Here it is, the secret to weight loss

February 4, 2022

Mindful Eating dietitian Philippa Bredenkamp breaks down a few core truths about reaching a weight you’re happy with.

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, weight loss still ranks as the number one resolution people make at the start of a new year. We are one month into 2022 and if you’re finding that your diet goals are not going according to plan, we’re here to correct some misconceptions that might be derailing your progress.

Philippa Bredenkamp, dietitian from Mindful Eating who consults at Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital shares five core truths about weight management. Bookmark this article so you can easily refer to it when you need to.

1. Mental wellness plays a major role in sticking to a healthy diet

There is a definite connection between food and mental wellness. If you are wanting to partner with a dietitian to sustainably reach your weight goal, pair up with someone who grasps the relationship between what you put into your mind and your mouth. “In lockdown, a majority of my patients presented with food-related symptoms linked to an emotional cause of some sort.” Philippa says the reason why many people fall off a diet plan is because of an underlying untreated emotional link to food and their feelings. “I would say if you’re willing to reach your weight goals for 2022, book in a session with a therapist as well. Try to understand your emotional relationship to food and then work with a dietitian to get yourself to your vision of success.”

2. The emotional stomach

“The concept of our emotional stomach is a complex one in that food gets intertwined with emotions when we are very young. As children, we are comforted by food and we are rewarded with food. In times of celebration, food plays a central theme of the event and so we make associations between food and feelings that we’re searching for in the natural presence of those feelings.” Philippa says all adults must embark on a journey of unlearning and relearning about food and its function in our lives so that we rebuild a relationship with food that serves us.

3. Food is fuel. Nothing more, nothing less.

The third core truth surrounding weight management is found within the understanding of what the function of food is. Philippa’s simple answer is that food is a fuel delivering nutrients, vitamins and energy to help us survive. “Amongst our emotional eaters, we practice getting to the cause of what has moved food off the platform of fuel and into the realms of emotional pain relief. In our non-emotional eaters, we identify what has caused the increase in food intake or the deviation of healthy food choices. Is it a change in lifestyle? Is the patient constantly time constrained? Is the patient a victim of clever marketing promising fast results?” She says discovering the motivation behind our eating style is key in modifying how we interact with food.

“Often we find that patients who eat well and report not being able to lose weight have a hormonal imbalance or physiological issue that needs to be addressed.” She says blood tests and screenings from an Endocrinologist will help determine what course of diet-action a patient should take. “For example, a patient sits down with me and describes all the steps they have taken to lose weight with no results. That’s a huge red flag for me because the patient doesn’t realise that their body is working against the effort they are putting in. When I order blood tests, we discover the patient has PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or insulin resistance and that’s the reason they can’t manage their weight. “Starving yourself is not going to accomplish anything if you have PCOS. Your body will simply not give up the stored fats because of the hormonal imbalance,” adds Philippa. “This is why we rely on hormone analysis and blood tests and a meal plan that will help you achieve your goals.”

4. The 80/20 rule

The fourth and final core truth Philippa teaches is about removing perfect adherence from our diet vocabulary. “Perfection is a leading reason for why diets fail. If a patient has the expectation that they have to stick to a diet without any deviation in order to succeed, they are setting themselves up for failure.” Philippa says the patient may succeed for a time, but, life with throw the unexpected at them (like a wedding reception with delicious food) and that 100% perfect diet will be at threat. “Aim to achieve an 80% compliance on your diet. Realistically accept that 20% of the time, you’re going to want variation and this is part of your humanness.” She says accepting a flexible approach to a diet removes negative emotions (like guilt) which will likely derail your diet completely.

Philippa says a good meal plan is one that does not look very different from what a patient eats normally. This is what makes changing diet choices more approachable. “Barring a medical reason requiring drastic action, a regular meal plan should ease in food change.” She says the role of taking the overall goal and breaking it up into smaller goals is a smarter way to approach weight loss. “If you want to be at 65 kgs, set the intention and then establish a plan for losing just the first kilogram.”

“The role of a dietitian is to establish a healthy connection between you and the goals you want to achieve. We do that by guiding you through your sustenance and introducing foods you might never have heard about that you might absolutely love.”

Philippa Bredenkamp
Mindful Eating dietitian
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