Why you should care about Healthy Weight Week

Dangers of being overweightHealth Weeks come and go, and unless we are directly affected by the condition or illness being highlighted, or know someone who is, we generally don’t take too much notice.

This week (15-21 February 2016) is Australia’s Healthy Weight Week.

You should take note, because statistically, your health probably depends upon it.


Obesity rates are rising

According to a recent study published in the Lancet, shows that Australian obesity rates are climbing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Currently, 63 per cent of adults are classified as overweight, with 28 per cent obese. Alarmingly, around 25 per cent of teenagers carry too much weight.

To put that in perspective, out of every 10 of you reading this blog — around six of you are overweight with three of you being obese. One quarter of all teenagers who read this are likely to be overweight also.


Carrying too much weight is dangerous

For most of us, being overweight is uncomfortable, which is why we want to lose weight in the first place. We struggle zipping up our jeans, that spare tyre around our middle is constantly in the way, and we can’t keep up with the kids anymore.

But some of us are ‘comfortable’ carrying a few (or more) extra kilos. While it’s great to feel comfortable in your own skin, it has been scientifically proven that carrying too much body fat puts your life at risk.

Being overweight can lead to a host of problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal problems including osteoarthritis and back pain
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Gallstones.

Even if you currently don’t exhibit signs of any of the above you are at a higher risk to develop them later on, than someone who is a healthy weight.

For the sake of our long-term health, most of us need to address our weight issues.


What you can do

Healthy Weight Week, an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia, aims to address the problem of obesity in Australia.

The first point of action should be to determine whether you are a healthy weight or not. A simple check in the mirror, will usually suffice for most of us.

Dangers of being overweightIf you need to change your life for the better and shed some excess body fat, speak to your doctor.

Losing weight is not just a matter of “going on a diet”. If you carry excess fat, you should have a check-up with your doctor to see if you have any underlying health issues (e.g. high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.). Once you have a baseline for your health, your doctor will be able to advise you on how much weight you should aim to lose, and the safest and most effective way to go about it.

It’s never too late to make a change for the good, and avoid becoming one of Australia’s obesity statistics. So why not take the first step today?


Further information: http://www.healthyweightweek.com.au/


Forget fad diets: portions are the go

Spaghetti with salmon

Dietitians are calling on Australians to start the New Year with a bang by making this year’s resolution to forget fad diets and instead aim for perfect portions.

A new survey of 1,230 Australians, commissioned by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), found about half of all adults aged 18 to 64 (54%) are unhappy with their current weight[i].

DAA will soon launch its annual Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW) campaign (15-21 February) to make it easier for all Aussies to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

According to the peak body for dietitians, eating the right amount, rather than piling up the plate, is a key way to reduce your kilojoule intake and manage your weight.

‘We all know fad diets come and go, and usually end in failure. So rather than starting the diet merry-go-round this year, make your New Year’s resolution about being more aware of the right portion sizes and how much you’re eating,’ said DAA Spokesperson and AHWW ambassador Professor Clare Collins.

Professor Collins said getting back into the kitchen for more home-cooked meals and keeping a check on how much you serve yourself and your family is a good place to start.

But according to Professor Collins, there’s more to this story.

‘Research shows that substituting vegetables, and other low-kilojoule, nutrient-rich foods, for those that are ‘energy-dense’ is the way to go. This helps to fill you up, without tipping the scales in the wrong direction.

‘Aim for 2-3 or more cups of vegetables or salad a day. At the moment, most Aussie get nowhere near that. So a simple step when cooking at home is to start your meal with a salad or add an extra serve of vegetables to your main meal. Let vegetables fill at least half your plate,’ said Professor Collins, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Professor Collins’ research[ii] has found Australians typically overestimate portion sizes, especially for foods like pasta (a guide good is about a cup) and chocolate (should be no bigger than half a small chocolate bar), compared to what health authorities recommend, and this can lead to ‘kilo creep’ over time.

‘When there’s more food on the plate or when we use bigger plates and bowls, we eat more. The difference between one and two cups of pasta at dinner is around 870kJ. If you eat a double portion size on a daily basis those extra kilojoules could see you gain around 1-2 kilos a month if you don’t burn this off doing extra exercise.

‘To eat less without thinking about it, switch to using smaller plates so you don’t notice you’re serving yourself less food,’ said Professor Collins.

healthy wrapThe DAA survey found that already 26 per cent of Australians said they would review their portion sizes.

‘The challenge is to get everyone to use simple, pain-free strategies – such as smaller plates, greater proportions of vegetables and cooking more at home – to help manage weight,’ said Professor Collins.

