OK – let’s be frank. Losing weight is hard. And anyone who has been on the dieting yo-yo journey will be able to confirm this fact.
Additionally, with increasing numbers of Australians in the overweight or obese category, dieting is a battle that many of us are facing daily.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2011-12, more than 2.3 million Australians (13%) aged 15 years and over reported that they were on a diet to lose weight or for some other health reason. This included 15% of females and 11% of males.
And for those of us in the (ahem) older age bracket, it only gets harder – and more common. Being on a diet was most prevalent among 51-70 year olds where 19% of females and 15% of males were on some kind of diet.
So, how do you separate the fad (and ultimately unsuccessful) diets from those you should follow? The sad truth is that if a diet is promising a simple and magic solution, it probably won’t work. The best and most successful diets will talk about long-term health benefits and lifestyle changes. Unglamorous? Yes, but necessary.
However, glamour hasn’t totally left the equation. Enter the rather attractive British TV personality Dr Xand Van Tulleken. His book, How to Lose Weight Well is exactly the sort of diet book we all need.
Dr Xand has had some personal experience with weight loss. He slimmed down from 121kg to a healthy 82kg back in 2012, keeping it off ever since. He learnt a lot about fad diets along the way, which sets him apart from many other health professionals.
However, he also has the pieces of paper that prove he has the necessary professional knowledge. He studied medicine at Oxford and has a degree in public health from Harvard.
“The most important stage of losing weight and keeping it off is a commitment to change,” he says in his book.
“I don’t mean changing your weight, I mean changing the things in your life that have made you gain weight.”
His book has the friendly tone of his TV shows – which are presented with his identical twin brother, Dr Chris van Tulleken. In Australia the brothers are featured regularly on Foxtel’s LifeStyle YOU channel.
Dr Xand lists what he sees as the four steps to losing weight well.
Step 1 is to identify and eliminate your enemies. He says this is all about finding the people and companies that are “devoted to making you eat more”. He has a set of rules to help dieters avoid temptation, including the obvious (“don’t eat junk food”) to “buy food that has one ingredient”.
Step 2 is to prepare to eat well. Dr Xand looks at solutions such as getting your pantry ready, getting your workplace ready – and then breaks these concepts down into easy, practical ideas that won’t intimidate the diet-shy. We love the idea of just getting a large serving bowl for your greens. As he says, “you can’t get enough greens if you can’t serve them”.
Step 3 is the very simple idea of eating well. Here he tackles what should be on your plate (vegetables, protein, fat and carbs – and how much of each). He also looks at the sadly often neglected idea of how to make your food taste nice. And this is where he gets even more practical with meal plans and recipes that you can easily cook yourself.
Step 4 is the idea of living well, where he tackles the concept of exercise. “If you’re losing weight, I don’t want you to lose muscle: I want you to lose fat,” he says. He even devotes a section to tidying up – yes, actually tidying your house. “It is extremely difficult to feel happy amid clutter and dirt and disorganisation and feeling happy is important to losing weight,” he points out.
Simplistic? A little. Practical? Yes. If you don’t know where to start, we suggest beginning with the recipes we have extracted from the book here and make some practical changes to your life. And perhaps a quick tidy?
Have you been struggling to lose weight? Share your experiences below.
(Photographer: © Louise Hagger and Colin Bell)