Many people who are trying to figure out what causes weight gain, turn first to diet and exercise to lose a few kilos. So what do we know about what constitutes a high quality diet and what are the health effects of a poor diet? How much exercise do we need to incorporate to lose weight ? And what exercise is best? Vigorous exercise or high intensity exercise? Or perhaps resistance exercises? There is a lot of misinformation out there, so let’s find out more about the role of diet and exercise in weight control.

What does a high quality diet look like?

A high quality diet is one that is high in nutrients and is a low energy density (more food on your plate for less calories). We need a range of fresh and vital foods to provide all the nutrients that we need. Having a diet that is rich in plant foods (eg. Vegetables, legumes, fruits, seeds, nuts) and a range of colours (think carrot, cucumber, tomato, beetroot, mushroom) will provide a range of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin c, vitamin b, beta carotene, potassium, as well as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The more colours of the rainbow you can get on your plate the better!

There is very good evidence for the Mediterranean diet for heart health, prevention of stroke and living longer. This eating style is plentiful in vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains. Protein sources are mostly from fish, seafood, dairy and poultry with only small amounts of red meat and sweets. Olive oil is the main source of fat.

Other dietary options such as ketogenic diets focus on restricting carbohydrates to help the body to convert to burning fats as fuel instead. The body then makes ketones which act to suppress appetite and hunger.

A high quality diet is also low in processed and discretionary foods. On average, Australians have 19 serves of discretionary foods like biscuits, chocolate, cakes, sweets, alcohol per week. These foods are often high in saturated or even the toxic trans fats found in items like microwave popcorn and many other junk foods. They are also tend to be high in sodium, sugars and calories, with very few nutrients for good health.

So what are the health effects of poor diet?

Diets which are high in processed foods (and thus are high in calories and low in nutrients) correlate with higher rates of obesity, and chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancers, such as endometrial, bowel and breast cancer.

The catch here is that junk foods are designed to be highly palatable, and even highly addictive. And then they are marketed to individuals en masse, which encourages the consumption of these processed foods.

Our brains are designed to seek high calorie food options (because that favours survival in times of famine), but because in our century, food is in abundance, we are now accumulating diseases associated with excess weight.

The challenge then, is when our genetics favour weight gain, and our brain is hard wired for reward, and we live in an environment where these processed foods are readily available – how then do we control food cravings and urges, in order to manage to keep a healthy weight? (More on that a little later).

How much exercise do I need to do?

Exercise is wonderful for every aspect of our health, especially for improving mental health, improving blood pressure, and reducing risk of diabetes and heart disease among others. In addition, a healthy diet and exercise are the fundamentals of keeping healthy weight.

Strength exercises help to build muscle mass which is important for maintenance of your weight and keeping a strong metabolism.

Women exercising

But you can’t outrun a bad diet!

It is a lot harder to burn 400 calories (with 1 hr of moderate intensity walking) than it is to eat it (a muffin is all it takes!).

So when it comes to weight loss, at Alevia we focus on increasing incidental activity and building strength exercises into the day, rather than a gym program that won’t allow you to walk for the next week!

And more importantly, we have a big focus on healthy nutrition and strategies to feel full that help to make weight loss easy.

At our medical weight loss clinic, you’ll find that our doctors have a deep understanding of the biology of what causes weight gain – and so are empowered to give you both dietary and medical strategies to help you overcome those powerful hunger hormones.

So if you need help to lose weight in a healthy way that balances nutrition, movement and takes care of hunger, then reach out to our team on or call us on 1300 44 13 22.

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