Award-winning celebrity cook, Callum Hann, and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Themis Chryssidis (both from Sprout), are supporting this year’s Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, teaching Australians about home cooking and choosing the right portions sizes.

Hundreds of health-focused events, including nutrition workshops and cooking classes, are being held around the country to mark the week. Find out what’s on near you, and get nutrition tips and recipes, at http://www.healthyweightweek.com.au

Prepared by a Press Release from the Dietitians Association of Australia



 [i] Omnipoll survey (October 2015) of 1,230 Australians adults aged 18-64 years, commissioned by the Dietitians Association of Australia.

[ii] Collins CE et al. How big is a food portion? A pilot study in Australian Families. Health Promotion Journal of Australia (2015): 26, 83–88.

[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015). National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. Retrieved on December 16 2015 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2014-15~Main%20Features~Overweight%20and%20obesity~22

[iv] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-2012. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Key%20Findings~1


Cooking at home is the secret to a healthy weight

cook at home to lose weightNew research, published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, shows that cooking at home more often means Australians will ‘up’ their fruit and vegetable intake, helping win the war on weight.

The research, involving more than 1,300 people, found those who spent the most time preparing and cooking meals ate more fruit and vegetables and spent less money on food away from home, compared with those who spent the least amount of time in the kitchen.

“Given more than nine in 10 Australians don’t eat the recommended five serves of vegetables a day, and 63 per cent of adults are overweight or obese, and that number is rising, this is important research,” said Clare Collins, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle.

Professor Collins said the quality of your diet is a good way of predicting weight, and healthy habits, such as eating more vegetables and less fast food, are linked with more time spent preparing and cooking food at home.

The research comes as the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) celebrates Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW)  from 16-22 February, which encourages Australians to cook at home as a way to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

“Other studies show that when we eat out we tend to have bigger portions, choose higher-kilojoule foods, and eat more saturated fat, salt and sugar. And research shows that regularly eating meals away from home is linked with the risk of becoming overweight or obese,” said Professor Collins.

When it comes to weight loss, Professor Collins also encourages Australian to be realistic, aiming for a drop of around half to one kilogram a week, to be as active as possible every day, and to take on eating habits that can be kept up over time.

Healthy Weight WeekWhat you can do

  1. Take part in Australia’s Healthy Weight Week cooking challenge by cooking seven meals in seven days
  2. Download your free copy of Everyday Healthy: Seasonal, Fresh and Tasty cookbook
  3. Seek the advice of an Accredited Practising Dietitian to make healthy changes to your diet.

For further information including the AHWW pledge campaign and home cooking challenge, plus nutrition tips, recipes and details of the more than 460 AHWW events being held across the country,  visit www.healthyweightweek.com.au

Based on a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia 16/2/15

Avoid the Christmas kilo creep

Write Way to Health healthy holidaysWith the festive party season in full swing and holidays just around the corner, the nation’s peak nutrition body is urging Australians to avoid the kilo creep by making wise food and drink choices.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Lauren McGuckin said: ‘Christmas is just one day a year, but celebrations often stretch over a month or longer. So weight wise, this is a difficult time of year for many Australians.’

Ms McGuckin said recent research has shown that weight gain over the festive season is a major contributor to excess yearly weight gain, especially for people who are already carrying more weight than they would like1.

She said another study involving 82 people showed a significant increase in body fat percentage and total fat mass over the festive season2.

‘Most Australians would agree that Christmas is not the best time to be trying to shed excess kilos. The goal over the festive season should instead be around keeping weight stable by making smart food and drink choices.

‘Even an extra 600 kilojoules a day – the amount in a small slice of Christmas cake or a can of full-strength beer – can add up over time and result in a couple of extra kilos come January. Those extra kilos are so much harder to get off than they are to put on, so the trick is to avoid gaining weight in the first place,’ said Ms McGuckin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Some tips to help keep weight gain at bay over the festive season include:

  • Eat lighter. Snack on seasonal fruit (such as cherries and watermelon), a small handful of nuts, or low-fat crackers and a salsa dip. Eating a handful of cherries instead of a handful of lollies will save you around 330kJ and 16g of added sugar.
  • Plan plan plan. Take a healthy platter to parties or functions. Include lots of bright, colourful vegetable sticks such as carrot, red and green capsicum, green beans and snow peas. Serve with an avocado dip, beetroot dip or yoghurt-based dip.
  • Drink smarter. If you drink, aim for two glasses of low joule non-alcoholic drinks to every alcoholic drink. Try soda with a squeeze of lime or lemon, or a jug of cold water with cucumber or strawberries and lots of ice for a refreshing change. If you swap a glass of sparkling wine for sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon you will save 470kJ.
  • Eat mindfully. Try to eat slowly, savour every mouthful and enjoy your food over the festive period. You don’t need to eat everything on offer – be selective and enjoy a small amount. Stop eating once you are comfortably full.
  • Move more. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, wash the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, ride your bike to the local shops instead of taking the car.
  • Get the right support. An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is your diet coach – providing you with individual, expert advice to help you achieve your goals. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au to find an APD in your area.

