If you’re one of the millions of Australians who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2019, then I’ve got some very good news for you.
While we all rush to give up fat, sugar, carbohydrates or alcohol in an effort to shift any extra festive-season cheer, it turns out we don’t have to give up anything at all. Better still, the real secret to losing weight is actually eating more, not less.
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That’s the word from leading obesity expert and best-selling author of Interval Weight Loss, Dr Nick Fuller, who points out there is no scientific evidence to suggest any fad diet actually works.
Instead, the trick is to eat more and to not exclude any particular food group.
“The biggest message from Interval Weight Loss is to not exclude food groups. You can eat anything and everything but it’s about focusing on foods that we know are not processed,” Dr Fuller says.
“There is no evidence to say we should be cutting out foods. The no fat, no sugar, no carbs movements, they’re not evidence-based diets. You can stick to them for short periods, but you won’t get long-term gain from them.
“The other message is this: it’s about eating more, not less. We’ve been led to believe that deprivation is the way but the body is far too smart for that and it will slow right down when you eat less. So eat plenty of food but choose ones that aren’t coming from a packet.”
While the idea of being able to eat whatever you want and still lose weight might sound like a late Christmas present, Dr Fuller says his method has plenty of scientific evidence behind it.
As the research program leader at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre — a facility which focuses on obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular health — he developed the Interval Weight Loss program after watching almost all of his patients struggle to stick to strict diets.
“We were seeing thousands of patients each year and it didn’t matter what weight loss program we put them on or what diet we put them on, people would always return back to where they started,” he says.
“We know people can lose weight, that’s the easy part. The hard part is preventing it from coming back on.
“We’ve been led to believe that it’s due to a lack of willpower but that’s not often the case. The body is very smart and it will protect itself as part of its fight or flight response every single time. And those biological protections are in place to ensure we do end up back at that starting point.
“But one of the wonderful things we found was that when you impose breaks along your journey, you prevent those biological protections from kicking into gear.
“So you follow a weight-loss month, then you impose a break or weight-maintenance month, then you follow another weight-loss month, and so on until you get to your goal weight.
“Sure, during the weight-loss months we need to focus on reducing the processed food, the takeaway food and dining out, but there is no reason to cut out any foods entirely.”
But there is one other important message Dr Fuller would like you to carry with you on your weight-loss journey and that is to switch off the Instagram experts and ensure you’re getting your health information from credible sources.
“The thing is, 99 per cent of the information that we’re reading, we’re getting from the internet or social media and we’re buying into these people that often don’t know anything about health or the complexities of the obesity disease,” he says.
“We want to believe these magic-bullet solutions, where we need to be setting ourselves up for long-term success instead.”
The impacts of a sleepless night are far greater than a bleary-eyed morning with Dr Fuller saying not getting enough sleep is a major cause of his patients slipping back into their old eating and lifestyle habits.
Happily, though, there are a couple of easy fixes for those fitful nights.
“Sleep is one of the biggest and most important aspects of our lives. If you don’t get good sleep, you wake up feeling tired and you find yourself going back to those bad habits and behaviours you’ve been doing for decades,” Dr Fuller says.
“The most obvious thing is exercise. We know that it improves sleep quality so you need to fit it in every day. And the second thing is to limit technology. We say no blue lights after twilight. When you go to sleep, don’t go anywhere near technology.”
Break the pattern
Just like quitting smoking or alcohol, losing weight is often about recognising the moments that are associated with unhealthy eating so you can break those patterns.
Dr Fuller calls them your “weak hours” and promises you can easily retrain your brain to focus on something other than food during them.
“You have to be committed to change, and you can actually change the wiring of the brain,” he says.
“We can retrain the brain to stay clear of processed and packaged foods by keeping ourselves distracted with good behaviours or good activities.
“So when you get home from work and you sit down in front of the TV, you need to find something constructive to do that will keep you occupied in an environment that you usually associate with eating.”
1. What’s your favourite healthy food?
I’m a sucker for fruit. That’s my sweet treat. It’s great for us, and it triggers the same responses in the brain as all those other addictive foods.
2. What’s your favourite indulgent food?
It’s got to be pizza. I love Italian cuisine and I could sit down and eat pizza three times a day.
3. What’s your favourite training music?
I love a bit of high-intensity training. Getting out into the grass and doing some barefoot sprints.
4. What’s your favourite motivation tip?
If you can find buddies to train with, and you love being around them, then you’re going to enjoy the activity and stick to it.
5. What’s your favourite sleep tip?
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of leading a healthy lifestyle. Don’t switch on technology once you’ve gone to bed. Remember, no blue light after twilight.
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Like this? This is how one woman lost 64kg without fad-dieting. Plus, this is how many carbs you can eat and still lose weight.