Sunday 15 September 2019

It's not all about the 'perfect figure' on the weighing scales

Siobhan Julian
Siobhan Julian

Is it all about the 'perfect figure' on the weighing scales??

1: The Dietitian says 'NO'

As a clinical dietitian the first priority is to focus on general health and wellbeing of the body. All too often I have found people who get focused on a target weight that may not be actually healthy or realistic. The general parameter regarding calculating a healthy weight for a healthy body is to calculate Body Mass Index (B.M.I)

2: Body Mass Index as a parameter

Body Mass Index (BMI) = Weight (kilograms) divided by Height (metres) x Height (metres)

So what does your BMI mean?

Less than 18.5kg/m2 is underweight;

18.5 - 24.9kg/m2 is a healthy normal;

25 - 29.9kg/m2 is overweight;

Greater than 30kg/m2 is obese

Being underweight is linked with health problems such including osteoporosis, infertility, lung disease etc.

A normal BMI means that your weight is healthy and at this weight you are at the lowest risk of disease and death.

Being overweight increases your risk of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease and certain types of cancer

Being obese means that you are also at risk of the same diseases previously mentioned but your risk of disease and death is greater.

3: For some people who maybe overweight or obese a 10% weight loss is beneficial to health and realistic to achieve

As a dietitian, while I strongly disagree on getting focused on an unhealthy and unrealistic weight target, I do feel that it is important to watch the trend of your weight pattern. For example, some segments of the population are underweight and others are overweight or obese and others within the ideal range.

Regardless of whether you are trying to loose, gain or maintain weight your weight should be monitored. This does not necessarily mean stepping on a weighing scales on a frequent basis. Simple questions like are my trousers getting too tight or too loose?? Am I buying a bigger clothes size etc are very effective.

In general once a fortnight/month is enough to weigh yourself unless otherwise indicated by a healthcare professional.

Focusing on dietary and exercise changes that will lead to permanent weight loss is very productive. People who are successful at managing their weight set only two or three goals at a time.

When you think about your goals it is important to remember these golden rules.

Your goals should be: Specific; Realistic; Measurable; Forgiving.

For example you might have a goal to 'exercise more'. This is a fine goal but is it is specific? No.

So you might say 'walk 5km every day' to be more specific but is this realistic to start with? Not really.

For a realistic and measurable goal you might say 'walk 30 minutes every day'. This sounds ok but what happens if you miss out on a day?

A goal that meets each of the criteria above would be 'walk for 30 minutes, five days a week'. It is specific, realistic, measurable and forgiving and will result in a positive behaviour change to help you to lose weight and keep it off.

4: Simple, Realistic long-term steps

If you are overweight or obese the good news is that simple steps that can be maintained long term are of real benefit.

If you eat an extra 132 calories per day for one year and you do not burn it off it could result in you gaining one stone in that year. This is good news because if you take realistic steps it can have great benefits in weight management.

For example:

Choose a scone instead of a Danish pastry three times per week and over one year you could save 1.25 stone

Choose a piece of fruit instead of 3 chocolate biscuits each day and over one year you could save 1.25 stone.

Wexford-based Siobhan Julian is the clinical dietitian manager at Wexford General Hospital.

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