1. Schoeller DA, 2014, ‘The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight’, Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 134, pp. 66-9
2. Hull HR, Hester CN & Fields DA, 2006, ‘The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students’, Nutrition & Metabolism, Vol. 3, No. 44. Accessed 28 November 2014. Available from: www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/3/1/44

Write Way to Health healthy holidayBased upon a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia, 2/12/14

Further information

Dietitians Association of Australia

Don’t fall for fad diets and gimmicks

When you want to lose weight quickly, or you know you have overdone the eating (think Easter and Christmas), it can be very tempting to go on a ‘diet’ to lose the flab.dear diet

While these may have immediate effects (e.g. you lose ‘weight’), most of this weight is water, not fat. Following fad diets may cause a whole host of other programs such as:

  • Muscle loss
  • Slower metabolism (which leads to long-term weight gain)
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and light-headedness
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Statistics show that most people who embark on a ‘weight-loss’ program regain everything they lose, plus more, within two years.

So here are some tips on recognising a ‘diet’ that may do more harm than good.

Yo-yo dieting and skipping meals

When you engage in yo-yo dieting (losing weight and gaining it back and losing it again, etc.) — often through reducing your kilojoule intake or skipping meals — your body responds to these periods of semi-starvation by lowering its metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns up energy. When you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle. You don’t want to lose muscle as it burns kilojoules, whereas fat doesn’t.

This is why, when you come off the ‘diet’ and eat normally again, your body burns fewer kilojoules than before because your metabolic rate is slower. This can lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which does not lead to long-term weight loss.

Restriction diets

Any diet that advises excluding whole food groups or foods is not healthy. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat a balanced diet, consuming foods from each of the five major food groups each day — fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy. You should avoid any diet that prohibits one or more food groups.

Low-carb or no carb diets

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our body. While it’s not recommended that you eat carbohydrates high in fat and sugar (e.g. cakes, biscuits and pastries), there are some carbs that are good for you — whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa, etc. It’s also important to realise that fruits and veggies are also good sources of carbs.

Diet pills and creams

There is no scientific evidence that proves diet pills work. Diet pills are full of artificial ingredients, which are not likely to be good for you long term. Similarly, there is no ‘magic’ cream or lotion to help you lose weight.

Meal replacements

While there may be a place for these (under the medical supervision of your doctor), meal replacements overall, are not a good choice. While a few are formulated by government guidelines, with appropriate levels of vitamins, minerals, fibre, omega-3s and more, others are lacking in key nutrients and are not nutritionally complete. Using these does not teach you the importance of making your own healthy food choices, learning to prepare healthy meals, and developing an active lifestyle. Usually, once you stop using meal-replacements, weight regain occurs.

Exercise machines

Our bodies are designed to move, and moving them through regular exercise is the healthy way to lose fat. Simply targeting muscle areas, particularly through machines (also called ‘spot reducing’) will not lead to real fat loss.

Pre-made meals

A program of pre-made meals is not necessarily a gimmick, but you do run the risk of gaining back any lost weight, as you have not learnt to control portion sizes, nor learn to cook your own healthy meals. While it may be convenient, these programs are likely to be more expensive than making your own food. They also do not help you change your lifestyle, which led to the weight gain in the first place.

How can you lose fat?

The secret to losing fat is to make lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that lead to healthy, long-term and sustainable weight loss include:

  • Eating a balanced diet which includes all food groups (carbohydrate, protein, dairy, wholegrain, fruit and vegetables)
  • Limiting highly processed foods, and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Limiting portion sizes
  • Drinking 6-8 glasses (1 ½ – 2 litres of water) each day
  • Reducing your alcohol consumption
  • Increasing your movement (i.e. exercise), to 30 minutes on most, if not every day.

If you feel you need to lose some weight, forget about the quick and easy fix, as there is no such thing. Instead, speak to your doctor, or visit a qualified dietitian for some expert advice on getting started.


Further information:

Dietitians Association of Australia

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating