Ask Arlene: Health QuestionsOur resident nutritionist answers your questions about sushi, getting that post-baby body into shape and healthy eating tips.

What’s the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre? If the only way to get in a workout is to skimp on sleep, which is more important? Your health questions, answered.

I work extremely long hours.  I have lost 6kg on your eating plan on your website but am finding it difficult to fit in the exercise you recommend.  Sometimes the only way to squeeze in a workout it to skimp on sleep.  Which is more important?

It is okay to sacrifice one for the other occasionally, but it is not something you should do on a regular basis.  Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  Cheating yourself out of the sleep you need can lead to irritability and fatigue or impaired memory and immune function.  Fatigue can also lead to overeating as it lowers your resolve to eat sensibly.  You should look at balancing your life – work, exercise and eating.

If anything is over emphasised it will throw the others off target.  If you find that your exercise is encroaching on your sleep more than once a week try looking over you schedule to find areas where you can save time.  Multitasking may help – socialising with a friend on a power walk instead of having dinner or drinks!  Exercise is an important stress release, keeps your metabolism revved, and is also an appetite suppressant – consequently it is essential for weight loss and maintenance.

I have just read that book “Eat right for Your Brain Type” – what do you think of it?

This diet claims that the right diet can change your brain chemistry to improve mood, eliminate cravings and help you lose weight.  The plan prescribes the number of servings from various food groups to suit your brain type, as determined by a series of questions, such as how easily you get bored and how optimistic you are. I am not convinced that the diet will prevent cravings or improve your mood.

While it is generally safe, it may leave you short of nutrients like calcium, B vitamins and iron.  However, it does mandate breakfast and exercise, both of which aid weight loss.  I do not believe this is a regime that you can adopt as a lifestyle.

When I eat kiwi fruit, my throat feels extremely itchy.  Is this a sign of a dangerous food allergy?


Probably not.  You are likely experiencing oral allergy syndrome, which is more of an annoyance than a serious problem.  Itchy throat, lips or mouth, swelling and a tingly sensation are all common reactions. The usual solution is to avoid the offending food.  However, it is important to make smart substitutions so you are meeting your nutritional needs.  Kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C, swap for citrus fruits, blueberries or strawberries. In some cases allergies can cause severe anaphylactic reaction and even death.  If your symptoms are more troublesome or you begin to experience difficulty breathing, contact your doctor immediately.

What is the difference between soluble fibre and insoluble fibre?  Which is more important in losing weight?

Soluble and insoluble fibre are found in many of the same foods, and both types are helpful for weight loss.  The main difference is that soluble fibres dissolve in water and insoluble do not.  In practical terms, this means that soluble fibre forms a gel when mixed with the liquids you consume and takes longer than insoluble fibre to empty from the gastrointestinal tract.  Soluble fibre lowers cholesterol levels, thereby reducing heart disease risk; insoluble fibre helps keep you regular.

Rather than dissolving in water, insoluble fibre holds onto water, helping move waste through the body.  When you eat fibre-rich foods, which tend to be low in calories, your brain has time to register fullness before you’ve overeaten.

That is why an apple with 3grams of fibre leaves you feeling more satisfied than 200ml apple juice which has no fibre.  Studies show that people who are provided high fibre meals and allowed to eat to their hearts content, consume about 10% fewer calories than people served foods lower in fibre.  The effect seems to be greater in overweight people where overweight or obese people ate, on average, 18% fewer calories than overweight or obese people who ate low fibre foods.

Can I trust the reading on my pedometer, speedometer (on my bike), and the reading on the treadmill that tell me how many calories I burn?

Pedometers, speedometers, etc are everywhere these days.  Do not rely on a digital readout to help you calculate to the crumb whether you have burned off that lunchtime lamington!  Unless a gadget asks for your weight and measures both the pace and length of your workout, it is not going to be very accurate.  The same goes for gym machines – they already record the amount of work you are doing, so look for one that makes you input your weight.

Use the information from these tools as a measure of how hard you are working from day to day.  For example, compare the 250 calories you burned riding your bike for 30 minutes on Monday with how many you register doing the same 30 minutes on Tuesday.  Consider improving your speed and distanced covered to improve the calorie expenditure!

I have lost 15kg over the past year.  I loved the attention when people started noticing, but once I hit my goal I started regaining weight little by little. Why is this happening?

Many of us are narcissistic creatures to some extent.  We crave attention, and losing weight is a really good way to get it.  Who wouldn’t eat up comments like, “Wow!  You look fantastic!”  The problem is, when those comments stop, all that is left is the hard work and maintenance.  The appeal of losing weight is often linked to external factors like positive feedback.  As the impact of the feedback diminishes over time, shedding the kilos just isn’t enough of a motivator by itself.  The majority of “diet” regimes do no provide enough emotional support.  You have to change “diet” to “lifestyle” to maintain your weight.

You fight to take it off; you have to fight to keep it off! You have to find a way to create your own positive feedback and support by setting some post weight loss goals.  If the kilos stay off for a month, buy a new outfit, etc.  Weigh yourself every Friday before the weekend, and every Monday after the weekend, to monitor your weight so that you can immediately take action if your weight starts climbing.