Posts tagged ‘lifestyle change’

Weight loss – it’s complex, so DON’T JUDGE

It is so easy to judge others when you just look at the situation from the outside and don’t know the underlying factors involved.  I think of the old “walk a mile in my shoes” song by Elivs Presley:

Walk a mile in my shoes
just walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Then walk a mile in my shoes

The Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing reported that overweight and obese people can be perceived as “lazy, bad, weak, stupid and lacking in self-discipline”.  One witness told the Committee of her ‘overwhelming sense of shame and hurt’ at the remarks passed by strangers, friends and work colleagues about her weight.

A small, seemingly insignificant energy imbalance results in weight gain over time. In their submission, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) told the Committee that over the past 20 years the average weight of Australian adults has increased by 0.5-1kg. This gain is caused by a daily extra energy intake of as little as 100 kcal, equivalent to one slice of bread, a soft drink or 30 minutes of sitting instead of brisk walking.

There are a number of factors that influence the ability of individuals to control their body weight. These include:
biological reasons;

  • the obesogenic environment;
  • psychological factors;
  • socio-economic levels; and
  • knowledge/education.

BIOLOGICAL REASONS:  The body is designed to store fat as an energy reserve for lean times – a feature we developed during the thousands of years when a regular meal could not be guaranteed. It explains why weight is relatively easy to put on – but hard to get off.  A related biological factor that influences a person’s ability to lose weight is the body’s homeostatic regulation. When we change our dietary or activity habits, the body may react to maintain or increase its current weight by adjusting the basal metabolism. (Our basal metabolism is the amount of energy we use to maintain our bodily functions, like breathing, when we are at rest.) This response is linked to our survival mechanisms, allowing the body to protect itself from starvation. If you eat less, your body will use less energy. If you exercise more, your body will stimulate your appetite so that you eat more.  The body can really fight to maintain its weight making big changes to the basic metabolism that you cannot consciously control.

THE OBSOGENIC ENVIRONMENT:  Societal changes have created an environment where we are time poor, rely on cars, walk less and have increased access to convenience foods. Maintaining healthy weight has ceased to be a by-product of everyday life, and instead has become a personal project requiring constant vigilance and resistance to widespread cultural and social patterns.

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS:  People suffering from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem will find it very difficult to make the behavioural change necessary to alter their eating and exercise habits. Psychological factors and obesity often operate in a cyclical fashion so that someone who is overweight becomes depressed, or someone who is depressed puts on weight.  It can be difficult to distinguish which is the root cause.   The emphasis on body image in our society exacerbates the mental and emotional problems associated with being overweight. Many individuals spoke of denying their condition while at the same time being ashamed of their body image. One witness told the Committee she had been able to ignore her body image while she was obese but, once she took control and began to successfully lose weight, she was overly focused on it, worrying about how much she had lost each week.  “You look at yourself and you think, ‘How can I have gotten like this?’ I think it becomes a much bigger issue than people realise. Psychological support is crucial.”

SOCIO-ECONOMIC LEVELS:  There is a direct link between lower socio-economic status and obesity.  People in lower socio-economic groups may not be able to afford to buy good quality food and do not have easy access to recreational activities.

KNOWLEDGE/EDUCATION:  Individuals need assistance to negotiate the abundance of information, some of which is conflicting.  The confusion over food choice is compounded by the loss of basic food skills such as cooking. Evidence suggests that cooking is no longer learnt in the home and is not taught in schools, so people are unsure how to prepare nutritious meals. Food is often marketed to us on the basis of convenience of preparation rather than true nutritional value.


Throughout the course of the inquiry, the Committee repeatedly heard that ultimately individuals must take responsibility for their own health, including their weight. Obesity is caused by an imbalance in energy intake (from diet) and expenditure (from activity). Individually we make the decisions as to how much we eat and how much activity we undertake.

While putting weight on can happen gradually over time without us noticing, getting it off usually requires concerted effort.  So don’t judge others. We haven’t “walked a mile in their shoes”.  We don’t know the complex interaction of factors that may be affecting their ability to achieve health and wellness.

Let me encourage you:  Don’t give up when change proves difficult and results do not come quickly enough.  The end result is worth the effort.  Continue with your quest to be the best that you can be.

Sections of this article have been taken from the report Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia.   The full report can be found at


January 6, 2010 at 10:28 am Leave a comment


You’ve all heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results.

In my previous blog I talked about TO BE goals, which is vital for sustaining momentum and keeping the motivation thing happening. I asked you to write about your WHY.

