because it meant that I would have to go on yet another diet. All over again I’d be forced to get to grips with the weight I’d gained over the previous year. Then, when I reached fifty, I decided I’d let it slip. I’d probably read somewhere that once you get past the menopause weight gain is inevitable or that weight loss becomes too hard.
I’m here to tell you that was wrong. Fortunately, I realised, just in time and it’s that realisation – over ten years ago now – that triggered my retraining as a nutritionist. I worked my way through university, did the research and then eventually started helping other women like me to lose weight and retain their health, vitality and yes – self esteem!
But being overweight isn’t just about how you look – it’s about how you feel.
LOOK AT THE FACTS
Firstly there is no evidence to show that it gets harder to lose weight as we grow older. In fact some studies show that after the age of fifty it gets a bit easier. But these studies should be treated with caution, healthy weight loss means loss of fat mass. However, as we get older our muscles tend naturally to decline and this can result in unhealthy weight loss. A loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia and is associated with some serious medical issues, not least frailty.
The trick of weight loss for the over-fifties is to lose the fat and keep or even increase muscle mass. And the good news is that many studies are now showing that we can lose weight and increase muscle mass well into old age. And I’m talking way beyond fifty, into our 80s, 90’s and beyond. With the correct nutrition it seems to be something we can always improve on.
“But dieting is too hard,” I hear you say. And it is true that weight loss – the type that is sustainable and maintainable – does require most of us to turn over a new leaf. To be effective we need to discover how to eat healthily for our current age and body type. But millions of people do it every year. The reason why dieting has got such a bad name is that millions more try and don’t succeed. The main reasons they don’t succeed is because their reducing diet is unbalanced and unrelated to a long term eating strategy.
Our bodies are miraculous. Every day, every single human cell we possess monitors the nutrition we provide it and sends out signals if something is wrong. We receive immediate taste and digestive messages when food hits the palette or is passed through the stomach and into the intestines. Then there are intermediate term hormonal signals and cellular signals that turn off fat burning, or turn on muscle building, depending on what type of nutrients are swilling through the bloodstream. Finally there are long term and learned signals that come to the sophisticated cognitive part of our brain that works on the basis of information from the rest of the body and a learned response. So even if you’ve eaten enough calories on any particular day, your body may still send you food cravings to account for a specific nutrient that might have been missing from your diet. A well formulated diet will contain all the nutrients that the body needs, and thus reduce the chances of cravings.
LONG TERM EATING SRATEGIES
The other reason why diets don’t work is because they don’t re-educate the body. For example diets that rely on manufactured meal replacements can be pretty easy to follow and can produce early weight loss. But when you go back to eating normally you won’t have re-learned any useful eating strategies and the likelihood is that you’ll pile the weight back on. So a good diet must be well balanced and must help the dieter to learn about how their body responds to different foods. A good diet will actually change your body composition to such an extent that it’ll change your tastes. Sugar and fat cravings will reduce and you’ll find yourself wanting fresh vegetables, salads or a nice piece of lean fish instead.
But in order to get to that point you need to take back control of your eating. In my clinic I will give a new client eating plans. The every time they come they learn a little more about how to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Over time the diet sheets are cast aside as the client themselves takes back complete control of their eating. This isn’t about counting calories or even food points. It’s about really understanding what constitutes a balanced and healthy diet for the individual. We are all different.
I hope that these podcasts will give you confidence to change your eating habits and return to a healthier lifestyle. The benefits are not simply measured in inches off the waist and fitting into a small dress size, though that’s quite a nice thing. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of greater than 30kg per metre squared, is the most significant predictor of diabetes type 2. Being fat is far more significant in diabetes that eating too much sugar, or eating too many carbohydrates.
In addition obesity is now recognised as a predictor of mortality, cardiac problems, joint failure, sleep apnoea, depression and even dementia. And if the prospect of obesity shortening life doesn’t concern some people, then the prospect of enduring a longer period of sickness and frailty in old age, might tip the scales for others.
Losing weight isn’t just about living longer, it’s about living the rest of your life more actively, more comfortably and more healthily.
The secret to losing weight, once you know that it certainly is possible and that it’s the healthy option, is about making the decision and taking back conscious control of your eating. President Obama in his famous Chicago election address said this, “I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours…” That’s what I’m asking my clients to do. To believe in themselves, to believe in their own ability to manage weight loss and then the maintenance that comes after.
Listen each month to a new podcast that will examine a different aspect of losing weight. Next month I’ll be asking the question, “What should I give up in order to lose weight?” You might be rather surprised by the answer. And if you can’t wait that long, then go to my website wendyshillam.co.uk and book a one-to-one consultation. As Obama once memorably said, “Yes we can”.
Thanks to all our contributors, and to iCent for their fabulous music. This is wendy Shillam saying, thanks for listening.