Laura Clark is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist at LEC Nutrition who writes monthly here at Honest Mum, sharing her wisdom and experience.
Over to Laura with this vital post…
Vicki has always shared her passion for loving ourselves and being proud of our bodies whatever their shape. Women are formidable creatures and yet we often have a very tempestuous relationship with our bodies which then tends to translate into a battle with the scale.
As the weather hots up we often become hale bent on losing a few pounds to feel happier in our skin. You’d think at this time of year my phone would be ringing off the hook but in truth it if often the quick fix we’re looking for prior to summer holidays! This often sends us down the rather dodgy path of fad diets and our war with the scales intensifies.
In dietetics the scale has its uses but I am increasingly moving away from it and using tape measures to literally measure success. In my latest rather unusual project, I saw examples of people losing only a few pounds on the scale but up to 10cm off their waists ). And here’s why:
The scale is the tip of the iceberg, it gives no measure of change in body compartments – muscle, fat, water and the proportions of these are genuinely what will predict your likelihood of retaining any weight that you lose. We must force ourselves to see the bigger picture – do we want to lose weight and gain it back plus more or do we want to lose weight and keep it off?!
Athletes use daily weights to measure their hydration status and alter their fluid strategies as a result – that’s how accurate it is for measuring fluid losses and gains. Research on women in sport is also fraught with challenges because of our menstrual cycle – another influencer on our weight.
And yet when on a diet plan we hop on and off the scales every 5 minutes looking for feedback and to clarify that the dietary sacrifices we’re making are worth it. But let’s be honest, this very rarely improves our mood and given that the mind and body are so connected, it’s never a good idea to let our mood then influence our subsequent food choices. Weight does funny things – the pizza and prosecco you had on Friday night will not declare themselves on the scale come Saturday morning so don’t weigh yourself – instead go downstairs make yourself a healthy breakfast, take some nurofen if the drinks flowed a little too freely last night and plan a walk.
Over the years, I have been able to link in with some amazing fitness professionals who have strengthened my resolve to support people to strengthen their bodies and to make this their focus. Successful weight management involves losing body fat and protecting muscle mass for it is this that keeps metabolic rates higher (who wouldn’t want to burn more calories when sitting at your desk). Things have to be a little more sophisticated than running like a Duracell bunny and rewarding yourself with more calories than your burnt off afterwards because you ‘deserve it’.
We’re still getting to grips with the intricacies of weight management because we don’t claim to have all the answers.
There are indeed over 1000 genes involved in managing weight and even our bacteria play a powerful role in our body’s ability to lose and gain weight. The good news is the research is coming thick and fast and in the meantime there’s a lot we do know…
Fad diets do not work – excluding entire food groups, drinking special potions, taking magic pills – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fad diets tend to create large calorie deficits which puts pressure on the body and forces it to burn its own muscle stores, which ultimately lowers your metabolic rate. Muscle also provides the body with the ability to store carbohydrate in the form of glycogen for use later on as energy when needed, yet another reason to protect the muscle you’ve got.
Consistency is key to success. What dietary changes can you achieve with consistency? Small differences between calories in and calories out are more sustainable and do make an impact.
Think about your attitude to food long term – it is possible that you can control it, not the other way around.
Nourish your body with healthy choices and make small steps towards a healthier lifestyle – don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t perfect. They don’t have to be and the 80/20 rule is a good one.
If the scale influences your mood, don’t use it. Measure success by changes in body shape and what your body can physically do.
Read more of Laura’s posts here: How to Lose Weight as a Busy Mama, Food Assumptions and How They Affect Their Children, and Confessions of a Dietitian Mum: What I Actually Feed My Children.
Photo ©Laura Clark.