Healthy weight, healthy you

Posted on 2 February 2022

Shedding kilograms makes you feel better both physically and mentally, promoting a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Scientific research shows excess weight plays a role in multiple diseases that can significantly reduce your lifespan. As Ilsabé Spoelstra, a dietician at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, explains, obese people are at increased risk of developing a number of serious diseases and health conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (dyslipidaemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnoea and breathing problems
  • Various types of cancer
  • Mental illness, such as clinical depression and anxiety

Carrying extra kilograms can also cause mobility challenges; even getting up from a chair may prove difficult for some. Improve your attitude towards food – and fitness – by following these simple guidelines:

Sugar is a useful preservative – but avoid eating too much of it. Provided you’re not diabetic, sugar and starch shouldn’t cause health problems when consumed in moderation and with a focus on complex carbohydrates. But always be mindful of your sugar intake and read food labels.

Monosaccharides are simple sugars that can cause blood sugar highs and lows. Watch out for fruit juice, sweet fizzy drinks and cereals packed with sugar. Disaccharides are found in the form of lactose in foods such as milk. Polysaccharides or starches are found in complex carbohydrates like wholewheat bread. Both disaccharides and polysaccharides take longer to break down in the body, so they’re less likely to cause ups and downs in blood sugar.

“Some people eat too much meat and protein, although some women don’t eat enough protein and can even develop sarcopenia – a progressive and generalised skeletal muscle disorder,” says Spoelstra. “Go for leaner cuts of meat but make sure you still enjoy your food. There’s no use eating only chicken breasts without the skin and then failing in your attempt to be more healthy. Make good choices of oil when cooking, for example, use a high oleic oil with a high smoke point if you want to stir fry something.”

Maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t mean eating no fat – you need to concentrate on selecting foods with good fat. Eat only small amounts of animal or saturated fat and choose monounsaturated fats – found in peanut butter, avocados and canola oil. “Polyunsaturated fats – found in normal sunflower oil, soya and corn – can promote inflammation if eaten in excess,” Spoelstra cautions. Fatty or oily fish, such as sardines, are great sources of good fats as they provide Omega-3 fatty acids too.

“Remember to watch out for foods labelled as ‘low fat’ or ‘fat free’ as they’re sometimes laced with sugar to improve the taste,” Spoelstra adds. “And stay hydrated by drinking 1,5-2 litres of water a day. A small portion of this can come from tea or coffee, but at least half of it should be water. Fruit and vegetables are beneficial because they add fluid, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and are low in calories.”


Published in Exercise

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.