Young women in Australia are gaining weight faster than any other age group, with 41 per cent of 18-24 year olds increasing their body mass index by greater than 5 per cent over a four-year period. With less inclination to exercise and frequently enjoying the convenience of takeaway foods, it’s easy to see why weight gain in young women is on the rise. Attempts to lose the unwanted weight however, is often easier said than done for these young women. With 60 per cent of young women actively trying to lose weight in the last 12 months, the unfortunate news is, only half are successful at achieving their goal.
According to consumer research conducted by Dr Philip Booth from The Leading Edge, the key driver behind young women’s desire to lose weight is confidence. It’s about looking good, feeling good, relationships and peer group pressure. Not surprising, health is a secondary concern. With societal pressures to maintain a certain physique, many young women adopt short-term and unhealthy weight loss practices like taking diet shakes or following fad diets, to help them lose weight. The dieting concept however is seen by young women to be a restrictive regime, with many of them failing to stay on the diet and achieve their goals. To help young women tackle obesity, a realistic weight loss strategy that manages their expectations is needed. That is exactly what a new brochure, Look Good, Feel Good, by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) aims to achieve.
Look Good Feel Good
MLA’s Look Good, Feel Good brochure combines scientific and consumer research to provide empathetic and simple weight loss advice for young women. A nutrient-rich, higher-protein diet forms the eating plan in the brochure and is based on research by Dr Helen O’Connor and her research team at The University of Sydney. According to O’Connor and her team’s research, this style of eating has been shown to promote weight loss in young women, with the young women involved in the study reporting less hunger and a lower desire eat when on the nutrient-rich, higher-protein diet.
Along with the nutrient-rich, higher-protein food choices, the eating plan presented in Look Good, Feel Good also allows the inclusion of alcohol and provides tips for managing its intake so that weight gain is minimised. This is an important inclusion for young women, as alcohol is central to their socialising. Combining a nutrient-rich, higher-protein diet with flexibility and the inclusion of usually “forbidden foods” may make the Look Good, Feel Good eating plan easier for the young women to follow than other diets.
The Practical Approach
At my nutrition and exercise studio in Leichhardt, I work with many young women who are trying to lose weight, so when MLA asked me to provide practical tips at a Young Women Weight Loss Event last week, of course I said ‘yes’. Some of the common eating patterns I see with young women is the reliance on takeaway options and convenience food, as they love to socialise. Their food choices are generally high in kilojoules and nutrient-poor, being low in protein, fibre and important vitamins and minerals, especially iron. An inadequate intake of iron leads to feelings of lethargy and fatigue, which reduces the motivation to exercise regularly and eat well. If young women don’t have the energy to plan, prepare healthy meals and exercise regularly, weight loss and maintenance becomes harder than it already is. That’s why it’s important for young women to follow a nutrient-rich eating plan.
Boosting the nutrient content of the diet of young women can be done by making a few simple swaps. Here’s an example of a nutrient-poor diet versus a nutrient-rich eating plan:
- BREAKFAST: Swap Turkish toast with butter and Vegemite with a large skinny latte with high-fibre, iron-fortified breakfast cereal with low-fat milk and a regular skinny latte
- MORNING TEA: Swap the piece of fruit for a tub of low-fat greek yoghurt like Chobani
- LUNCH: Swap the grilled vegetable foccacia with a diet coke with a tuna and salad sandwich, piece of fruit and a bottle of sparkling mineral water
- AFTERNOON TEA: Swap the rice crackers and skinny latte mocha (and snacking on office chocolate and lollies) for 30g of mixed nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate.
- DINNER: Swap spring rolls, chicken Pad Thai and 2 glasses of white wine with rice paper roll, beef and vegetables stir-fry with rice and 1 glass of white wine.