WELLNESS

Getting past life's roadblocks

From break-ups to babies, it’s possible to stay slim, no matter what life throws at you.

Obstacles that can affect your healthy lifestyle

 

Starting a new job


Why can it tip the scales?
A new job often means less time and more stress. Result? You’re less likely to exercise and more likely to make poor food choices. According to University of Adelaide research, convenience is the most common reason for eating takeaway, with nearly 34 per cent of people buying fast food because they’re in a hurry or don’t have time to cook. A University of Leeds study demonstrated how daily stress not only causes people to opt for high-fat, high-sugar snacks, it leads to more snacking in between meals, too.

How to fight back
Start by keeping a food diary – and be honest about what you put in it. According to accredited practising dietitian Tara Diversi, a food diary can help you decide which emotions are triggering your eating (and when), something that can be hard to decipher without help, considering the average person makes more than 200 decisions about food every day. If you’re too busy to schedule in regular exercise, try and move as much as you can throughout the day. Just five minutes each hour for six hours adds up to the recommended daily dose of 30 minutes of exercise.

 

Moving in with a partner


Why can it tip the scales?
‘Love bloat’ is a common phenomenon. Professor Lauren Williams, head of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Canberra, explains. “Sociologically, we’re no longer trying to attract a mate after we’ve settled down, so that can decrease our need to maintain a healthy weight.” She adds that men tend to eat more than women, and women often end up matching the amount of food on their partner’s plate. “Women get used to larger meals or desserts, too. Without an increase in physical activity, that’s going to equal weight gain,” she adds.

How to fight back
Australian research shows that women who move in with a partner are 32 per cent more likely to reduce the amount of exercise they do. The solution? Instead of spending your weekends on the couch, enjoy active dates, whether it’s swimming at the beach, taking a boxing class or just hitting the shops together. Also, be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth.

 

Getting married


Why can it tip the scales?
Marriage presents many of the same obstacles you face when you first move in with a partner. However, research by the University of North Carolina demonstrates that spouses are more at risk of weight gain than de facto couples. In fact, the same study that showed how cohabiting results in weight gain for women also revealed that it doesn’t pose the same risk for men – until they get married. This is when both sexes are more than twice as likely to gain weight. How? Researchers believe it’s due to shared behaviours, such as lazing about on the couch together instead of exercising. People who’ve been married for more than two years were most likely to have similar weights, and also similar behaviours around exercise.

How to fight back
Tackle the problem together because research demonstrates you’re up to five times more likely to adopt a healthy behaviour if your spouse does, too. And a study from Indiana University found that while 50 per cent of people quit their former pre-wedding exercise programs, only eight per cent of those who train with their spouse throw in the towel. If you have kids, make good health a priority for the whole family – get outside and run around in the park on the weekends and get them involved in healthy meal planning and cooking, too. That way, you’ll not only be improving your own health, you’ll be setting your children up with lifelong healthy habits.

 

Having a baby


Why can it tip the scales?​
Think pregnancy means indulging your every food whim? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. “Pregnant women don’t need to eat much more than normal,” advises Professor Helena Teede, president of the Endocrine Society of Australia. “And you certainly don’t need to eat for two.” Professor Williams adds that the problem increases when weight gain compounds from one pregnancy to the next. “The evidence shows that women starting their second pregnancy have a higher BMI than those starting their first. The concern is that high BMIs in pregnancy are associated with poorer birth outcomes, like low birth weight,” she says. Research also shows that if you’re overweight when you conceive, not only are you more likely to gain too much weight during pregnancy, 40 per cent of it will still be there 12 months later.

Fighting back
Try and keep a lid on how much weight you gain during pregnancy. Guidelines suggest that in total, healthy-weight women should gain between 11.5 and 16 kilograms, overweight women between seven and 11.5 kilograms and obese women no more than five to nine kilograms, during a pregnancy. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep up a steady exercise routine in consultation with your doctor. After the baby is born, Professor Williams says, “A new mum should ideally be carrying three kilos of extra weight to support the energy requirements of breastfeeding.”

 

Going through divorce


Why can it tip the scales?
While divorce is emotional for both partners, Ohio State University research found divorce is a particularly vulnerable time for men when it comes to weight gain. As psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi explains, “With so much to think about, people revert to the easiest food choices, which can often be nutritionally poor and kilojoule heavy.”

How to fight back
In terms of nutrition, Dr Celi suggests making learning how to cook a priority. “Pick up basic skills by attending a cooking class or asking friends to help.” Already know your way around the kitchen? Make healthy eating easier by cooking batches of food on the weekend to freeze and reheat during the week. As for fitness, start by increasing your incidental exercise – the endorphin boost will reduce stress and improve mood. Or take a group fitness class, where the emphasis is as much on the social aspect, as it is on working out.

 

Hitting menopause


Why can it tip the scales?
The short answer? It’s because your body undergoes radical hormonal changes. Professor Teede explains: “Menopause affects where fat is stored in the body and causes a woman’s metabolic rate to drop. We’re more likely to feel sluggish as well.” This affects physical activity levels, which researchers say is the biggest contributing factor to menopause-related weight gain. In fact, Australian scientists discovered that while women’s eating habits remain the same during this stage of life, their activity levels halve. “And the unfortunate thing,” adds Professor Teede, “is that after menopause, we usually move our fat stores to around the stomach, which increases the risk of diseases like diabetes.”

How to fight back
Researchers from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research say that women who maintain or increase their level of physical activity during menopause can avoid weight gain. Make time for exercise every day – whether than means going for a walk, hitting the gym or the pool, or even getting out and doing the gardening for half an hour. Schedule your exercise appointments in your diary or set an alert on your mobile phone so you know when it’s time to get active.

 

Reaching retirement


Why can it tip the scales?​
According to a UK study, once people – particularly men – hit retirement, they’re 23 per cent less likely to get enough exercise. “People go from having a solid structure to their week, to nothing, which can upset eating and exercise habits,” Dr Celi explains.

How to fight back
“If you’ve previously had a physically demanding job, get reacquainted with what being less active means for your kilojoule requirements,” she adds. To combat kilo creep, establish a routine, like aqua aerobics on Monday, walking on Tuesday or tai chi on Wednesday.