Pondering how to lose weight? Let the experts help

If you're pondering the weighty matter of losing unwanted pounds, let the experts help lighten your load

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

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Pippa and her mum do the Dukan. Jennifer eats nothing but baby food. And Gwyneth fuels her two-hour workouts with cobwebs and baking powder.

Okay, so these might not all be completely true reflections of diets employed today by celebrities and ordinary bods alike, but it does sometimes feel as if we are being asked to take more and more extreme measures in our seemingly constant quest for the body beautiful.

But do these extreme measures actually work? Of course not. If they did, we’d all be slipping effortlessly into our size 10s with none of those excess inches to pinch.

So what are the fundamental mistakes we make when launching ourselves into the murky waters of a new diet?

‘If you plough ahead and reduce your calorie intake by anything more than a very modest amount, your blood sugar levels will plummet, you’ll be hungry, have cravings and feel lethargic,’ said Anne Welford, executive manager of Alizonne, a non-surgical weight loss clinic in Rothwell, Leeds.‘In the longer term, you’ll also experience loss of muscle mass, suppression of your metabolic rate and rebound weight gain.’

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A modest calorie reduction does not cause these problems to such a significant degree, but people often find the subsequent weight loss is frustratingly slow, leading to lack of motivation and a tendency to fall off the wagon into a pile of cake.

‘Another less obvious mistake is opting for healthier foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, juices, rise, pasta, potatoes, bread, oily foods and high carbohydrate vegetables, which are nevertheless very high in calories,’ said Anne. ‘And people often forget to count the calories they’re consuming in alcohol, which can quickly add up when you consider there are 560 in a bottle of wine and 230 in a pint.’

So, if we’re really serious about losing weight, where should we start? According to Dr Mark Palmer, medical director of Alizonne, you shouldn’t start at all until you have an accurate measurement of your resting metabolic rate. This is your weight in kilos multiplied by 21.6 for women and 24 for men.

‘You can then reduce your daily calorie intake by 300-600 below this basic rate,’ he explained. ‘The best way is by reducing your carbohydrates and fats while maintaining a frequent protein intake via lean meat, chicken and fish.

‘This will prevent loss of muscle mass and will inhibit low blood sugar levels by stimulating production of glucose from proteins.’

Throw in a bit of exercise and you should steadily lose weight. But what happens when you reach your goal? Is it back to fish suppers and buckets of ice cream?

‘Don’t stop abruptly,’ said Dr Palmer. ‘If you wean yourself off your diet gradually over about four weeks you shouldn’t suffer rebound weight gain.’

Once you’re off your diet, recalculate your new resting metabolic rate using your new lower weight and use this as your maximum daily calorie intake to ensure you don’t regain everything you’ve lost.

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