Weight loss – a journey, not a destination

Today we meet Debbie de Coning who after many years of trying to improve her health and loose weight unsuccessfully, reached out to registered dietitian Monique Piderit.

She shares her journey with us, as well as some great tips for anyone embarking on a journey to better health:

Why did you decide to see a dietitian?

I had been on a quest to improve my overall health for many years and as a result had developed an interest in nutrition and healthy eating. I had already eliminated several food groups in my efforts to reduce inflammation, sinus and increase my energy levels. I had cut out sugar and refined carbs; wheat; as well as dairy – and while I did feel some benefits from significantly reducing all these – my energy levels remained low and the weight refused to move.

I had got to the point where I felt there must be a missing link somewhere and that if I could find out what it was, I was sure that I would be able to lose weight. I had tried so many approaches – and even although my health improved – the weight did not budge. Quite simply, I was tired of all the guesswork.

I kept researching, and after reading about DNAlysis, decided that I was going to invest in my health and get my weight sorted out once and for all.

Tell us about your journey with the dietitian?

I put a request out on Facebook asking for recommendations of dietitians who worked with DNAlysis. Someone tagged Monique in that post, and Monique reached out and offered to assist me on my weight loss journey.

What I really loved about working with Monique was the holistic way in which she approached this ‘project’. While we waited for the DNAlysis results, we had an in-depth consultation about relationships with food, family and friends. We also spoke about lifestyle. She found out which foods I liked and which I didn’t. We did a comprehensive set of blood tests and adjusted my supplement intake. By the time we had the DNAlysis results, we had a sound scientific platform from which to work.

The test showed that my body does not metabolize fat well. So, I went onto a low-fat eating plan. When I received my eating plan from Monique, it was scientifically worked out. There was nothing on it that I didn’t like and so it all felt pretty normal and do-able.

I now knew, that if I put something fat (good or bad) into my mouth, it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon! I drastically reduced my red meat and chicken intake. I had to learn to use different sources of protein that were lower in fat, and had to make decisions to cut back on foods though they were healthy fats, such as peanut butter, almonds and avocados, and watch portions. No more guesswork: we had an informed strategy. Having the scientific knowledge has really helped me to rationalise making the right choices.

I really recommend working with a dietitian. Healthy living and good nutrition is a science. You need someone with the knowledge and skills to assist you, and it’s a real plus to find someone who is your champion as well.

 Tell us about your results / successes? 

In a relatively short time (8 months) and with what felt like minimal effort I lost 20kg. My waist and hips reduced by 14cm each. I also reduced my insulin by half and reduced my cholesterol count. My energy levels have also increased.

I went to see a biokineticist to get the appropriate exercises to tone and strengthen my muscles. My fitness is the next leg of the journey that I need to work on. Before losing weight, I wouldn’t have been able to complete even half of the exercises, but after the weight loss, I was able to complete all the sets of repetitions, albeit slowly.

When I first picked up the 2 x 2kg weights, I could hardly lift the 4kg. It was a shock to realise that I had been carrying five times that weight all day and every day. No wonder I had no energy!

What was the hardest part of the journey? 

Being a people pleaser, it was often hard for me to say no when being offered well-intentioned albeit wrong food choices. I had to become firm in making decisions to decline food without being apologetic and feeling the need to explain myself to others. Drinking enough water is always a challenge. And of course, who wants to offend a Lindt chocolate on offer?

What are the top three tips you can share?

  1. Be pedantic about portion sizes. Have a good food scale and measuring cups to make sure you stick to your portion sizes. If it’s 80g of chicken, then it’s 80g and not 95 or 100g. Also, split portions to allow for variety and texture. Instead of a full starch portion of mealies, have half mealies and half couscous. This helps to make food interesting with a variety of colour and texture. The minute food becomes boring, you are sabotaging yourself and feel hard done by.
  2. Embrace the new normal. I only told a few people about my weight loss journey while I was in the trenches, those I knew would support me. I did not want people watching me, watching what I was eating and passing judgement. There will always be pessimists and naysayers. Limit your exposure to them. It was a personal journey and I just wanted to get on with it. Sometimes the downside of setting a goal is thinking that when you’ve reached it the journey is over. Embracing the new normal means exactly that. When you’ve reach your goal weight, your healthy lifestyle continues.
  3. Celebrate a range of milestones. It’s not just about the weight. Celebrate reducing your insulin or centimetres lost. I celebrated cleansing my wardrobe and adopting a minimalistic capsule wardrobe approach. It’s not about buying things to reward yourself necessarily. You are making a conscious lifestyle change, so why do you need to be rewarded for that? Celebrate mindshifts and lifestyle choices. They are rewards in themselves.

