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Winter weight management series – Introduction


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Frankie Ebdon – registered dietician working for the NHS

Here at Dixon Health, the majority of our patients come to see us for help managing musculoskeletal pain and injuries. In order to effectively manage these complaints, we often need to address lifestyle changes, which can be a major contributing factor to things such as lower back pain and headaches.

Some of our main areas of focus are often diet and exercise. Changes here can improve overall physical health, mental wellbeing and encourage weight loss, which can all be important in better pain management.

We wanted to bring you a series of blogs centred around nutrition and lifestyle, with a focus on practical, evidence based advice, that you can easily work into your daily routine. We want to cut through the often deafening and confusing world that is online nutrition advice, a lot of which is not just inaccurate, but sometimes harmful!

We want to ensure you are getting the best possible advice, so we have teamed up with Frankie Ebdon, a registered dietitian. Frankie is keen to educate the public with the latest scientific evidence and public health messages to empower you to take charge of your own health.

Over half of the adult population of England are classed as overweight or obese. We thought a series of blogs about weight management would be a good place to start. In this first addition, Frankie hopes to explain the basic principles of how we gain weight, and discuss some of the health risks that can be associated with this.

Energy balance

The food that we consume is converted into energy by the body, and we measure this in the form of calories. When we talk about energy balance, we are talking about calories in and calories out.

Essentially, calories are fuel for the body. We need this fuel for all of our internal functions, for example: breathing, the action of digesting foods and even sleeping. We also need this fuel to power movement. So, the more an individual is active during the day, the more fuel they might require. If you have an active lifestyle or a manual job, you may be able to eat quite a lot throughout the day, and not put on any weight. However, most of us have sedentary lifestyles, so we do not burn off any of the excess energy. Our bodies like to convert this energy and store it for later, in the form of fat.

The energy balance theory can be depicted through a set of pan scales. The aim is to consume the same amount of fuel as the body burns throughout the day. When we achieve this, the pan scales are balanced, and we maintain our weight.

However, if we eat too much for our needs, then the pan scales will tip and we will start to store the energy as fat rather than using it. Long term, this will result in the dial on the scales consistently increasing.

Body mass index

The ideal weight for good health can be classified by our body mass index (BMI) score. It is a calculation of the ratio between your height and your weight that gives healthcare professionals an indication of your risk of certain conditions or diseases. The ideal score for BMI is between 18.5 – 25 kg/m2. This is the range for good health and generally deemed as low risk to any weight related adverse health effects. Any score above 25kg/m2 puts you in the overweight and obese (30+) classes and sees a higher risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. The level of risk increases with respect to your BMI score, so the closer you are to the ideal range, the lower your risk of experiencing ill health. The BMI categories are just a guide, and they do not work for everyone. For example, rugby players who are very fit and healthy would probably fall outside of the ideal range. So, there must be some common sense when using it as a health indicator, but when used appropriately it can give us an indication of the possible risks.

To calculate your own BMI you can use the following NHS BMI calculator for free.

What are the risks? 

The risks that are linked with being in the overweight and obese categories are: higher chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. There is of course also a more recent discovery, that being overweight can increase your chances of having greater complications if you come down with Covid-19. From the perspective of a lot of our patients, excess body weight can increase your risk of multiple musculoskeletal conditions including lower back pain as well as hip and knee pain.

These medical conditions can be extremely serious, some with grave consequences, but with careful guidance and some simple lifestyle choices, we can maintain our weight at a healthy level and significantly reduce our chances of these conditions developing.

Weight management

When most of us think that we need to lose some weight, the automatic thought is ‘I need to go on a diet’. Most diets tell you to avoid or restrict certain foods groups and may bring you rapid effects on the scales, but more often than not are not sustainable or realistic to commit to long term. Therefore, most dieters will put back on whatever weight they have lost within a couple of months after stopping the diet. In actual fact, the key to weight management is to make small but significant changes to our diets and lifestyles. This will ensure a positive effect on your weight, and in turn, the rest of your wellbeing. You may not see the instant effect on the scales, but you will in the long term, and you will not have restricted your body from some of the vital nutrients in the meantime. Throughout this series, I will be exploring some of these changes that you guys can make, by breaking them down into bite size pieces.

This month’s tips are also the titles of the remaining blogs for this series. I will go into much more detail about all of these over the coming months.

  • Being mindful around times of celebration – this is one to think about with Christmas only just around the corner. It can be easy to forget about our weight when we are in celebration mode, but pounds gained at times like Christmas can be very difficult to lose again.
  • Try to increase your level of exercise – dietary choices are obviously very important when trying to lose weight. However, we still need to burn off all the extra fuel that we are not using through exercise. This is vital in the battle against gaining pounds.
  • Try to count your calories consumed in a day – try not to go over the recommended amount of calories if you’re trying to lose weight (2000Kcal for women and 2500Kcal for men per day). There are apps you can get on your phone or you can look at food labels and estimate yourself.
  • Avoid mindless snacking – snacking on high fat and sugar products quickly ramps up our calorie count.
  • Follow the Eatwell guide – Public Health England have developed The Eatwell guide as a pictorial aid to help us be aware of the average quantity and quality of our diet. Use this tool as a general guide to your daily consumption.

 

Stay tuned for more…

We hope you have found this introductory guide useful, stay tuned for the whole series where Frankie will be going into more detail and giving you some great tips that will help you improve your diet and your overall health. The next episode will focus on being mindful around Christmas and other celebrations, so you can enjoy your festive season without regretting it in January! We will also be hosting a virtual Q+A with Frankie after the whole series has gone out. If you have any questions about diet, weightloss, or anything else relating to nutrition, send us an email now or send us a message on our Facebook or Instagram.