Dietitian Dr Catherine Lombard has some advice for Australian women when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight; measure, monitor and motivate.
Dr Lombard is the Director of Healthy Lifestyle at the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health and is a respected authority on weight gain prevention research. She believes that the steps to weight control are actually much simpler than most of us realise.
Measure: "A lot of women tell me they stopped weighing themselves years ago," says Dr Lombard. "This is fine as long as you have some other way to measure your weight changes." So whether it be a tape measure, a favourite pair of jeans or the bathroom scales, it's important to know roughly what size you are normally, so that you can notice small changes to your weight.
Monitor: "A big piece of advice I give women is to keep a written record of your health habits," says Dr Lombard. If you're aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day, buy a pedometer and write your total down at the end of each day to track your progress. The same goes for healthy eating. If your goal is to eat two fruit and five vegies every day, tally your intake in a food diary so you can see the improvements over time. This reinforces the behaviour and helps keeps you on track.
Motivate: Motivation can make or break our attempts to maintain a healthy weight. According to Dr Lombard, this is where our friends and social networks are most valuable. "When women support each other, they tend to be much more successful in achieving their goals." Dr Lombard recommends women make a date with their friends to walk the dogs or take the kids to the park, anything that gets them up and moving.
Dr Lombard believes that making small, realistic changes is the real key to the weight puzzle. "Women often have an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to their weight," says Dr Lombard. "They embark on stringent diets that last for a week or maybe just a few days, and then give up because it's too difficult or the diet doesn't fit in with their lifestyle."
A study by Dr Lombard's team at the Jean Hailes Foundation found that younger women were gaining an average 650g a year, without really noticing it. In a decade, this becomes 6-7kg and may mean that the woman is above her healthy weight. "But if she made some very small lifestyle changes, such as not eating that second biscuit with her morning cuppa, or walking an extra 10-15 minutes a day, that slight increase could be prevented," notes Dr Lombard.
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health
Tollfree number 1800 151 441 for women seeking further health information www.JeanHailes.org.au