All of our weight loss questions answered

Sure, summer might be on its way out, but that’s all the more reason to get moving and sort your weight out, so when we start heading towards the end of the year - and closer to those beach trips - you’re already in the right eating and exercise routine.

Everyone’s heard about Weight Watchers but their latest clinical trial has revealed that their SmartPoints program can significantly reduce something we all struggle with – cravings. Yes, that’s right, that 3pm chocolate craving could be gone for good.

A study of their new WW Your Way revealed 78 percent of participants who followed the SmartPoints Plan had significant reductions in cravings for many foods, including sweets, high-fat foods, and fast food fats.

We had a chat with Emma Stirling an APD Nutrition Specialist to solve our unanswered questions about weight loss and health… 

What would you say is the best piece of advice you've heard for weight loss?

Surround yourself with support on multiple levels and don’t expect to be successful going it alone. Weight Watchers offers a community of like-minded fellow members on the same journey as well as inspiring coaches to keep you motivated.

What should you do to cure those 3pm cravings? 

Stop and assess your patterns to help conquer the craving. Have you skipped lunch? Are you a little dehydrated and really thirsty, not hungry? Are you actually bored at your desk? Are your energy levels really slumping?  Then plan a smart strategy and a commitment to change for a few weeks to shift to a new habit. This could include having more low GI foods at lunch for sustained energy, having a healthy snack at 3pm plus a small portion controlled chocolate or lighter hot cocoa or even scheduling a walking meeting so you are distracted!

For people with super fast metabolisms - people that are STARVING every three hours, what would you say they can do?

We are still researching the connections between hunger, hormones and metabolism. Some people swear by a mini-meal pattern of eating and will have around 6 different eating occasions per day. This works well for active people and athletes too. But if you’re trying to lose weight you have to be careful about mindless munching and adjust your meals to be lower in kilojoules to allow for snacking. That’s where the Weight Watchers Your Way program with built in flexible tracking works very well.

What's the best snack food for in between meals?  

The best snack food will give you a nutrient boost and provide sustained energy to maintain blood glucose levels. Good choices include a small handful (30g) of nuts, wholegrain cereal bars, fresh fruit, yoghurt, vegetable crudites with a dip or salsa.

For people that are on the go but are wanting to be healthy, what's the best kind of takeaways?

There are so many choices these days in healthier options and the key is to understand how your dish or items were cooked and prepared.  A takeaway salad may sound healthy, but still be high in fat, salt and sugar. Look for menu nutrition information or chat to the owner at smaller establishments. Japanese is often a foolproof way to go if you stay away from deep fried tempura.

Are cheat days a good or bad thing?

The best approach is to not call them 'cheat' days as it conjures up feelings of guilt and remorse and a 'diet' not a lifestyle change.  In any healthy lifestyle there are days of lighter eating and days of celebration, functions or heavier eating.  At Weight Watchers there are program tools to help adjust for different days eating including a Weekly Smart Points Allowance to spend across the week on extras or all at once on a night out.  

Some people cut carbs, some cut fat and some sugar. What do you think is the best rule to follow?

Scientific research to date has not uncovered the 'perfect' plan or ratio of nutrients for weight loss.  Cutting back on carbs, fat or sugar ultimately leads people to make healthier choices and this has been shown to be the main reason for weight loss.  The Weight Watchers program is flexible and can fit with different eating preferences and even special diets for allergens and dietary intolerances.

Is there a specific amount of calories we should be eating per day?  

At Weight Watchers there is the SmartPoints system that goes beyond calorie counting.  Every food is assigned a SmartPoints™ value – one, easy-to-use number based on four components: kilojoules, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. 

•    Kilojoules establish the baseline of how many SmartPoints the food is worth.
•    Protein lowers the amount of SmartPoints that something ‘costs’.
•    Sugar and saturated fat increase the number.

I feel like eating healthy can sometimes be harder for vegetarians and vegans because they can't just eat chicken and salad for dinner and are limited when eating out. what would you say the best advice is for them in terms of weight loss?

Weight Watchers has an extensive recipe database including vegetarian options that focus on flavour and appropriate nutrition balance. Eating out is getting easier with a trend towards wholesome ancient grains, legumes and Asian offers with tofu. Plan ahead to source restaurants you know will suit and be the party planner to influence your friends.  

For those especially wanting to lose fat in specific areas - what's the trick there? I've heard less sugar for people wanting to lose weight from their stomach? Or is that all made up?  

To date there is no reliable evidence that you can lose fat from a specific body area through particular foods or spot exercises. The best approach is overall lifestyle change for weight loss and improved fitness and muscle toning. Everyone has body parts that they are not so keen on, so it’s also about learning to embrace your health and shifting focus to areas you do like! 

For more information on Weight Watchers, head here.