Is There Room for Takeout in Weight Loss?

Sarah Furbank's picture

The notion of sustained weight loss through maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fitness regime is not a new one, and yet still the desire for quick-fix fad diets prevails. It’s human nature to want the best results in the shortest amount of time. But time and time again, it’s been shown that cutting out entire food groups, going on a crash diet, or even eating like an angel every day for the rest of your life, is not a sustainable, or indeed healthy, way to lose weight.

Embrace diet slip-ups; shun diet fads

So what is? Grazing on small portions throughout the day? Fasting for eight-hour periods on certain days? Going gluten free? Or could it be that you simply need to get up off the sofa a little more than you currently do, and perhaps stay away from cake and cookies every now and then?

Delicious takeout

The old cliché: Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint

As with most habits, it’s a lot easier to get into regularly eating unhealthily than it is to get out of it. So, it’s understandable that you’re going to have the odd slip-up every now and then. The important thing to remember is that these ‘lapses’ are not the end of the world. Providing you’ve got an active lifestyle and a generally ‘healthy’ diet (which involves making your ‘norm’ healthier over a period of time), embracing the odd takeout is not the end of the world.

Personal trainer Kathleen Turner says in her recent Huffington Post article:

“Aiming to rapidly lose weight or to be “perfect” everyday sets you up for failure. Setbacks, like those which might occur at a party, a wedding or after a break-up should be both expected and embraced.”

By planning to settle down in front of the TV, curl up with a loved one and order a takeout through once every now and then, you’ll have something to look forward to, to help motivate you to keep up your healthy-eating norm from day to day. This way, you’ll avoid the inevitable (and largely unnecessary) guilt of getting stuck into a tasty Chinese. Of course, you can always take a considered look at the menu and opt for something on the healthier side of takeout anyway.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that a diet made up entirely of takeaway food is going to help you lose weight or keep you healthy. We all know it’ll do exactly the opposite. Keep active (in all aspects of your life) and maintain a largely healthy diet, and a rare indulgence could make it easier to stick to your generally healthy lifestyle. Where takeout becomes dangerous is if the convenience of ordering quick and easy, but largely unhealthy, food becomes the everyday norm.

But what about gluten-free?

So, it seems the way to sustainable weight loss could be about as far removed from the fad diet as you can get. There’s no eradicating entire food groups here. So, this begs the question: is the current craze for gluten-free diets to bring about weight loss justified?

Obviously there are some people who abide by a gluten-free diet through necessity rather than desire, such as those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. But, stroll into most large supermarkets and you’ll find a range of gluten free products sitting proudly in the ‘health food’ isle. Cleveland Clinic Canada dietician and National Post author Jennifer Sygo points out that gluten’s reputation as a promoter of weight gain may not actually be deserved. In a recent article for the National Post on the role grains and gluten play in weight loss (or indeed gain) she writes:

“When it comes to weight loss, gluten-free diets are all the rage. Unfortunately, despite the claims that gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye foods promotes weight gain, there are no published clinical trials to date comparing a gluten-free versus gluten-containing diets for weight loss.”

Sygo goes onto write that data from a study of those with celiac disease (a condition in which the small intestine is damaged by gluten) who eat a diet free of gluten actually tend to have higher BMIs than those without the disease. (Although, sadly, she does not tell us to which study she refers). She attributes these results to the low-fibre gluten-free substitutes that often make up such diets, leading to increased hunger and blood sugar fluctuations.

However, although there is currently no study to back this up, should gluten be replaced by gluten-free whole grains, the impact could well be a positive one in terms of weight loss. Whole grains such as buckwheat and wild rice are famous for being nutritional superfoods and, again as Sygo points out, tend to promote feeling full rather than hungry.

So it seems that if gluten-free is done right, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that it may promote weight loss. But again, it’s the notion of an overall balanced, healthy lifestyle that makes this weight loss sustainable.

So, it’s about a healthy lifestyle

Going back to Kathleen Turner’s advice about finding a healthier dietary norm, this is a notion that is embraced by what is believed to be Canada’s first childhood obesity program – a collaboration between the Hospital for Sick Children and Toronto Public Health – which targets unhealthy lifestyles.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, the programme targets obesity in young children, with initial intensive group sessions, followed by regular meet-ups and a monthly visit at home by a public health nurse, all with the aim of promoting healthy behaviours through meal planning and physical activity.

Catherine Birkin, a paediatrician at Sick Kids involved with the programme, told the Globe and Mail: “The evidence shows that the earlier you start helping families develop healthy behaviour, the more likely those behaviours will persist through the child’s life.”

So, it is suggested that the earlier these healthy norms are introduced, the easier they are to stick to. Treat weight loss as a by-product of sustained healthy living, with regular exercise and a nutritional diet being the norm, and the occasional treat shouldn’t be a disaster.

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