Government guidelines on healthy eating

Article Feb 6, 2013

Research suggests Government guidelines for weight loss may be flawed – so what’s the best way to shed unwanted pounds?

Traditional weight-loss advice has always advocated the steady and slow approach. According to health guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), this can be achieved by cutting 500 calories a day, which will lead to a weekly loss of a pound of body fat for as long as you keep this up.

However, influential research from Dr Kevin Hall and his team at the University of Maryland in the US has found that these conventional guidelines may be seriously flawed. ‘People have used this rule of thumb to predict how much weight people should lose for decades now, but it turns out to be incredibly wrong,’ he told nutrition academics at a conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

‘The reason it’s wrong is because it doesn’t account for the metabolic changes that take place when people change their diet. We know that if you cut the calories in somebody’s diet their metabolism starts to slow down and it slows down more and more the more weight is lost. So eventually you’ll reach a plateau,’ he said.

Instead, an innovative research project in the US is giving us clues about what it takes to lose weight and keep it off long term. The National Weight Control Registry in the US tracks thousands of people who have lost an average of 70 pounds and have maintained that weight loss for a year or more – the average is 5.7 years. The study shows some habits they share that will help you stay in shape, too…

• Regular exercise – more than 90 per cent have changed their lifestyle to include more physical activity.

• Eat a healthy breakfast – it’s thought this stops unhealthy snacking.

• Eat less fast food – people on the Registry eat fast food less than once a week.

• Eat out less – people on the Registry eat out no more than three times a week.

• Watch less TV or DVDs – two thirds watch fewer than 10 hours a week.

• Stay consistent – they avoid yo-yo dieting and don’t go crazy with food on holiday or at the weekend.