After a cosy winter with plenty of comfort food and time stuck inside it’s understandable if you feel like you’ve gained some winter weight. Seasonal weight gain is actually very common! You may be considering the options of weight loss medication, low calorie diet (LCD) plans, and very low calorie diet (VLCD) plans to support your seasonal weight loss.
The good news is spring has sprung, the days are getting longer, and the weather is getting warmer. In this article we will look at why spring and summer provide the perfect backdrop for starting your weight loss journey, what lifestyle changes you can make, and what is available to manage weight loss.
Before starting your seasonal weight loss, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to lose a lot of weight to get the benefits. Modest weight loss can be achieved by losing just 5% of your body weight, for a 100kg person this would be just 5kg. Here are some of the clinical benefits an overweight person gets with 5% or more reduction in body weight.*
Lower risk of heart attacks and strokes by increasing HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels in the blood.
Lower blood pressure. Excess body weight accounts for upto 30% of cases of hypertension. Reducing blood pressure lowers your risk to a range of serious possible complications.
Type 2 Diabetes risk can be lowered significantly, with one large study estimating a reduction in risk of almost 60% after losing 7% body weight with lifestyle changes.
Obstructive Sleep Aponea (OSA) is most common in people who are overweight and obese. Losing excess neck fat and abdominal fat can help reduce the severity of OSA.
5-10% weight loss may also reduce inflammation, reverse insulin resistance, improve sleep quality, and overall improve your wellbeing.
Finding the motivation to make the lifestyle changes needed to start weight loss can be challenging, especially when things are cold, wet, and miserable. Here are some simple lifestyle changes which can help you during the warmer months for seasonal weight loss.
Outdoor Activities: working out doesn’t have to be a chore, take advantage of the pleasant weather, and get outdoors. Activities like hiking, cycling, and swimming are all fantastic ways to lose weight while having fun. Everyday outdoor activities like gardening or mowing the lawns can provide a workout while achieving things on your to-do list.
Workout Outside: try adding outdoor workouts to your plan. Training in warmer weather may burn more calories. In moderate temperatures your body has to work harder to cool itself off, expending more energy. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean training in hot weather (approx. 29°C or higher) where there is a risk of heat stroke. It’s also crucial to stay hydrated.
Wake Up Early and Exercise: trying to wake up early in winter can be a fast way to kill any motivation to exercise. But it becomes a lot easier over spring and summer. Starting your day with some exercise not only is great for weight loss, but also for your mental performance throughout the day.
Eat Seasonal Produce: add in-season fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet. Packed with essential nutrients and fibre while keeping your overall calories down. There are plenty of warm weather meals that are fresh, healthy, and delicious, making healthier eating more enjoyable.
Drink Plenty of Water: ensuring you’re drinking enough water in hot weather is not only important to lower your risk of dehydration but also to promote weight loss through reducing your food intake. It’s important to stick to water too, don’t give in to the urge of sodas or other sweet drinks.
Your doctor may prescribe weight loss medication after you have made changes to your lifestyle, such as dieting and regular exercise, but you are struggling to see results. There are a variety of medications available in New Zealand, they work in different ways but in general they either:
When considering if weight loss medicines are right for you, a healthcare professional will look at your BMI (Body Mass Index). Your doctor may prescribe a weight loss medicine if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is higher than 30 kg/m2. If you have other significant weight-related health issues, such as diabetes or sleep apnoea, your doctor might prescribe weight loss medication if your BMI is 27 – 30 kg/m2.
When used alongside a medically controlled diet and regular exercise these medications can promote a modest amount of weight loss. Prescription weight loss medication can be a helpful tool, however your doctor will a range of factors before prescribing them for you. We recommend reading our article Prescription Weight Loss Medicines 5 important things to know. to learn more.
VLCD is a low calorie, high protein, total food replacement that is used for dietary management of individuals with a significant amount of weight to lose. VLCD products are formulated to provide a low calorie meal while still containing the required micronutrients and macronutrients to ensure that daily nutritional requirements are met. A typical VLCD program will contain around 800 calories or less per day. These diets are typically recommended by a healthcare professional, and done under their supervision. However, many people choose to use VLCD products as meal replacements, lowering their overall calorie intake for a day.
Pros of VLCD
Efficacy: VCLDs are often recommended to people where other eating plans, and weight loss strategies have failed. When followed carefully and under supervision they will result in quick and substantial weight loss and may help patients change their eating habits for the long term.
Nutritionally complete: VLCDs help to maintain an adequate intake of the required daily nutrients while minimizing calories and often increasing overall protein intake.
Improved health markers: when done correctly VLCD diets may lead to improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels, and overall blood pressure. This may improve symptoms of some conditions associated with obesity e.g., diabetes or sleep apnoea.
Cons of VLCD
Side effects: for many patients who are following a strict VLCD diet (around 800 calories per day), side effects can occur due to the restriction on calories. This may include symptoms like headaches, fatigue, weakness, light headedness, and nausea. These symptoms may pass after an initial period.
Medical supervision: an intense VLCD program with restricted calories should be done under the recommendation and supervision of a healthcare professional. This may add additional costs, and complexities.
Unsustainability: VLCDs are typically not suitable for long-term use, and when stopped must be followed up with a transition to a healthy diet, exercise, and other recommended lifestyle changes. There is a risk of weight rebound if a weight management plan is not followed after stopping the VLCD.
LCD programs follow the same principles of a VLCD, aiming to help individuals lose weight and improve their overall wellbeing. However, they differ in terms of caloric intake, duration, and potential side effects. LCDs are not as restrictive as VLCD, but still maintain a calorie deficit. The general guideline being the reduction of your daily intake to 1000-1800 calorie per day. LCDs will often include a couple of LCD meal replacements a day, along with a whole food meal to complete your set daily intake of calories, and nutrients.
Pros of LCD
Sustainable: LCDs are considered more sustainable over the long-term for people wanting to lose weight. They are less restrictive allowing for a wider variety of foods and snacks to be incorporated into the diet.
Balanced nutrition: LCDs are formulated with the goal of maintaining your regular daily intake of essential nutrients while in a calorie deficit.
Fewer side effects: when compared to VLCDs, there are fewer possible side effects. They are less likely to cause extreme hunger, fatigue, or nutritional deficiencies.
Cons of LCD
Slower weight loss: compared to VLCD progress is slower, this requires more patience and commitment to maintain.
Potential for hunger pangs: depending on what you eat to make up your daily calories you may feel hungry very quickly again.
Requires careful tracking: LCD plans will often have a whole meal that you oversee, to make up your daily calorie intake. This requires meal planning and tracking of calories to ensure that you reach your target.