Kick-start a proper diet and exercise programme for 2014

 

The last glass of champagne has been drunk and the last indulgent piece of dessert has been eaten. We are now left with festive memories and a bulging waistline. So how can you kick-start your way to a healthy diet for 2014? Nicolette Dirk speaks to the experts on how you can improve your exercise and diet habits for a healthy start to the year.

How do you get back on track?

Megan Bosman, nutritionist at Simply Nutrition, says the festive season is usually packed with extra carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol. Coupled with the lack of exercise the holidays can wreak havoc on your health and waistline.

“Getting back on track with your diet after the festive season should begin with getting rid of all those leftover chocolates and sweet goodies. That means cutting out all food containing sugar,” says Bosman.

Now is also the time to steer clear of all the junk food and start drinking more water instead of fizzy, sugary drinks or alcohol.

Biokineticist Erin Martin and owner of Tread Smartly, says you should also look at a simple equation when it comes to weight-loss: energy in versus energy out.

“You must use this equation to keep your weight from fluctuating or from going up. The amount of energy (or the calories) you get from the food you eat should be balanced by the amount of energy you use each day to move around, think and generally stay alive,” says Martin.

Martin adds that the only sure way to lose weight is to create an ‘energy deficit’ in your body. This means you have to create a situation where your body is forced to use its surplus energy by burning the unnecessary fat it has stored. This energy deficit can be created by:

  • Reducing your energy (calorie / kilojoule) intake.
  • Burning more energy than usual each day (i.e. becoming more active).

Can you lose weight only through exercise?

Martin warns that if you’re completely inactive, overweight or obese then weight (or fat) loss changes as a result of entering into an exercise programme will probably be very slight if dietary modifications are not part of the weight loss plan.

“The reason exercise alone is ineffective in causing significant weight loss in most overweight (and especially obese) people, is because their initial fitness levels are often low. This makes it difficult to perform exercise at sufficient intensity or duration to create a big enough energy deficit needed to burn excess body fat,” says Martin.

A larger energy deficit is needed for substantial weight loss. Such a deficit can often only be initiated by making the appropriate dietary changes. This means limiting foods that are most calorie /kilojoule-dense as well as practising portion control.

New Year’s resolution mistakes

Bosman says that when it comes to New Year’s resolution diets, people usually try to do too much, too quickly and on their own. “Have a clear idea of how you are going to get there and then find someone to be accountable to along the way such as a partner or running buddy. Don’t be afraid to get help along the way from a nutritionist or personal trainer,” says Bosman.

 

Martin doesn’t recommend low energy diets (i.e. those where the energy deficit is too large) as these can be dangerous to your health.

“These starvation-type diets have been shown to lead to dehydration and muscle loss (rather than fat loss). This decreases metabolism, which gears your body towards burning less fat and storing more. This is often the reason why after a crash diet you return to your ‘old’ eating habits and ultimately pick up more weight than you lost on the diet. This becomes a vicious cycle,” says Bosman.

Moneybags’ top diet tips:

  1. Adopt the mantra: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. This means emptying your cupboards of all traces of the festive fatty food. This will help you in resisting the temptation.
  2. Eat better, move more. Experts say the best results for weight loss over the short and long term are seen when exercise and dietary changes are combined.
  3. Accept that there is no quick-fix to weight-loss. Martin says you should resist the temptation to try a ‘quick fix’ diet that will only end in disappointment.