Forget about diets, mindful eating is the most powerful weight-loss tool we have

Forget about diets, mindful eating is the most powerful weight-loss tool we have

This week was my first week back to work after our first holiday as a family of five. The reality of it though is that it is really just moving the chaos to a sunnier climate rather than what a holiday of old entailed.

In the past, I have always enjoyed the airport and travelling, but this time it was another story. We were that family on the plane that everyone dreaded having close to them as our three-year-old and one-year-old struggled to understand why they were confined to such a small space.

When the pilot reported we had made up time and were landing 30 minutes earlier, I think the whole plane breathed a collective sigh of relief. We hurried off the plane a little red-faced.

Despite the slightly stressful beginning, it was worth it as some great memories were made with college friends and their families in beautiful Canada.

While on holidays my friends had two questions for me:

1. Is intermittent fasting a good approach to losing weight?


2.Should I try keto (ketogenic diet) to get rid of those last few pounds?

I have been bombarded with these two particular questions everywhere I go recently so let’s look at what they are and if you should consider this approach when trying to drop the baby weight.

If you have read any of my previous columns you will know that I am not a diet person — in fact, anything that appears to be a diet makes me want to run a mile. In my view, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet are just another round of fad diets that forces people into diet mentality. In particular, I think this can be damaging for a new mother when the focus needs to be on recovery and replacing her body with nutrients lost during pregnancy and childbirth. However, that being said, I’m always eager to look at what the research says about these types of eating approaches.

Forget about diets, mindful eating is the most powerful weight-loss tool we have

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and extremely low-carbohydrate diet. It was first introduced into medical practice in the 1920s to treat children with metabolic and seizure disorders. In fact, when I trained to be a dietitian it was something we used regularly within the paediatric population.

The diet restricts carbohydrates, which forces the body to use dietary and body fat as its energy source rather than carbohydrate (glucose). The transition from using a mix of glucose and fat for fuel to using primary fat leads to a build-up of ketones in the body, a process known as nutritional ketosis.

The ketogenic diet appears to be effective in the short term. However, when we look at research beyond 12 months the evidence is not so convincing.

A meta-analysis from the British Journal of Nutrition in 2013 looked at 13 studies which included 1,577 individuals randomised between ketogenic and low-fat diets. It demonstrated that there was a significantly greater weight loss while following the ketogenic diet, but this was just 0.91kg.

Considering the amount of effort required to achieve ketosis — this amount of weight loss is not worth it

For new mothers, I think this is a damaging approach as high-fibre carbohydrates have so much nourishment to offer in the recovery phase. Also, with this diet, there is the potential negative impact of milk production for breastfeeding mothers.

Intermittent fasting is another buzzword in the world of weight loss. It refers to various eating regimens that involve differing periods of fasting over a 24-hour period. While some research demonstrates positive weight- loss results there are some considerations if thinking about this approach.

It’s important to be aware that long fasts can lead to irritability, and this can instil an all-or-nothing approach to eating which is not beneficial for longterm wellness. And for new mothers, restricting eating times can impact negatively on already low energy levels.

A good way to test the waters can be to have an overnight fast from 8pm to 8am, for example — however again with the unpredictability of newborns this can be challenging.

Keep in mind that virtually all diets cut out a food group to create a calorie deficit for weight loss. There is no magic bullet. In my book, mindful eating is the the most powerful tool we have when it comes to eating and wellness.

It’s something that I work towards — I might not achieve it always and it was more of a challenge while on holidays. But I’m happy to report that my exercise regimen continued while abroad — a first for me. And gave me a reason to stock up on some new workout clothes. Any excuse.

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