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  • Chelsea McCallum APD

Why ‘right now’ is not always the right time to lose weight

It is an incredibly common and relatable feeling amongst women to struggle at times with body image and self-confidence. Particularly when you through social media into the mix. These feelings are then compounded by the uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing symptoms experienced by IBS sufferers.

It is only natural to feel lost or out of place and want to do something to combat those feelings. For a lot of us, that ‘action’ may be wanting or NEEDING to lose weight. You may think that if you could just lose a few kilograms that all of your problems will be solved.

Before you embark on this weight loss quest, there’s a few questions you can ask yourself that may help you assess this feeling of necessity around weight loss:

  • Why do I want to lose weight?

  • Who is telling me I need to lose weight? Is it myself, those around me or people I don’t even know i.e. social media?

  • Will losing X amount of weight improve my confidence, self-esteem or happiness?

  • Is this something that I feel I can maintain long-term?

  • What am I willing to sacrifice in order to chase this weight loss?

If after answering these questions honestly you still have a strong desire to lose weight, you don’t have to jump straight in. Now is not always the right time to lose weight and depending on what is going in on your life, it may affect the success of that goal and leave you feeling even worse than before.

If you are an IBS sufferer, one of the most important things to consider in the timing of your weight loss journey is where you are on your IBS journey. Are your symptoms under control and you feel confident in making food choices that are ‘safe’? Or are you just starting the low FODMAP diet and still feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Should I be trying to lose weight while I’m on the low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is already a restrictive diet and is designed to only be followed for a short period of time. It is an intense process that requires discipline and planning. Consider if following the Low FODMAP diet as well as a calorie deficit will impact your results.

If you do have the desire to lose weight whilst simultaneously managing symptoms, slightly adjust your mindset. Consider the low FODMAP diet an opportunity to manage IBS and improve the overall quality of your diet. This positions you in a more sustainable approach to achieving both goals. Weight loss may be achieved by eating smaller, more regular meals or general ‘tidying’ up of your diet.

Important note - If you do notice dramatic & unexplained weight loss while following the low FODMAP diet, particularly the elimination phase, it’s best to have a conversation with your dietitian as there may other things happening in the background.

So, how do I lose weight? Following the completion of the low FODMAP diet (including elimination, reintroduction, and personalisation) there are several steps you can take to achieving steady & sustainable weight loss.

1. Pay attention to your portion sizes

One of the easiest ways that you can be unknowingly adding to your total energy intake is with large meals and snacks. It’s important to recognise that it is normal for portion size to vary! However, if your portion sizes are consistently on larger side, this may be linked to weight gain. A big contributor to larger portion sizes is irregular eating patterns like skipping meals, snacking across the day rather than having structured meals. So, in order to keep those portion sizes from sneaking up, trying to eat small, regular meals throughout the day is recommended.

Another tip related to portions which we often talk about is the ‘healthy plate model’. This model guides you to spilt up your plate with 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 carbohydrate/starchy vegetables and 1/4 lean protein source. This model can be applied to any meal and any sized plate. How good!

2. Get your beauty sleep

One of the most underrated things you can do to help shift some of that extra weight is ensuring you are getting a good night’s sleep each night. When you are asleep is when your body gets the chance to repair and recover. Poor sleep quality, or a poor sleep routine, has been linked to an upset in the balance of hormones which stimulate appetite. This is why when you’re feeling a little tireder than usual that you find yourself reaching for those sweeter, higher carb or high energy foods to give yourself a pick-me up. When these foods are consumed in excess, they can contribute to weight gain (like any food). However, these foods are much easier to consume in larger amounts. By ensuring that you are prioritising your sleep and aiming for that golden 8 hours a night (at least), this not only will make you feel a million times better but will also help you make better food choices.

3. Increase your water intake

Water is amazing for you, need I say more? When your body doesn’t have enough water, it can manifest into other symptoms that may increase your cravings for more processed, high-energy foods. Water is also doesn’t contain any energy so it’s a great alternative for fizzy drinks which are more often than not high in calories and can sneakily add to your overall energy intake without you realising. If you’re not a huge fan of plain water, you can spice it up by adding fresh fruit or herbs like mint, lemon, and lime.

4. Focus on fruit and veg

There are so many reasons why fruit and vegetables are amazing. Along with vitamins and minerals, fruit and veggies all contain something called fibre. Fibre is the part of plant foods that our bodies cannot digest and plays a big role in keeping our digestive system healthy and regular. Fibre also helps create the feeling of ‘fullness’ while eating, which if you are eating less than what you’re used to is great because nobody likes feeling hungry all the time. Fruit and vegetables are also low calorie, which combined with high fibre, makes a perfect combo if you are trying to lose weight! If you do experience IBS, be mindful of the fruits and vegetables you’re eating and avoid those that you know trigger your symptoms.

5. Fit in that incidental exercise

The physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well-known and often spoken about in relation to weight loss. The general recommendation for exercise is to aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. However, another great way to increase your exercise without the pressure of a pre-planned gym session is by incidental activity! This could be by leaving for work a little earlier and parking your car further away so you can fit in a walk or opting for the stairs instead of the escalator or lift. All these little extras add up over time and can really increase those results!

Reference List:

1. Vargas, V. Weight Management Series: How to Lose Weight on the Low FODMAP Diet. FODMAP Everyday. Published 2018, last updated 2021.

2. Rhys-Jones, D. Maintaining weight while following a low FODMAP diet. 2021. Monash University FODMAP blog.

3. Chaput, J, Tremblay, A. Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012; 184(18): 1975-1976. Doi: 10.1503/cmaj.120876

4. Thomson, C, et al. Relationship Between Sleep Quality and Quantity and Weight Loss in Women Participating in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial. Obesity. 2012; 20(7): 1419-1425. Doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.62

A note on the author

Hey, I'm Abby! I’m a fourth-year Dietetics student studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast. You can follow me at my Instagram @nutritionbyabby where I post simple, evidence-based dietary information, tips and tricks.

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