The sheer amount of food available 24/7 is leading Aussies to yearn for food, but the latest clinical trials from Weight Watchers reveal cravings could be significantly reduced by adopting of a holistic lifestyle approach.
With the smorgasbord of unhealthy food options available to us 24/7, previous Weight Watchers research shows that more than half of the Aussie population have tried a quick-fix diet and are failing to reach their goals due to snacking when bored (43 per cent), cravings (38 per cent) and mindless eating when stressed (33 per cent).
The price of eating healthy is another reason many (20 per cent) Aussies say they have not been able to reach their desired health goals, and the sheer amount of health and diet information has over half the nation (65 per cent) confused about what to eat.
In answer to this ongoing societal issue, the newly refreshed WW Your Way Program is a lifestyle, not a diet, and a six-month clinical trial of the program* reveals 78 per cent of participants who followed the SmartPoints™ Plan had significant reductions in cravings for many foods, including sweets, high-fat foods, and fast food fats.
The majority of people (80 per cent) agreed that compared to trying to lose weight on their own, the SmartPoints™ Plan helped guide them towards healthier choices, and more than half (53 per cent) felt more successful on the program than trying to lose weight on their own.
Chief Scientific Officer of Weight Watchers, Gary Foster says:
'The results of this trial provide strong evidence that the SmartPoints™ Plan is not only effective for clinically significant weight loss, but also for critical measures of overall quality of life, which consumers are increasingly searching for in weight management programs."
'Independent evaluations of the effectiveness of our program and others are critical to help consumers and health practitioners choose a scientifically-based, evidence-proven approach to a healthier lifestyle."
Additional results from the six month clinical trials* show:
Improved sleep quality and energy: more than half (56 per cent) of those who tried the SmartPoints™
Plan reported feeling more energetic than before they started;
Improved fitness and flexibility: during a six-minute walk test, participants on average walked 5 per cent further and faster, and increased the distance they could stretch by 15 per cent as measured by the YMCA Sit and Reach test, compared to when they began the program;
Decrease in waist circumference and weight: Participants decreased their waist circumference by an average of 2 per cent, and almost a third of the participants (31 per cent) had a weight loss of 5 per cent or more - an amount considered to have a significant impact on health parameters.
SmartPoints™ is a part of the new WW Your Way Program, a holistic approach to a healthier, happier life that encompasses the evolving needs, mindsets and science around weight management. The program was introduced in December 2015.
For further information on the new WW Your Way 2016 Program, visit: www.weightwatchers.com/au
Question: Can you share with us your healthy winter snacking tips?
Emma Stirling: With weight gain commonly around 3kg, or 1kg per month, in the core cold months, now is the time to commit, shake up your routine and take action. You'll need to compensate for the shorter, less active days and a little comfort food, hibernation time. Soups are a smart strategy in winter as a snack or pre-meal starter. Research by Dr Barbara Rolls shows eating a healthy soup before a main meal helps to lower the total kilojoule intake at that meal by an average of 400 kilojoules. Go for vegetable based soups with added legumes for dietary fibre to help feel fuller for longer. Weight Watchers promotes zero SmartPoints vegetable based soups with the delicious recipe database. SmartPoints™ is a part of the new WW Your Way Program, a holistic approach to a healthier, happier life that encompasses the evolving needs, mindsets and science around weight management. The program was introduced in December 2015.
Question: What types of food should we be consuming more of through the colder months?
Emma Stirling: Winter months bring more colds and flu, so it's time to tweak your healthy patterns and seek as many ways as possible to boost your immunity. Ultimately we know that a balanced eating plan, regular activity, low stress levels and a good night's sleep are the best strategies. On that note, results from the Weight Watchers six month clinical trials found more than half (56 per cent) of those who tried the SmartPoints™ Plan reported feeling more energetic than before they started, and participants classified as 'poor sleepers" decreased from 48.6% at baseline to 43.8% at six months;
Iron is essential for the production of haemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen around the body and most people appreciate that low iron levels can cause fighting fatigue. But the list of symptoms also includes poor concentration, irritability and oh yes, lowered immunity and frequent infections.
Lean read meat, and to a lesser extent poultry and fish, remains the most readily absorbable source of iron. Also go for iron fortified breakfast cereal, and other plant based sources like legumes, tofu and wholegrains.
Research shows probiotics may help strengthen your gut defence, boost immunity and minimise risk of pathogens and nasties getting in. They are also vital to help restore good bacteria in your gut after a course of antibiotics.
Probiotic yoghurts and drinks are a nutritious and easy choice, but you can also get a boost of friendly bacteria from kefir (a type of milk), kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), sauerkraut and other types of fermented foods that are trending now.
Many say vitamin C spells immunity, but the research around popping supplements and reducing the severity of the common cold is not that convincing. The best bet approach is to go for more whole foods rich in vitamin C to help ward off winter. Oranges may be the go to guy, but many other citrus varieties like tangelos, limes, mandarins and grapefruit are ripe and ready in the colder months.
A major role of vitamin D is to assist calcium absorption from the foods you eat and build strong, healthy bones. However vitamin D also boosts immunity, and plays a positive role in cardiovascular health, insulin responsiveness and diabetes. Regular, indirect sun exposure remains the best way to get your vitamin D but in winter you can also boost your intake through dietary sources. Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna, eggs, fortified foods like margarines and milks, plus red meat. Wild mushrooms and varieties pulsed with UV light are an excellent source.
