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!


10 Healthy Ways to Survive the Festive Season Eating Frenzy

Every year the festive season arrives and all our healthy eating plans go out of the window. There is no doubt that time to relax and enjoy ourselves is important to our well-being, but we tend to over-indulge in rich foods, sweet treats and alcohol. At the same time, we are cutting back on regular physical activity and staying up too late, too often.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, but allow for eating in moderation and maintaining a varied diet. Ditching your weight loss or weight management plans, or letting go of your health conscious habits over the festive season stresses both body and mind. Of course, you want to enjoy yourself, and it’s certainly not the time to feel deprived, but you can avoid the holidays becoming an extended binge by using strategies to moderate the inevitable excesses.

We asked a team of registered dietitians from ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) to give us their top tips on how to balance holiday fun with staying healthy, and here’s what they have to say:

Surviving holiday parties: Don’t attend a party on an empty stomach – grab a small healthy snack before you go. When you get there, don’t rush to eat – socialize and settle into the festivities before you eat and keep your socializing away from the buffet table or appetizer trays – to help limit nibbling. (Cheryl Meyer)

Eat mindfully: The buffet table is an invitation to eat all you can, so first survey what is available, choose the foods you really want to eat, and then move away. Eat slowly, focusing on enjoying the taste and smell of each bite. (Jessica Byrne)

Eat what you love, leave what you like. Be picky – don’t deny indulges, but only eat treats that you really love – avoid “wasting” calories on non-favourites. Think quality rather than quantity. (Cheryl Meyer)

Make water your MVP (most valuable player) this holiday season:  Jazz it up with lemon, cucumber or even fruit cubes like watermelon ice cubes, adding an element of holiday indulgence to plain water. Also try plain fruit or herbal tea for a change.  Water and tea can help fill you up preventing holiday overeating or even overindulging in alcohol or fizzy drinks, both loaded with calories/ energy. (Hlanzeka Mpanza)

Balance less healthy meals with healthy ones: Choose only one less healthy item or meal per day.  For example: one day an English breakfast, the next day an ice cream and the next day a take away, but not all three on one day. Ensure the other meals are healthy by eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. (Zelda Ackerman)

Be a snack smuggler: Travelling, shopping and lack of routine during the holidays can lead to skipping meals, or grabbing that seemingly convenient fast food. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Fruit makes a refreshing and no fuss snack, and a small packet of unsalted nuts can easily fit in your handbag for when the hunger hits. (Jessica Byrne)

Avoid after-dinner nibbles and snacks: Those chocolates and biscuits that come out after an indulgent lunch or dinner are unnecessary calories and will probably only make you feel more uncomfortably full. (Lila Bruk)

Have your cake and eat it too: If you do have one of the many sweet treats on offer, keep your portion size as small as possible and choose the healthiest of what you can find. For example, generally fruit-based cakes and desserts are better choices, so an apple tart would be a better option than a chocolate cake, especially if you don’t eat all the pastry. (Lila Bruk)

Start your day with a wholesome breakfast: Have a low GI breakfast such as oats, wholegrain cereal or wholewheat toast with avocado or eggs. This will not only keep you satisfied, your sugar levels stable and hunger pains at bay, but will also prevent you from snacking on sugary treats that are empty calories with little nutrients. (Lucinda Lourens)

Get moving with friends and family: Spend quality time with friends and family these holidays, but instead of catching up over coffee and cake, make the most of the warm weather and plan to do something where you can be active together. Meet for a walk on the beach or get a group together and go for a hike. Go for a swim, or get the whole family involved in a post-lunch stroll around the neighbourhood. (Jessica Byrne)

This ADSA NutritionConfidence recipe, created by Chef Vanessa Marx, is perfect for keeping your health on track this holiday, while still indulging in delicious festive food: “Grilled Ostrich Fillet with Egyptian Dukkah and Cucumber Raita”.

Ostrich is a truly South African and healthy alternative for the braai this festive season! The raita bursts with flavour while being low in sugar and fat. Ostrich meat is a great alternative to other ‘red meat’ sources. Classified as a ‘white meat’ due to its fat content, it’s low in fat (even lower than some chicken cuts) and saturated fat; but also a good source of biologically available iron. This makes a great pairing with the “Spinach, Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad”.