Dieting Isn't The Answer To Your Winter Woes, Experts Say

Summer is coming up fast and as gyms begin to fill up, experts warn against starting a new diet.

Libby Saliba encounters the winter bodies when they first hit the gym, suddenly having realised it's the final final weeks of spring and hiding beneath over-sized jumpers is no longer an option.

"Psychologically when September hits, and they know winter is well and truly over, people start to panic," Saliba, a Sydney personal trainer, told ten daily.

"But what people don’t understand is weight takes a lot longer to get off than what it does to put it on."

There's just over a week until winter draws to a close, and after almost five years of coaching people through their weight-loss journeys, Saliba says exercise is the least of their worries -- it's all about nutrition.

Not only are people coming to her with unrealistic goals and time-frames for their summer bodies, they're undertaking diets that are both detrimental to their health and won't keep the weight off in the long run.

"A lot of emotions come into play when it comes to food, there's a lot of temptations and a lot of habits -- most of them are bad habits," she said.

Ditch The Diet, Change Your Habits

According to a recent study out of Bond University, changing these habits is actually key to not only losing weight, but ending the winter to summer body cycle once and for all.

A staggering 95 percent of weight loss attempts fail.  Researcher and dietitian Dr Gina Cleo told ten daily this due largely to the fact diets require a lot of self-control and are based on unsustainable "prescribed under-eating or restriction."

Researchers split 75 people who were overweight or obese into three groups. One group maintained their old weight loss ways, while the other two were either encouraged to break old habits or form new ones with small changes to lifestyle (like eating meals the same time every day). The third group continued on with no change.

Habits like taking a healthy snack with you to work are a part of keeping the weight off. Image: Getty

After the 12 weeks, participants in the habit changing groups had lost an average of 3.1kg, and most importantly, had lost a further 2.1kg each 12 months down the track.

"Normally in weight-loss studies we see what we call the Nike Swoosh, so people will lose weight and then as soon as that’s diet or program’s over they regain it with interest," Cleo said.

"But what we found is this inverted Nike Swoosh where people kept losing weight a year later and that was completely mind blowing, we didn’t expect that."

Extremely calorie-deficient diets don't just work only in the short term, but can be detrimental to your health. Image: Getty

Cleo and her fellow researchers put the success down to the conditioning of habits that don't rely on self-control to continue, including simple decisions like packing a healthy snack in the morning and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

"So with diets, people generally will do pretty well for a few days, but you’re just using up so much control to say 'no I can’t eat that' that eventually you just go, ‘stuff it I can’t do this anymore.'"

The team developed the Ten Top Tips program, outlined below, to lead people on their way to developing the right healthy habits. But Cleo says these are guidelines, and people should begin with small, subtle changes that are achievable for them.

Don't Look To Social Media

It's the age of digital influencers and Instagram models and as a result, it's easy to get caught up in the promises of the fad diets they often promote.

"Any diet with the most level of restriction is the most dangerous, or if a diet has huge promises, there is zero evidence and research that any diet works long-term," Cleo said.

Saliba echoed Cleo's warning of diets that put us in an "unnatural" state of under-eating, admitting that she herself has stopped posting post-workout snaps to Instagram for fear of misleading people.

"It's unrealistic," she says.

"First of all, these women have taken about 100 photos to get a good angle, they put a filter on it, and plus it’s their job to look good."

Ten tips to lose weight and keep it off
  1. Keep to your meal routine: Maintain consistent meal times whether your'e eating twice a day or five times a day.
  2. Go reduced fat: Enjoy small amounts of health fats from nuts, avocado and oily fish, instead of fast food and high-fat meats.
  3. Walk off the weight: Try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs, walk up escalators and get off one bus stop earlier - it all adds up.
  4. Pack a healthy snack: If you do snack, go for healthy options like fresh fruit or a small handful of nuts.
  5. Learn the labels: Checking food labels helps you pick healthier options that are lower in calories, fat and sugar and higher in fibre.
  6. Caution with your portions: Don’t overload your plate unless it’s with vegetables and think twice before going back for seconds.
  7. Up on your feet: Whether you’re at work or at home, try to stand for ten minutes every hour.
  8. Think about your drinks: Alcohol, juice, fizzy drinks and energy drinks can be high in sugar and calories, so stick with no more than one small glass a day.
  9. Focus on your food: Over-eating is all too easy while on the go or in front of the TV. Eating slowly is a surprisingly effective way to eat less.
  10. Don't forget your five a day: Having fruit or veggies at every meal makes it easier to get your five- a-day.