Be sensible, be realistic with weight loss goals

It’s New Years resolution time and one of the most commonly uttered pledges is to trim that waistline.

Amanda Mitchell

It’s New Years resolution time and one of the most commonly uttered pledges is to trim that waistline. But are fad diets, expensive fitness machines and super-intense personal trainers part of the most effective solution? Critics note many of them are a waste of money, while some could actually pose a health or injury risk.

A local expert, Amanda Mitchell, a registered dietician who works at the Wetaskiwin Primary Care Network, said it’s not unusual to hear pledges of weight loss at this time of year. “A lot of them aren’t sustainable,” said Mitchell by phone Jan. 3.

She said that the requirements of most legitimate weight loss plans might not fit into a person’s life…without changes. Mitchell said things like Christmas season and social events involve lots of calories complicate weight loss plans even further.

The starting point, noted the dietician, is finding a weight loss plan that’s suitable for each person.

Where is a person supposed to start? Google searching “weight loss plan” on the internet doesn’t seem to help a lot, as many of the results are for fad diets, products sold by TV personalities or claims of “two-week rapid weight loss.”

Mitchell said probably the biggest issue with some diets or weight loss plans is that people are not able to sustain the plan. “They always promise a quick fix to the clients,” she said, noting someone writes a testimonial claiming to have lost 30 pounds in one month and those reading it feel the same thing will happen to them. Instead, those wishing to lose weight should be thinking of a change in their lifestyle and follow a lifelong plan, rather than do something different for a few months.

What is the key? “Moderation,” said Mitchell. “I think that’s the key to being sustainable. Everything in moderation.”

She noted something that is sustainable should include a weight loss of no more than one or two pounds per week. Mitchell stated if a person loses more than that, the body isn’t able to adjust to such a loss. One to two pounds a week though is something that the body can handle.

She also noted that a family physician or doctor can refer a person wanting to lose weight to a registered dietician, giving the expert a chance to listen to what the client has in mind. “It kind of depends on where the client is at,” she said. Mitchell said that a dietician can discuss weight loss with the client and also look at what resources are available in the community, including free community programs that were developed based on studies and facts.

One workshop developed by Alberta Health Services is Weight Wise, offered through the PCN. According to the PCN’s website, “Weight Wise has been put together by Alberta Health Services to help those seeking to achieve healthy weights for healthy lives. Classes are open to adults interested in learning effective and safe strategies to manage a healthy weight. Each class is 2.5 hours and takes place in a group environment. All classes are free, but registration is required (see sidebar).”

Mitchell said right now at the Wetaskiwin PCN it’s mostly one-on-one consultation but other programs and workshops have been available, including craving change, healthy lifestyle and Better Choices, Better Health workshops. The best way to get information is to call 1-877-314-6997 or go online (www.albertahealthservices.ca and look for Central Zone chronic disease management).

If clients would like one on one counselling with a Primary Care Network dietitian all they need to do is get a referral from their family doctor and they can be booked in.

Mitchell said she encourages those thinking about losing weight and making a lifestyle change to make that first important step.

“It’s always a great time to start,” she said. “And try to make small changes.”