What the dietitian says 

Monique says: “A key lesson is how Debbie approached this change in her life as a journey and not a destination. Right from the beginning, she chose to embrace the process of change by eating healthier, controlling portions, and making better food choices every day and at every meal, consciously avoiding dieting and the deprivation that it entails. Debbie’s dedication to her health is a great inspiration to other women. I am so proud of you, Debbie!”

To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit the ADSA website!


What your dietitian wants you to know about diabetes

There were 2.28 million cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2015 according to the International Diabetes Foundation and around 1.21 million people with undiagnosed diabetes. Considering these numbers it remains vitally important to continue educating South Africans about diabetes and to address the myths that are often associated with this lifestyle disease.

Nasreen Jaffer, Registered Dietitian and ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson has a special interest in diabetes. She debunks some of the myths surrounding diabetes and nutrition:

People with diabetes have to follow a special diet or have to eat special diabetic foods.

People with diabetes do not have to follow a ‘special’ diet. People with diabetes need to make the same healthy eating choices as everyone else. Healthy eating choices include vegetables and fruit; whole grains; fish, lean meats and poultry; dairy products; seeds, nuts, legumes and plant oils. Everyone needs to limit fatty red meats, processed meats, salt and foods high in salt, and foods and beverages with added sugar.

There are foods that should be avoided completely.

The answer, is ‘no’. Moderation is key, the minute you’ve banned a certain food entirely, you’re likely to start craving it intensely. Your health and weight are more affected by what you do daily than what you eat once or twice a week, so if you’re in the mood for a piece of cake once in a while, buy a small one and share. If you deprive yourself of something you’re craving, it’s just a matter of time until your binge on it and sabotage your motivation. However, crisps, chocolates, and sweets are high in saturated and trans fat, while sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, iced tea and energy drinks contain a large amount of sugar, so these have to be limited.

 If I am diabetic, my diet is going to be more expensive.

It is not necessary to buy expensive foods marketed to diabetics. Healthy eating can be economical, and is often cheaper than buying unhealthy treats. Buying seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables is cheaper than buying fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you replace sweets, chocolates, crisps, puddings and cakes with fruits, yoghurt and salads as your snacks and desserts, you’ll find you will save money. Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are cheaper alternatives to red meat, while providing numerous health benefits.

Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Too much sugar does not necessarily cause diabetes, but because foods and drinks with added sugar are often energy-dense (high in kilojoules), consuming too much of these on a regular basis can lead to weight gain. This can put us at risk for type 2 diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages seem to have the strongest link to type 2 diabetes. ‘Sugar’ doesn’t only refer to the sugar added to tea and coffee, but also includes sugar and sweetened products added when cooking and at the table. Look out for hidden sugars in pre-prepared and processed foods, like some breakfast cereals, sweetened drinks, dairy products, sauces and sweet treats. People with diabetes should limit or avoid adding sugar as it can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels.

 People with diabetes cannot eat carbohydrates.

No, this is not true. While all foods that contain carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar levels, people with diabetes can still eat carbohydrate foods. There are healthy types of carbohydrates that you do want to include in your eating plan, and the type or quality of carbohydrate foods is important. Therefore, for optimal blood glucose control it is important to control the quantity, and distribute carbohydrate foods equally throughout the day. For example, choose wholegrain or high-fibre carbohydrate foods as they don’t increase blood sugar as quickly as refined grains, and make sure that each meal is balanced, containing not only carbohydrate foods, but also protein or dairy, non-starchy vegetables or healthy fats.

People with diabetes should restrict their fruit intake.

Because fruit contains natural sugars, too much fruit can contribute to an increase in blood glucose levels. However, eating fruit also adds fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals to the diet, so while people with diabetes should not eat excessive amounts of fruit, fruit should not be completely eliminated. Portion control is important, and people with diabetes should choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice. It is recommended that you consult your dietitian to calculate the amount of fruit that you should include in your daily diet.

If one of my parents has diabetes, there is nothing I can do about it – I will develop diabetes eventually.

If you have a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, you have all the reason you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. While genetics may contribute 30 to 40% to the development of any condition, including diabetes, environmental and lifestyle factors may have a 60 to 70% impact. If you maintain a healthy body weight, stick to a healthy eating plan, avoid tobacco use and keep physically active regularly, you have a very good chance of not developing diabetes.

If I have diabetes, I can’t exercise.

On the contrary, diabetes is a compelling reason to exercise regularly. The reason for this is that physical activity plays a very important role in lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also predisposes your body cells to being more sensitive to insulin, and of course, it helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking, while doing some resistance or strength exercises at least twice a week. If you use insulin it is important to check your blood glucose levels before and after physical activity. If you get results below 6 mmol/l it is recommended that you lower your insulin dose or eat a healthy snack to prevent a hypoglycemic attack during or after exercise.