Question: How does snacking mean we fail to reach weight loss goals?
Emma Stirling: Mid meal snacking can help maintain optimal blood glucose and insulin levels, plus boost your essential nutrient intakes, energy levels, mood and concentration. Some people swear by five to six mini-meals or a grazing pattern of eating, but there is no conclusive evidence to show that this gives a metabolism or weight loss advantage. And for many people, snacking on autopilot can easily sabotage weight loss efforts.
The key is to let hunger be your true guide. If you've enjoyed a satisfying, healthy breakfast of low GI oats, cinnamon and apple, you may not need more mid-morning fuel. So, when everyone else is reaching for the biscuit barrel, stop and really assess your hunger levels. But if you're heading to the gym after work and delaying dinner, you'd be mad not to include a healthy afternoon snack to avoid ravenous hunger and overeating later on, plus help fuel your fitness.
Question: What can cravings mean and do they ever disappear?
Emma Stirling: Nutrition scientists have long been intrigued with our food cravings, especially for sweet treats. Research shows complex links and theories from blood sugar slumps, nutrition and hormone imbalances, desire for mood self-medicators, hedonic or -hunger in your mind' and even that time of the month for women. We may not have the ultimate answer just yet, but we do have ample evidence of what works to combat cravings. Keep trigger foods out of sight, satisfy hunger, plan ahead for meals and snacks, use non-food ways to boost your mood, plus seek out smart switches that save kilojoules or boost nutrients when a craving calls.
Question: And, how can we deal with mindlessly or stress eating?
Emma Stirling: Mindless eating can be broken down into three key areas – eating too quickly, eating when not hungry or passed the point of fullness and failing to take care with the quality of food before you. Most of us have experienced eating lunch at our desk, (dropping crumbs in the keyboard) when there's a tight deadline or urgent task and ravenous hunger calls. But you may be surprised when you analyse how few meals or snacks you are truly in touch with and the negative impact this has on your eating patterns and weight gain.
Getting in touch with your hunger and eating satisfaction or satiety levels and learning to listen to your body signals is vitally important. When you're able to stop and assess whether you're experiencing true hunger or perhaps eating for comfort or simply out of habit, you're more likely to take control and make the right decisions about when and what to eat.
In one study Weight Watchers Members were asked to rate how hungry or how full they were at two hour intervals throughout the day. After six weeks participants had mastered the art of staying in the Satisfaction Zone. They were eating to a level of appetite satisfaction, feeling 'just right" or even still a 'bit hungry", not uncomfortable or stuffed, while successfully losing weight.
Question: Is healthy eating more expensive?
Emma Stirling: Healthy food, like fruit and vegetables, is often perceived as being expensive, when in fact the opposite is often true. When you look at a price per weight or on a per kilogram comparisons it's easy to see that fresh produce and whole, natural foods are often cheaper than many processed counterparts. For example, 150g of potato crisps comes in around $2.99, whereas 150g of potatoes are only 0.25 cents. Just say you're looking for something to go with dip? Savoury crackers are on average $10.00 per kilogram, whereas celery, red capsicum and carrot sticks are only $3.00 per kilogram.
Question: How can we eat healthily when on a budget?
Emma Stirling: There are so many ways to shop smart on a budget. Start with a fortnightly menu plan for the whole family, and prepare a detailed list that you can print and take to the supermarket, local shops, farmers markets and more. Keep a seasonal guide to fresh produce handy and when in surplus, freeze your own berries for the colder months. Keep an eye out for bargains and long life nutritious staples like canned legumes, wholegrain pasta and rice and allow these as your extra -impulse' purchases. It's great to have a little flexibility in your menu for red light specials especially at the butcher or deli, just be careful not to take any risks with food safety. As the meat, chicken or fish portion of a dish is often the most expensive ingredient, it pays to learn from past Depression times and ration your family's meat serves. You can easily makeover a favourite recipe and save by cutting the meat quantity in half and substituting with legumes like lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans. You'll also be helping your waistline by lowering the fat content and boosting the hunger busting dietary fibre counts.
Question: Why do quick-fix diets not work?
Emma Stirling: Fad diets fail as they tend to be difficult to stick to in the long term and are based around deprivation. Many are difficult to decipher and come with a complex food rules that are not achievable for modern living. With the smorgasbord of unhealthy food options available to us 24/7, previous Weight Watchers research shows that more than half of the Aussie population have tried a quick-fix diet and are failing to reach their goals due to snacking when bored (43 per cent), cravings (38 per cent) and mindless eating when stressed (33 per cent)**.
Weight Watchers' Your Way program is a holistic approach to a healthier, happier life that encompasses the evolving needs, mindsets and science around weight management
Question: What do you like about the Weight Watchers program?
Emma Stirling: Weight Watchers is the leading scientifically backed commercial weight loss program and invests in clinical trials and research. The comprehensive program can be tailored to individuals and the tools, plus supportive environment are key to successful behaviour change.
Question: How does the Weight Watchers program work?
Emma Stirling: Weight Watcher is a holistic approach that allows you to tackle food, fitness and feeling your own, personalised way – it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle.
Interview by Brooke Hunter