Now that you have established your why, this blog will focus on TO DO goals, which are concerned with setting performance goals based on your outcome goals (the how aspect). Figuring out exactly what you are going to do to achieve your goals involves having deadlines and targets and identifying the specific tasks you will perform on a daily basis.

Outcome goals set your direction. They should be written down before you start and preferably shared with an accountability partner who will check on your progress at regular intervals.

An outcome goal would be: “I will reduce my waist measurement by 5 centimetres within the next 12 weeks”. This is a great goal to have, but how are you going to achieve it? What actions will get you there? Setting ONLY outcome goals is a surefire way of failing.

This is where PERFORMANCE goals come in.

Some examples of performance goals:

I will set my alarm to get up at 6.30 am on week days and go for a half hour walk before I start my day

I will go to bed before 10:00 pm to ensure I get sufficient sleep

I will write out a weekly meal plan on Sunday evening

I will eat every 3-4 hours

I will prepare Low GI snacks in the morning

I will stick to my meal plan each day and eat only the Low GI snacks I have prepared

I will drink mostly water – 8 glasses per day

I will eat protein (chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans) with every meal

I will eat produce (any and all fresh/frozen fruits and veggies) with every meal

I will remove processed foods and empty carbs (high GI foods) from my diet

I will keep a food journal to identify problem foods and triggers

I will balance my food intake with my energy output

I will review each day and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work

I will take responsibility for my choices each day

I will see each day as a new opportunity to make good choices

I will take my measurements once a week and report to an accountability partner

Since most of these performance goals involve behavioural changes I suggest you only make one significant change at a time. Trying to change too many things at once is overwhelming.

Tick off the things you are already doing. If there are some ideas you can easily implement, do that.

Then pick one difficult thing and do it for 10-30 days. This time period will establish a new habit for you. Remember that good health does not come from a diet – rather it is concerned with lifestyle changes which can be maintained over time. Once you have mastered one difficult thing, CELEBRATE – reward yourself. Then pick something else and do it for 10-30 days until you have mastered it.

You might think progress will be slow if you only implement one performance goal per month, but think of how powerful it will be if you IMPLEMENT 12 new performance goals in a year!! Won’t that make a huge difference to your OUTCOME for 2009? Won’t it give you significantly different results from what you experienced in 2008?

Some people say knowledge is power – I think knowledge is only powerful when it is APPLIED. You can be a walking encyclopedia on food choices and exercise but it you don’t actually DO anything it won’t help you one little bit. So set and implement some PERFORMANCE goals.

Here’s to your success in 2009.

February 6, 2009 at 1:54 am Leave a comment


If you have tried diets before and found that they do not work over the long term (your weight creeps back up when you finish the diet), my advice is to forget about diets and focus instead on building new eating habits based on LOW GI EATING.

What is Low GI eating?

In very simple terms, the Glycemic index and the Glycemic load are ways to measure the effect food has on our blood glucose levels and the rise and fall of insulin in our bodies. When we begin to have a basic understanding of how our bodies respond to eating Low, Moderate, and High Glycemic foods, then we can make food choices that will support us in attaining our ideal body size.

The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly foods that contain carbohydrates raise your blood glucose level. The GI is measured by taking a person’s blood glucose levels at regular intervals. Foods like cooked white potatoes have a high GI because they raise blood glucose at almost the same rate as eating pure sugar. Foods like raw broccoli have a low GI because it takes a long time for those carbohydrates to increase blood glucose levels. When we eat high GI foods, our bodies respond by releasing insulin, the hormone that transports glucose to your cells.

Here’s why this is so important: Our bodies are in fact designed to use glucose as our fuel. When we eat low GI foods, this fuel is absorbed at a gradual pace, allowing our body to burn this fuel as we need it. On the other hand when we eat high GI foods, they are converted to glucose very rapidly, which will often trigger a release of too much insulin into the blood, otherwise known as an insulin reaction.

During an insulin reaction, the body is cleared of glucose, causing an energy crash. This usually causes cravings for more fast acting high GI carbohydrates. In addition, when too much glucose is in the blood – the excess is stored as fat. This negative cycle is common in our western society where high GI foods are the norm – I am sure you have experienced it. This cycle is the foundation for being overweight and/or being obese. In order to achieve healthy blood glucose levels, learn the difference between low, moderate and high Glycemic foods. Once you have this awareness begin to eliminate the high GI foods from your diet and replace them with low and moderate GI foods whenever possible. For example, replace potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, sugar with low GI alternatives (for example, basmati rice instead of jasmine rice).

Want more information on low GI foods? Go to for a list of foods and their GI. You will also find some great low GI recipes at

Put yourself on the road to health and vitality – with low GI eating.

January 28, 2009 at 5:08 am Leave a comment

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