Fitness & Weight

Why do we gain weight?

The amount of body fat people carry is due to the balance between the calories eaten and the calories burnt up in every day activity. When more calories are eaten than used up each day they are stored in the body as fat. The secret to weight loss is to get the balance between food intake and activity just right.

Common problems that cause weight gain

  • Skipping Meals
    • Skipping meals leads to over-eating at other times.
  • Hidden fats and sugar
    • These are found in foods such as fatty meats (sausage and luncheon meats,  high fat dairy foods, fried foods, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, chips, and takeaway foods.
  • Adding extra calories: dressings and garnishes can add calories:
    • sour cream or butter on potatoes
    • spreading thick butter or margarine on bread
    • mayonnaise dressing on salads
    • cream on desserts
  • Too much alcohol
    • One standard alcoholic drink contains 70 calories (290 kilojoules) from the alcohol. By adding soft drink mixers, more calories are added. If large or even moderate amounts of alcohol are consumed, this will lead to weight gain.
  • Large serving portions
    • A meal portion that is too big for energy needs = weight gain (even if eating the right balance of foods). Particularly watch the serving portion of meats and dairy products.
  • Snacking or grazing
    • Snacking (eating small amounts throughout the day rather than three big meals) can be a useful way of losing weight, but snacking on foods high in fat and sugar will quickly lead to weight gain.
  • Inadequate exercise
    • Physical activity is one of the best ways of burning up the calories in food. Inadequate exercise leads to excess calories being stored as body fat which leads to weight gain.

Tips for successful weight loss

  • To lose body fat:
    • eat less calories - especially from fatty and sugary foods
    • choose from a variety of nutritious foods following healthy eating guidelines
    • become more physically active
  • Forget the word diet
    • Quick weight loss and sudden highly restrictive diets have little hope of success. They leave the person tired, hungry and frustrated.
  • Permanent Changes -- Make some permanent changes to:
    • food choices and cooking style
    • eating habits
    • exercise levels

Changing food choices and cooking style

  • Eat less fat
    • Trim fat from meat, remove skin from chicken
    • Choose smaller portions of meat and chicken
    • Include fish twice a week
    • Avoid fried and deep fried foods
    • Cook without fat - grill, bake, steam, microwave or dry fry
    • Choose low fat dairy foods
    • Save high fat foods (chips, chocolates) for special occasions only
  • Eat more foods high in starch and fiber
    • Start with fruits and vegetables as a good base to meals
  • Included dried peas and beans - baked beans, kidney beans, lentils split peas
  • Choose wholemeal and wholegrain foods
  • Cut down hidden fat and sugars
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, bread or low fat yoghurt as a snack
  • Drink water to quench the thirst
  • Limit soft drinks, fruit juices and alcohol
  • Check food labels to compare fat and sugar content

Changing eating habits

  • Take time over your meals. Sit down and enjoy them.
  • Eat meals at regular intervals to avoid getting hungry.
  • Chew food thoroughly. Put the knife and fork down while chewing.
  • Don’t be tempted by morsels lying around after the meal. Scrape plates straight into the garbage bin. Put food straight away after the meal.
  • Look for ways of reducing calories in recipes, e.g. less sugar and fat.
  • Avoid having unsuitable foods such as candy biscuits and cakes in the house (to remove temptation).
  • Do the shopping after meals, not before and stick to the shopping list.
  • Plan ahead - do a menu for a few days.
** When changing eating patterns and habits, make changes one at a time.

Changing exercise levels

Aim for minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, for example, walking, swimming or cycling 3-4 times a week. This will help with losing weight.

Putting healthy eating tips into practice

  • Reading food labels
    • Deciding on which foods are best in the supermarket is difficult. There is a lot of information on the labels and it is hard to know what is important.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity. The first ingredient listed will be the greatest amount in the product. Beware of hidden fat in food products. The following ingredients indicate the presence of fat.
    • animal fat / oil
    • vegetable fat / oil
    • shortening, lard
    • milk solids
    • palm oil or coconut oil
  • Beware of foods that are toasted, oven baked or creamed as these can be high in fat.
  • Cooking
    • Try to prepare foods without adding extra fat
    • Avoid frying and deep frying
    • Use cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, dry fry, roasting on a rack, BBQ or microwave instead
    • Base meals on vegetables, breads, cereals, grains, and fruit. Then add protein e.g. meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, tofu, nuts, egg whites to this
    • Substitute high fat foods such as cream, sour cream, cheese, butter and mayonnaise with lower fat alternatives. These may include skim milk, low fat yoghurt and low fat cheeses

Eating away from home

To choose food that is lower in fat, think about their ingredients and method of cooking.
  • Recommended choices
    • Dishes based on lean meats, chicken or seafood.
    • Vegetables, rice, pastas or breads.
    • Dishes that are grilled, char-grilled, roasted, braised, stir-fried or steamed.
  • Avoid food
    • Creamy sauces or heavy dressing (ask for them on the side)
    • Fried or deep fried foods.
    • Menu choices that hide fat include saute', pan-fried, crumbed, cream, mornay, butter sauce, pastry, or grilled with cheese.
This information was taken from Promoting Heart Health: "An educational Resource Manual for Rural and Remote Health Workers", Queensland Health Department, Queensland University of Technology and the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
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