tape measure around fruit Let our health guru steer you in the right direction.

I have been carrying the last 3kg I want to lose, for 4 years now.  I have tried every diet or eating plan you could think of.  The weight is around my stomach.  The rest of me is fine.  I walk nearly every day, I eat well but this weight will not budge.  All I want is a flat stomach.  I also do 100 sit-ups every second night before I go to bed.

It is necessary to reassess the quantities you are consuming.  Losing weight is an equation of how many calories you eat, and the number the body uses as energy.  Your intake may be well balanced but your portion sizes may be too large.  Perhaps you should increase the intensity or duration of your exercise routine.  Genetically you may be predisposed to carry your excess weight abdominally, so when you lose this 3 kg your stomach will be “flatter”.

I have been dieting on/off for 10 years (I am 31) as a result I think my metabolic rate is very slow despite the fact I do exercise.  How can I verify this is the case?  How can I rectify it?

Yoyo dieting can result in it becoming more difficult to lose weight, however, this is not irreversible.  You must start eating consistently and get off the dieting merry-go-round.  Eating six small meals a day and exercising regularly will result in you losing weight. You might want to consult your doctor to investigate whether you have anything metabolically wrong (eg. Thyroid under activity, iron deficiency, lack of Vitamin D).  Forget the word “diet”, and start accepting that eating everything is normal, provided your portion sizes remain small.  Exercise speeds up the metabolic rate, and it doesn’t stop when you cease moving.  Daily exercise and careful eating will remove those excess kilos!!

I am always trying to lose weight and have just read a book on food combining.  What do you think of this diet?  I am so desperate to “shrink” that I will try anything.  I don’t understand it, but they give menus that I can follow.  Can you explain how it works and if you think it is healthy or not?

The concept behind food combining diets is that proteins require acids to digest and carbohydrates require alkali, so mixing the two creates incorrect digestion – and one of the consequences is obesity.  Should you subscribe to this diet, you can say goodbye to toasted cheese sandwiches, meat and potatoes, lamb curry and rice and spaghetti bolognaise.  The notion that starch foods need an alkaline solution while protein needs an acid one is rubbish.  The stomach is an acid environment and has a pH of 1; so all foods entering the stomach experience this intense acid.  In addition, there is hardly a single food that is a pure protein or pure carbohydrate.  Most foods, whether they classify them as carbohydrates, proteins or fats, are a combination.  Bread, all grains and cereal foods, legumes, nuts and milk contain protein and carbohydrates within the same food.  This diet is not at all recommended; it carries a high risk of you becoming nutrient deficient.  We should be combining foods rather than separating them.  The body is perfectly equipped to cope with such mixtures.  In addition, if you are participating in sport, it may provide insufficient energy.

A lot of people are on a diet in our office so we can look decent in costumes this summer.  But this one woman, Marcia, keeps bringing in biscuits, cakes, fudge, you name it.  She says she loves to bake and wants to share her creations, but I think this is deliberately cruel, considering that she knows we are all dieting.  Can I tell her not to bring the stuff anymore?

A wise man once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”  The problem is not really Marcia’s, but your inability to just walk past her plates of goodies – though I feel your diet pain.  Tell Marcia the truth, but sugarcoat it a little:  Simply say that her biscuits are so delicious, they are derailing everyone’s efforts to lose weight.  Don’t tell her that you think her offerings are intentional sabotage.  Hopefully, once she gets a compliment, she will back off – and you can get back on track.

woman puring sugar in cupTea and coffee are not mentioned in your diet on your website.  Are we allowed to have these beverages?  I drink two cups of tea every morning with breakfast with no sugar and skim milk.  Then I have one cup of coffee at morning tea with no sugar and skim milk.  I would really miss my tea and coffee, and I don’t drink much of them as you can see.  Also, as I drink only skim milk, can I have more in the daily allowance?  Or does the two cups mean skim milk as well as low-fat milk?

Tea and coffee are permitted – and the quantities you are consuming are acceptable.  Two cups of milk are the daily allowance – whether skim milk or low fat.  You should consume at least two dairy products a day to satisfy your calcium requirement to prevent loss of bone density which could lead to osteoporosis in the future.

My family and I are doing the diet on your website.  We were wondering how many calories are daily in your diet plan. We have been on the diet for 3-weeks and have so far done very well.

I do not want you to concern yourself with calories.  I am trying to get you into normal eating habits where you consume a balanced diet.  I want you to be aware of portion sizes so that your stomach gets accustomed to smaller quantities. Your food must be tasty so that you enjoy every mouthful.  Consider the eating and exercise program a lifestyle, which you should adhere to forever.

How do I manage my son’s childhood obesity? I am concerned for his health, self-esteem and his general well being. I am starting to blame myself as a mother! My son is only 10 years old but already obese. I am extremely worried about his future. He is at a young age where it is difficult to restrict him from eating certain foods and amounts (he loves to eat). He doesn’t understand that his weight can affect his health/appearance later on. Any advice would be helpful.

Stop blaming and start taking action! You’ve heard it before — We have an obesity epidemic going on, and it’s not only affecting adults, it’s hitting children too. Instead of focusing on the possible causes of childhood obesity, I’d like to suggest ways to help you prevent it. For younger children, most changes will occur with the help of parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults in their lives. Here are some tips to help your child:

  • Be a good role model. Children pick up on everything around them, and if you aren’t eating healthy, balanced meals and participating in daily activities, how can you expect them to?! Lead the way to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Get your child involved in the kitchen. No matter how young children are, there is a place for them in the kitchen. Whether they just hand you ingredients or help you stir them together, kids will learn that cooking is fun. If you order in or go out to dinner every night they’ll never learn the benefits of cooking at home and the different fresh ingredients.
  • Encourage activity. Instead of playing video games, children should be out on a field or in the backyard playing active games. Sign your child up for sports teams or go for a bike ride with them a few times a week. Again, if you’re active, they’ll be more inclined to get up and go!
  • Prepare balanced meals and snacks. Kids, just like adults, need a balanced plate of vegetables, lean protein, healthy carbs, and some healthy fat. Children’s favourites like macaroni and cheese can be made healthier by using whole wheat pasta, fresh cheese, and adding veggies and protein like broccoli, peas, cauliflower and edamame.
  • Keep in mind that healthy doesn’t mean bland. Treats don’t have to be off the table completely and nutritious food can definitely be delicious. Remember this at all times!
  • Be supportive. Body image and weight issues start earlier than ever these days and your child needs all the support he can get. Even if your child is overweight, it’s important to treat him the same as your other children and other kids. If you make changes to their diet, make changes to the diets of the rest of the household too. And if your child is being picked on because of his weight, don’t hesitate to go to the principal of the school to deal with the issue.

Childhood obesity is a complex issue and the above are only a handful of tips to help you and your family stay healthy. I would take your child to see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian in your area to help you and your family live a healthy, nutritious life.