June 6

Registered Dietitian, Kelly Francis, busts 7 myths about diet and obesity – All 4 Women


Obesity is fast becoming the other ‘new normal’ in South Africa. With increased risks of disease illness and reduced quality of life, many people are working to avoid obesity and live healthier lives. 

In our quest of health, we’ve all come across some dicey information. Registered Dietitian and ADSA Spokesperson, Kelly Francis, sets us straight by busting 7 myths about obesity and nutrition.

Myth: I’ve stretched my stomach by overeating. I need to continue to eat more to stay full.

Fact: A big appetite is best managed by including a combination of at least two or three satiety promoting, nutrient-dense foods in all meals and snacks. These foods include any fibre rich foods, lean protein sources and vegetables.

Fibre containing foods take longer to digest than highly refined foods which result in a sustained feeling of fullness. This nutrient, that is not in fact digested and absorbed into the bloodstream but rather plays its many roles within the digestive system, is also very effective in promoting stable blood glucose levels which in turn improves insulin levels. All of these positive effects help to curb the appetite between meals, reducing the need for unnecessary additional snacking or large portions of energy-dense foods.

Related: Want to lose weight? Make sure you’re getting enough fibre-here’s how

Myth: Everyone in my family is obese. We love food it’s just how we are.

Fact: The best approach to breaking away from learned habits that are harmful to health is to focus on creating new healthy habits rather than just trying to quit everything familiar to you regarding food habits. Soon the healthy habits will crowd out the less healthy habits and the risks they pose will reduce.

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Related: Study : being born via c-section does not increase your child’s chances of becoming obese 

Myth: I only eat clean. I can’t become obese

Fact: Unfortunately you can. We can eat too much healthy food. Energy-dense healthy foods including fruit, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butter, cooking oil (regardless of the type) are easily consumed in excess while one feels they are eating well. If this excess energy is not utilised, fat storage will occur. Many products are sold as healthy snacks which are energy-dense, some even containing a fair amount of added sugar. Reliance on such conveniences or the perception that these products are healthy can be a sabotaging to other efforts being made to eat well. Portion control of energy-dense foods regardless of their nutrient density is advised for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance.

A sedentary lifestyle or some medical conditions are also factors that could make healthy weight maintenance a challenge despite a healthy dietary intake.

weight loss
Photo by Trang Doan from Pexels

Myth: I can piece together parts of different diets that I like and lose weight

Fact: People often take only what they like or can manage from weight loss advice they source from the internet, social media or family and friends. This can be counterproductive from the get-go. With so much information and many different ‘diets’ out there, people often draw from more than one list of recommendations. This can lead to the adoption of contradictory food practices. The best example of this is the person who switches from low fat to full cream milk because ‘high fat healthier’, but they continue to consume the highly refined carbohydrates that the high fat is supposed to replace.

The biggest mistake people can make, however, is to believe that there is just one food or one single practice that can lead to weight loss. This is not, nor will it ever be, true

Myth: I can do detox diets and fast to fast track weight loss

Fact: Detox diets or fasting diets are neither necessary nor practical. The body has a very intricately designed detox system of its own and the best way to support it is by upping ones nutrient intake, and not restricting it to fewer meals or limited food sources.

When assessing habitual dietary intakes, there are often changes necessary to improve the nutrient quality of the diet. Making these changes to the diet is the most effective method for improving the efficiency of major organ systems and reducing obesity.

Myth: I am obese. It’s too late to try and lose weight

Fact: Weight reduction is best achieved with the consistent consumption of nutrient-dense meals and snacks, limiting energy-laden foods high in sugar, saturated fat or salt to only 20% of total food intake. Meeting the daily fibre requirement of 25 – 30 g with whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit is an excellent start. Adding moderate amounts of lean animal protein and plant fats to these foods will result in a nutritionally complete meal.

To sum it up, the Mediterranean way of eating is a wonderfully practical, sustainable, cost-effective and nutrient-dense way of eating without severe restriction or repetition.

Myth: After a certain age or having children it’s normal to become obese

In addition to meeting nutrient requirements through a colourful, fibre-rich diet, the key to prevent obesity is to limit added sugar, highly refined carbohydrates such as any food product made with white flour, saturated fats, fried foods and foods that taste very salty. When it comes to beverages, limit any energy-containing options to a very occasional intake. It is also a very good practice to cook most meals at home, avoiding fast foods and ready-made meals as far as possible. Finally, when having a food that is devoid of nutrients, practice portion caution.

Related:Nearly 6% of cancers caused by diabetes and obesity

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As COVID-19 has spread across the world, we have seen dietitians at the front-lines of the health response supervising life-sustaining nutrition in hospitals and care homes. Many have also been working remotely, helping patients manage their health and nutrition under lockdown. Those in public health have been contributing their expertise to emergency food relief efforts as South Africa faces a sharp crisis in food security. 1-5 June is world dietitians week.


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

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