Ms. Reem Al Saadi, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Director of Dietetics and Nutrition is urging the public to avoid extreme diets and fad weight loss programs. She says the beginning of a new calendar year often coincides with individuals making unrealistic New Year’s resolutions related to weight loss, with many having negative health consequences.
“Making a resolution to start a weight loss program is a good idea and a great opportunity to lead a healthier and happier life, but it is important to set realistic goals. Weight loss can have significant health benefits for many individuals, but crash diets are not sustainable and can have dangerous mental and physical side effects,” says Ms. Al Saadi.
Ms. Al Saadi says around 20 percent of all patients seen at the Dietetics and Nutrition Department are referred after they have experienced difficulties due to extreme diets. She notes that the key to sustainable weight loss is combining healthy foods with keeping physically active. She recommends eating a variety of foods and being thoughtful about food choices.
“All macro-nutrients, including carbohydrates, protein and fat, are important for the body and must be consumed, but it is important to be mindful of portion size. For those trying to lose weight, limiting extra calories from refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and added fat is important,” says Ms. Al Saadi.
According to Ms. Al Saadi, there is no shortage of weight loss plans on the market today. She says each program works differently, and results vary from person to person. She says anyone who has an existing health condition should seek medical advice before making drastic changes to their diet or exercise routine.
“Low carbohydrate diets are popular and can provide good results. However, restrictive diets are not desirable long term and should only be practiced for a limited time, usually not longer than six months. Longer term, eating a balanced low-calorie diet is the key to weight loss and maintenance,” explains Ms. Al Saadi.
Ms. Al Saadi urges anyone who is considering a crash diet to focus on long-term, realistic goals. She says while many individuals will lose weight from extreme diets, the weight is typically quickly regained, and often along with additional weight gain.
“Crash diets shock the system and can result in rapid weight loss, but this weight loss is rarely sustainable. Most individuals who follow these diets lose weight rapidly because they drastically reduce their daily calorie intake and often restrict certain foods or even entire food groups. Long term these diets are not effective and they often result in the individual quickly regaining the weight. Ultimately they can have a negative impact on the body and mind,” said Ms. Al Saadi.
Ms. Al Saadi says it is helpful for people to change their way of thinking about weight loss, viewing it as a process and not expecting instant results.
“Weight loss should be viewed in the context of larger healthy lifestyle changes. For most people, weight gain happens over a period of time, often as a result of behavioral and lifestyle changes, and weight loss should be viewed in the same way. Breaking down weight loss goals into smaller milestones spread over a longer period of time will help with effective weight loss,” says Ms. Al Saadi.
While food choice is an important part of the equation, Ms. Al Saadi says exercise is also significant. For optimal results, she suggests combining healthy eating with moderate exercises like brisk walking, swimming, and dancing.
“Both diet and exercise are important for successful weight loss. Diet has a stronger effect on weight loss than physical activity does, but exercise plays a more significant role in preventing weight regain after weight loss,” says Ms. Al Saadi.
“Other essential components of any weight loss program are compliance and continuity. Overdoing anything, including exercise, is not good. Variety and setting realistic goals will help keep you motivated and prevent boredom,” Ms. Al Saadi.