Dr Joanna McMillan: Scrambling to get 'beach-ready' is not a good idea health-wise.

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By Dr Joanna McMillan

Fad diets and quick fixes for a ‘better body and better you’ are unavoidable. We want to see rewards for our efforts made as soon as possible and are not prepared to wait. But if you’ve tried to diet before, you probably know that diets just don’t work.

You almost always gain any lost weight back very quickly, usually with interest. While there’s no easy fix or secret to lose weight in a week, there are steps you can take towards having a healthy relationship with yourself and food to manage your weight. To implement lifestyle changes that are healthy, achievable and enjoyable, here’s my advice:

1. Ditch the quick-fixes that promise rapid fat loss.

One of the major problems with quick-fixes, fad diets and extreme exercise is that most of us can’t keep them up in the long term. Inevitably we slip back to our usual habits and, lo and behold, regain any lost weight. Secondly most fad diets and very low kilojoule diets are lacking in key nutrients, leaving your body malnourished.

Furthermore, when you lose weight very quickly the lost kilograms are not all body fat. Some of the initial weight is lost water, some is body fat and a significant portion is lost muscle. This is a disaster for long term weight control as muscle is highly active tissue that uses far more kilojoules than fat tissue, even at rest. So the end result of losing muscle is a lowered metabolism.

Watch: Those Two Girls celebrate No Diet Day in the most delicious way. (Post continues after video.)

This is a major part of the problem with cycles of dieting. Every time you lose weight and then regain it, you lose fat and muscle but only regain fat. In effect you get fatter with each cycle.

2. Understand emotional eating.

Food can be an emotional outlet when we are anxious, stressed or upset. Emotional eating happens when you use food to make yourself feel better. I call it swallowing your emotions with food. The trouble is that while you may well feel better in the moment, it does nothing to truly help you to express those emotions and deal with the source, instead becoming a source of stress and upset itself if you overeat or choose to eat the wrong things.


You can change your mind set on eating through mindful eating. Mindful eating is about being truly present, conscious and aware of what and how you are eating. It helps you become more aware of your eating habits and to identify when you are eating in response to hunger and when to emotions.

When you think about eating consider first if you are truly hungry, and if not ask yourself why you want to eat. If it is an emotional response, try to think of a better way to express or deal with that emotion.

Not obsessing about food means you can actually enjoy it. (Post continues after gallery.)


Learn to practise mindful eating and shift your mindset. Emotional eating can affect your weight and your health. For more help with this please check out my Get Lean Lifestyle change program.

3. Take it slowly to achieve and maintain long-term results.

Living a healthy lifestyle has a world of benefits, but sometimes it can be hard to stay on track when results on the scales are slow to progress. This is why it’s important to enjoy the journey and be proud of your accomplishments.

Instead of making your sole goal losing weight try to think about the bigger picture, like developing sustainable habits and a lifestyle that allows you to achieve long term goals and lifelong health.

The key words are consistency and joy. Consistency because it’s the behaviours you repeat that are most important, not those that happen on occasion, and joy because to keep your renovated diet and lifestyle up they must bring you pleasure! Give priority to meals and make healthy eating delicious – you’ll find plenty of inspiration for easy home cooking in my Recipe Bank – and find exercise and activities that appeal to you.

Buddying up with a friend or partner usually makes it more fun and will hold you accountable, or try joining a group exercise class or local sports team. Finally, don’t forget the importance of managing stress levels and getting good sleep – failing to do either not only affects your health directly, but also affects your ability to stick to a healthy eating plan and find the energy to exercise.


Make working-out fun says Dr McMillan. Image: iStock

4. Eat real food, including plentiful plant foods, fibre & protein.

While there may be debate over the details of healthy eating, one factor that comes through strongly is that we do best on diets rich in plant food, whether or not you also choose to also consume animal foods. This means eating plenty of veggies, whole fruit (not fruit juice), wholegrains, legumes, nuts and/or seeds. These foods are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals (such as antioxidants) to nourish your body while also filling you up without too many kilojoules. You might even find you can eat more on a plant-rich diet for fewer kiloojoules!

We also know that regular doses of protein throughout the day can help you to control your appetite and to lose fat while maintaining your muscle mass. You can achieve this by adding meat, seafood, dairy or plant proteins such as legumes, nuts, wholegrains or pseudograins like quinoa to each meal. My Dr Joanna Plate is a terrific tool to help guide you towards this balance at each meal.

Image: iStock

The other benefit of including plenty of plant food is that most of these are also high in fibre. Fibre is vital for good gut health and for fuelling the growth of healthy bacteria, but it also plays an important role in helping you to feel full after meals. Fibre slows down stomach emptying so you can ward off hunger pangs for longer. Soluble fibre is important for blood sugar control as it slows down the attack of digestive enzymes on any accompanying carbohydrates in the meal so that they are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream.

Finally, specific types of fibre can benefit your blood cholesterol profile, especially a soluble fibre called beta-glucan found in oats and barley. It can be hard to get enough however from these whole foods and that is where Beta Heart can help. It’s a delicious healthy oats and barley drink especially high in beta-glucan, scientifically proven to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels within 6 weeks.*


It even helps with blood glucose control, its low GI, has no added sugar and no artificial additives. And it's super easy to get into your day - just mix with water, milk or add to a smoothie.

5. Lastly, get moving and exercise!

Exercising alone may not lead to weight loss, but it is absolutely key to long term weight control success. When combined with your healthy eating regime, exercise will help you to maintain or even build muscle while maximising fat loss.

Plus, regular movement changes the way your body works. It makes you a better fat burner, improves your cardiovascular health, improves your brain function, lifts your mood, helps you to control your blood glucose, and reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and several forms of cancer. Pretty powerful for one little lifestyle habit!

Image: iStock

If you think you are too busy to exercise, perhaps it’s time to re-prioritise. Do you really not have time to fit a half hour walk into most days? That’s a great starting point and from there see if you can then add two or more other exercise sessions into your week. You may not always feel like doing it, but I can promise you, you will almost always feel better and be glad that you did afterwards!

Are you a regular exerciser?

Image: iStock.