Arlene's Way Don’t cut out carbs, don’t lose weight too quickly, all the tips to keep you healthy and looking your best!

I am struggling with my weight.  I have to go to a 21st in a few weeks time, should I cut out carbs?

Carbohydrates are to this decade what fats were to the last – food demons. The truth is you need them for energy.  Like fats, some carbs are better than others. You should have a minimum of 100g of carbohydrates a day – a far cry from low-carb diets which start with 20g or less. Levels this low can leave you fatigued, constipated, and irritable – these are only the short term effects. Long term a low carb diet could increase your risk of heart disease and colon cancer, due to the increase of saturated fats.

Fad diets aside, what may matter most is how refined the carbohydrates are. Refining removes the grains’ fibrous coating, which leads to digesting food faster than you should. That is why whole fruits, with their fibre and nutrients are good choices despite their simple carbohydrates. Omit all refined carbohydrates to lose weight – cold drinks, lollies, chocolates, biscuits and cakes. You will find whole grains, fruit, vegetables and salads far more filling.  Keep portions small, eat six little meals a day, and do as much exercise as will fit into your schedule. Your weight will drop!

I have cut my diet by so many calories but I am not losing weight. I thought the more calories I cut the more weight I will lose?

If you cut your calories too far – below 1200 calories a day – you will decrease your metabolism and muscle mass. The body is like a car it needs food to go – too little and your metabolism shuts off.  To get the most of the calories you do eat, you should choose whole produce, fresh meat and fish, whole grains that are as close to their natural state as possible.  They have a higher nutrient density than refined foods because they pack more vitamins and minerals into fewer calories.  Rather than cutting too many calories out of your diet, increase your physical activity which increases your muscle mass and your metabolic rate.

Do dairy products make me fat?  Should I cut out milk and yoghurt and change to soy milk which I do not really like?

Eating a lot of high fat dairy will obviously make you gain weight – chunks of cheese are not advisable as they are loaded with saturated fat and calorie dense. You do not have to switch to soy products, particularly if you do not like them.  However, combined with a calorie controlled eating program and an exercise regime, a dairy-rich diet can nearly double body fat reduction and weight loss and help prevent weight gain.  Part of the reason is the hormone calcitriol, which helps conserve calcium for stronger bones while telling fat cells to convert less sugar to fat and burn more body fat. The result is leaner fat cells and a leaner you. So I advise three servings of low or non fat dairy serves a day.  A serve would be a cup of milk, 200g of yoghurt, or 30g of cheese.

Arlene's Way I have my sisters wedding in September and want to look my best.  I have 3 months which is not a lot of time, so what can I do to lose weight?

Losing weight quickly is not a good idea, it is far better to lose 2 – 2 ½ kg per month. I do not know how much you want to lose, but you should realistically aim at dropping about 7kg, which is a dress size. Having a goal in mind will definitely fuel your motivation, and perhaps encourage you to make permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Introduce an hour exercise daily – walking, running, swimming, and weights.

This will not only help you burn excess calories, but will build muscle which will increase your resting metabolic rate.  Muscle also takes up less volume than fat, so your centimetres will drop. Cut out snacks and treats such as chocolates, biscuits, cakes, lollies and crisps, and switch to fruit, vegetables and salads instead.  Keep your portions small and eat six meals a day. Use the NW meal plan as a guideline to the size of your portions. Good luck!

My family is making me unhealthy. I have told my parents that I am trying to lose weight, but they still serve up huge fatty meals at night and there are lots of “goodies” around the house. Everyone is overweight and seem to accept being like this, so I am finding it so difficult to eat better with all the temptation around. Help!

Try talking to your family again, and explain that you need their support. Ask your family doctor to approach the whole family to alter their habits to a healthier lifestyle as they are increasing the risks of health complications as they get older – diabetes, heart problems and even certain cancers. If your parents continue to give you huge portions at night let them know you cannot eat it all and ask if you can dish up your own dinner in future. Offer to prepare meals and make salads, vegetables, etc using low fat cooking methods – grill, stir fry, or bbq. Purchase a low fat cook book which gives you ideas for yummy recipes that the whole family will enjoy. By setting an example you might convert your family to better habits when they see how much better you feel and look!

Just purchased a box of fresh strawberries. On the lid was this instruction: “Do not wash until just prior to eating.” We usually wash fruit maybe up to 24 hours in advance of eating. What’s the latest on this?

It is recommended to wash fruit and vegetables just before eating them. Some produce – including strawberries – can degrade pretty quickly after they’re washed. Whenever you wash them, keep enjoying those fruits and veggies!