Early diagnosis of diabetes is vitally important. This year the theme of World Diabetes Day is “Eyes on Diabetes”, focusing on the screening for type 2 diabetes to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, which can in turn reduce the risk of serious complications. The sooner that elevated blood glucose levels can be treated and returned to normal, the better. If you are diagnosed with either pre-diabetes or diabetes, you need to start moving towards a healthier lifestyle that focuses on regular physical activity, good nutrition and weight-loss if you are overweight or obese.

Everyone over the age of 45 years should be screened for diabetes every 2 to 3 years, or earlier if you are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes (such as a family history, high blood pressure or previous diabetes during pregnancy). If you haven’t yet been screened, visit a healthcare professional to find out if you are at risk.

Should you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor as soon as possible – sudden weight loss, hunger, blurred vision, tiredness, excessive thirst and frequent urination.

To find a registered dietitian in your area who can assist you with a diabetic-friendly lifestyle plan, visit www.adsa.org.za.

 


‘Balance is key!’ Our latest success story

We are sharing success stories to find out why people decide to see a dietitian, what happens on the journey, what the hardest part of that journey is and what results are achieved. This week we chat to Robyn White, who started seeing Registered Dietitian Kezia Kent after she had her second child.

Tell us about your journey with the dietitian?

My husband and I went to see Kezia Kent after the birth of our 2nd daughter. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life and decided that I needed to focus on my health and fitness so that I could be an example for my daughters. What I loved about Kezia instantly is that we could be honest with her. I was not an easy client. I told her I had Irish blood in me and loved potatoes, that I had given up wine obviously for 9 months during my pregnancy and had no desire or intention to give it up again so it needed to be in my eating plan, and that I had a small obsession with Woolworths Hazelnut Cappuccinos! Kezia included all of these in my eating plan! Additionally Kezia always explained very thoroughly the importance and effects of each food group. I always left her sessions feeling I had gained knowledge and power. Kezia’s words constantly pop into my head, “Remember the word “die” is in diet, we do not diet, this is an eating plan and way of life!” This has really changed my perception and thinking around food and eating!

Tell us about your results?

My very first appointment with Kezia was the first day I was allowed to exercise after my C-section surgery. That day I ran/walked 5km in 58 minutes. Exactly 5 weeks later I ran 5km in 38 minutes! It was a huge accomplishment! My eating plan (even with having only 4 – 5 hours sleep each night because of the baby) had increased my energy levels drastically. I had honestly not felt so energetic and “good” in many years! In 16 weeks I have lost 12 kgs and the greatest feeling is being able to feel like I am maintaining that easily. And I finally fit into the clothes I was wearing before both my babies! Exactly 4 months after having my second daughter I ran my first ever half marathon! What an amazing feeling.

What was the hardest part of the journey?

Honestly, having the willpower to order a jacket potato over chips when we went out for meal (that Irish blood)! I sometimes had to seriously give myself a pep talk. But it got easier and eventually I was choosing sweet potatoes over normal potatoes. What a change for me!

On par with that, my husband and I are very sociable and have a very sociable family and circle of friends. It was hard to go to braais and events and not want to snack on chips and biltong, but we did not stop being sociable. We took our own healthy snacks, learnt how to make our own healthy dips and still enjoyed the social events.

What are the top three tips you can share?

  • Exercise is so important! I make it a priority. Even with work, being a wife and mother to a toddler and a baby, it is a priority and I always feel so good afterwards.
  • Listen to your dietitian, they know better and they are way more qualified! I learnt so much from Kezia and will be eternally grateful.
  • Balance, balance, balance! Balance is the key! I always remember Kezia’s advice that you have to have that one cheat meal. But have the self-control and willpower to eat healthy again the next day. Great advice!

What the dietitian says

The most exciting moment for me was when Robyn came in with her husband and they both said to me, almost simultaneously, “It’s time for that health change”. That determination and drive from the get go will put a smile on any dietitian’s face. I knew immediately that Robyn wanted to improve her eating habits not just for herself but to ensure that the family is as healthy and adequately nourished.

Robyn knew it was not going to be easy, especially with a busy household, but she went forward with the plan knowing that she cannot follow this way of eating for a couple of weeks, it needed to be a lifestyle change. A lifestyle that does take a degree of planning, changing the snacks at social events, getting your friends on board and of course ensuring that it is manageable for all, even if potatoes are served with dinner. I reassured Robyn that my stance in general is not to exclude or cut out food, but rather encourage the addition of more nutrient dense foods as well as enjoying those small delicacies in life in a responsible manner. How boring would life be without that small bite of chocolate!

Robyn has lost a significant amount of weight but more importantly a large percentage of body fat. But her confidence in herself is far more of an achievement.

Well Done Robyn!

To find a Registered Dietitian in your area visit: www.adsa.org.za