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Top weightloss pitfalls

Date

Sarah Berry

Wine and pasta: alcohol and carbohydrates both come with red warning flags attached.

Wine and pasta: alcohol and carbohydrates both come with red warning flags attached.

Day after day, client after client, nutritionists see the same common concerns: portion size, sugar and sodium consumption.

But these are not necessarily the top areas we go wrong in, according to three leading nutritionists.

Underconsumption of dairy, overconsumption of alcohol and, crucially, a misunderstanding of carbohydates are key problems, they say.

Susie Burrell, sees alcohol as a bigger issue than dairy - Australian women need 1000mg of calcium a day.

Susie Burrell, sees alcohol as a bigger issue than dairy - Australian women need 1000mg of calcium a day.

Sports dietitian, Katherine Shone, says she spends much of her time ‘‘defending poor little carbohydrates’’. One of the biggest myths she encounters among clients is that carbohydrates should be avoided.

‘‘Carbohydrates provide us with energy that our body needs; they also maintain stable blood sugar levels. A lot of carbohydrate foods are also high in fibre and other nutrients as well.’’

Good carb options, she says, are pasta, brown rice, basmati, cous cous, quinoa, barley, fruit and even dairy, of which, she says, many women struggle to get enough. ‘‘The average Australian woman needs about 1000 milligrams of calcium per day, which means they need to be striving for around three serves of dairy per day.’’

A 'serve' is 250ml milk, 30-40g cheese or a 200g tub of yogurt.

Nutritionist and author of Losing the Last 5 kg, Susie Burrell, sees alcohol as a bigger issue than dairy. She believes focusing on reducing alcohol consumption is key. ‘‘Alcohol is a massive problem in Australia. Particularly with women grabbing a bottle at the end of the day [to de-stress].’’

Besides the empty calories of alcohol, the problem is that when we drink we tend to get lazy and reach for calorie-dense comfort-foods — and, again, dietitians' sights turn to excessive carbohydrates. 

‘‘Low carb is bad; reduced carb is good,’’ she says.

She says many cut carbs during the day, which results in starving and then inevitably splurging — often to mop up the booze in our bellies. Instead, she says, we should keep alcohol consumption to weekends and dot our day with carbs, lightening up on them at night. By lighten, she means ‘‘half a cup of pasta instead of three cups’’.

Some dieters, however, follow the fashion of avoiding carbs completely after sundown. ‘‘A typical myth I see is ‘no carbs after 5pm’,’’ says Kathleen Alleaume, nutritionist and author of What’s Eating You? ‘‘Carbs cannot tell the time and the time of day you eat carbohydrates makes no difference whatsoever to your waistline.’’

Indeed, one recent study, conducted over six months, found greater weight loss, abdominal circumference and body fat mass reductions in participants who ate carbs at night.

The key is quality, not quantity.

Dr Mehmet Oz, a popular TV personality and doctor, writes: ‘‘Avoid the lure of low-fat foods, which contain a sizable amount of calories [and] avoid the lure of low-carb foods, which sometimes have more calories from from sugar. [Instead] try to have 40 per cent of your total caloric intake come from complex carbohydrates ... Choose whole grains (oats, whole wheat and brown rice), beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables.’’

That carbs, or fat — or sugar for that matter — are not ‘‘good’’ or ‘‘bad’’, but fine in moderation and in context, depending on individual circumstances, is an issue many struggle with.

Nutritionists say it is not surprising, given that we are overfed mixed messages on food.

One of the latest studies, by David Ludwig of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, found that a diet of healthy carbohydrates, rather than low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets, offered a better chance of keeping weight off without nasty side effects.

"We should avoid severely restricting any major nutrient and focus on the quality of the nutrient," Ludwig told US newspapers.

Says Alleaume: "‘Bottom line: carbohydrates do not make you fat. The amount you eat does."

32 comments

  • I agree. I believe not all carbs are created equal. Speaking from personal experience I find eating high fibre cereal such as Weet Bix or Oat Brits during different parts of the day has helped me reduce weight. My theory is that is swells up and gives me a feeling of fullness without the high density calories. Although I also have it with milk and some fruit I believe it is relatively low in sugar, salt and fat. An easy, low cost alternative to high calorie processed junk.

    Commenter
    Get Real
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 12:01PM
    • Today's problem is that nobody wants to go through the hard work - we all want a quick fix.
      We're all 'stressed' and our high cortisol levels mean you have to work even harder to lose a few kilos.

      It's simple - eat only foods that were grown or killed, forego anything that humans have refined or created. Exercise hard and fully relax in equal amounts.

      Commenter
      Fiona
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 12:14PM
      • Are these the same dieticians that live by the "food pyramid"?

        My best weight loss came after removing most diary and carbs from my diet. Have never felt better, am full of energy, and have kept the weight off.

        Commenter
        ij
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 12:51PM
        • There is nothing wrong with underconsumption of dairy. It is not good for us humans, anyway. Can get much better sources of calcium that is a whole lot better absorbed by my body in other ways, which also includes not having the nasty side effects many of us get after consuming dairy (which are numerous, without even looking at the effect of high fat)

          Commenter
          xela
          Location
          melb
          Date and time
          October 12, 2012, 1:25PM
          • Full fat milk is only 4% fat and 100% better for you than low fat.

            Commenter
            MELIp
            Location
            MELB
            Date and time
            October 12, 2012, 3:42PM
          • Full fat milk is actually 53% fat by kilojoules (4% by weight). Skim milk has half the kilojoules, and virtually an identical glycemic index. Full cream milk is fine if you only have a small amount, if you don't want to lose weight, or if you have four legs and all you can say is "mooooo". Otherwise, skim milk is a better choice.

            Commenter
            Andrew C
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            October 12, 2012, 4:49PM
          • Completely agree with Xela on this. Most of the science based studies on dairy show the proteins in it cause a loss of bone density (animal based protein causes acidic blood -> body compensates by using calcium as a base -> wasted calcium is then disposed through the bodies natural processes) If you get your calcium from natural sources like dark green leaves, sea vegetables and fruits then no such problem exists.

            Commenter
            Beans
            Date and time
            October 13, 2012, 5:13PM
          • Actually, no milk is better than any milk.
            That was actually my original post was trying to convey...

            Commenter
            xela
            Location
            melb
            Date and time
            October 14, 2012, 4:36PM
        • Its alarmingly simple people. @Fiona is right. Foods that grow from the ground are what we should be choosing. If the food had to be processed by humans before it was ready to eat, then its not good for you. Just picture it - what did (the ingredients in) your meal look like when it was growing, and what does it look like now? Not recognizable? Don't eat it.
          No-one would ever have to count calories or carbs or sugar or fat if we all just did this. The more research I do and the more books I read, I always come back to this simple fact.
          Don't eat processed food.
          Read "The China Study" and/or "Super Immunity". Do it.

          Commenter
          Beth
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          October 12, 2012, 1:25PM
          • Alcohol is a massive contributor to weight gain and is usually ignored by most people because it's a beverage rather than food. I guess they assume you just urinate it out? Alcohol is not only loaded with calories but also impedes the burning of calories, meaning that you have to do a lot more work to burn it off compared to say a bowl of pasta. I always have a litte chuckle to myself when I see people with weight problems at a tapas place (for example) and they have like half an entree but wash it down with three or four glasses of wine and think they are being "modest" or "eating well". Wrong. I could eat a large steak and will have consumed less calories (approx 100 calories for a glass of wine compared to 270 calories in a large grilled rump steak).

            Commenter
            Cimbom
            Location
            Real World
            Date and time
            October 12, 2012, 2:10PM

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