ISSUE In order to lose weight successfully, a person must not only change his eating habits but also get sufficient exercise
The hips have put on padding over the holidays and the new year began with a resolution to remove it. At the turn of the year, motivation to lose weight is greatest.
Diet plan promoters know this and woo customers with supposed new findings on ways to shed fat, promising substantial slimming fast and with little effort.
Anja Bath, a nutritionist with the Ecotrophologists Association, a group of home economists and nutritionists in Germany, says beware.
“Quick results don't count when it comes to losing weight. It's important to change one's habits,” she added.
Making lasting changes to one's eating habits is the only way to stay slim, Bath said, pointing out that so-called crash diets were merely a short-term fix and basically changed nothing.
Often they lead to a “yo-yo effect” in which all of the lost weight — or even more — is regained in a short time.
Dietary advisor Sonja Mannhardt sees another danger: “Abnormal, diet-induced eating habits are a growing risk.”
Slimming diets put the body under stress and disrupt its system of hunger and satiety.
It is best to learn the body's signals in this regard both before and during a weight loss programme, she said, because “self-examination is very important, if sometimes unpleasant.”
Monitor the programme
Dietary experts recommend keeping a diary as a first step. “You've got to write down everything that you eat so as to note the current situation” for analysis by an expert, Bath said. “Sometimes a single nutrition counselling session is all that's needed to effect a change.” After this, she said, it is important to set realistic weight loss goals and be happy with even partial successes, which increases the chances of staying motivated.
Help is also offered via the Internet, but the self-proclaimed helpers found there are not always reputable. “Promises such as losing 10 kg in just a week are plain humbug,” said Nicole Merbach of Stiftung Warentest, a German consumer protection organisation.
A diet plan, she said, should be verifiably based on scientific findings as well as practicable.
How time-consuming is it? How difficult is preparation of the recipes?
Are the ingredients easy to obtain? No diet plan, however, is a final, permanent solution to a person's weight problems, Bath noted, although “there are diets you can use to get started.” At best, she said, they can help in undertaking a fundamental change of eating habits.
Experts agree that in order to lose weight successfully, a person must not only change his or her eating habits but also get sufficient exercise.
But dieters who want to accelerate weight loss by means of exercise ought not to pay too much attention to which sorts of exercise burn the most calories.
“To a large extent, metabolism doesn't result directly from physical activity but also takes place when the body is at rest,” explained Ingo Froboese, a professor at the Health Centre of the German Sport University in Cologne.
So the body has to be trained to burn calories at a consistently high rate. A combination of endurance sports and strength training is best because a fit body burns more calories, he said.