Recent studies show that setting tough targets to lose weight is more effective than setting average weight loss goals, and that exercise may not protect you from gaining weight.

The 12-month study — reported in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics of more than 24 000 dieters — found those who set the toughest goals shed almost a fifth of their body weight, double the amount of those who set average goals.

Professor Amanda Avery, a nutritionist at Nottingham University, said: “…Advice around realistic weight loss targets is designed to protect slimmers from disappointment. However, suggesting that people place limits on their weight loss aims could stop people from seeing what they’re capable of. This research shows that… it’s best to inspire people to set the weight loss target they would personally really like to achieve. This will help with their motivation as… they’ll be far more committed to achieving it. Setting a target is really only the beginning, though, and it’s vital that people also get regular support to make healthy changes to their eating and activity habits…”

Meanwhile, new evidence shows that exercise may not be the key to controlling weight. A study conducted by the University of Loyola in Chicago included participants from South Africa, Ghana, the Seychelles, USA and Jamaica and found that neither physical activity nor sedentary time were associated with weight gain. Lead author and assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago, Lara R. Dugas said, “Our study results indicate that physical activity may not protect you from gaining weight.”

Physical activity has many health benefits, from reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer to improving mental health and mood. People who are physically active tend to be healthier and live longer. But while physical activity burns calories, it also increases appetite, and people may compensate by eating more or by being less active the rest of the day.

Health and wellness expert, Vanessa Ascencao, says South Africans should educate themselves on a healthy lifestyle and practice a more mindful attitude to life. She says eating healthily should be seen as an investment rather than a burden. “The vast benefits of living healthily include reducing the risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, diseases and improving overall quality of life.”

“Weight loss is a by product of being healthy, so the key is to focus on being healthy and staying healthy. We are all biochemically unique and there is no individual eating plan or pill that works for everyone, there are however key principles such as decreasing the amount of toxins we put into our bodies, eliminating processed foods and sugar from your diet and striving towards a consistently healthy lifestyle and a diet rich in natural foods such as fruit, vegetables and lean protein, that if implemented daily will help you achieve weight loss, good health, help you to feel good, look good, feel full of energy, improve vitality and give you a zest for life.

It’s not about calorie counting, deprivation or over exercising as you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. The benefits are beyond the number on the scale.

There is a feeling of freedom and happiness that comes from understanding your body, focusing on nutrition vs calories, real food in abundance vs deprivation and fine tuning the quality of foods we choose to consume,” said Ascencao.


Vanessa’s top tips include:

  • Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and salads – these contain fibre, anti-oxidants and low GI carbs – enjoy it with avocado, olive oil, or coconut oil, hummus, sweet potato and a small amount organic free range protein of choice (50-120g)
  • Try to consume animal protein only once a day and choose the best possible quality you can find
  • Eat three times a day with no snacking in between – leave 4 – 5 hours between meals
  • Balance blood sugar levels naturally – avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and sugar
  • Eat food in its natural and whole state – avoid over processed food – keep it clean and lean all the way.
  • Limit alcohol and fizzy drinks – even the diet variety – they deplete the body of minerals, especially B vitamins and are also very, very acidic
  • Avoid dairy – Most of us are allergic and intolerant to dairy. We don’t have the enzymes to digest the lactase. It is also mucus and acid-forming.
  • Eat good fat, especially Omega-3 rich foods – avoid fat-free foods
  • Drink fresh purified water – stay away from chemically artificial drinks
  • Get sufficient sleep – 7-8 hours is ideal
  • Focus on resistance training 3-4 times a week and don’t forget walking is one of the best forms of cardio you can do
  • Make your own sweet treats – always good to be conscious of where your food comes from.
  • Eat and shop consciously, know where your food comes from.
  • Chew your food well. Eat slowly. Not only does this extract more nutrients from food, but you will feel full before overeating.
  • Supplement with Origine 8 – the traditional way of consuming green tea as a drink has limitations in obtaining maximum health benefits while Origine 8 is shown to deliver powerful nutrients and anti-oxidants far more effectively than any other dried green tea extract.