WA packs on the COVID kilos

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WA has put on the COVID kilos despite few pandemic-imposed restrictions, according to Perth dietitian Margaret Hayes who has revealed there’s still hope to shed the additional weight in the Christmas countdown.

The Nutrition Specialists director said her Innaloo practice has recorded an average weight gain of three to five kilograms in clients.

While WA has fared reasonably well during the pandemic compared to other jurisdictions, Ms Hayes said stress from global uncertainty had still thrown people’s diets.

Increased amount and frequency of ordering take-out food in lockdown and then embracing dining-out post-lockdown were some of the major themes she has recorded.


“My practice has definitely seen that a lot of people have gained weight in the last few months,” she told The West Live.

“People are eating out more often. We used to eat out as a special occasion, whereas now, we just go out to eat or we order it in.

“I’m actually surprised by the amount of people ordering into their houses — what they order and how often they order. It actually blows my mind when I see people’s food diaries and they discuss with me what they’re eating.

Even though we haven’t had the same restrictions… I think there’s just this general level of anxiety, to tell you the truth, about what’s happening around the world. (It’s) just this anxiety provoking situation where people turn to food at lot more.

“A lot of people that I’m seeing haven’t really got out of the habit of drinking more alcohol or haven’t really gotten back into their exercise program. Their gym shutdown so that stopped people exercise routines. A lot of people just said to me ‘well, I haven’t got my mojo back yet’.”

Looking ahead to Christmas — just eight weeks away — Ms Hayes said that there was still time for people to look after their waistline and learn the importance of “nutritional literacy”.

Somewhere between two to eight kilos would be realistic. If you’re losing it faster than that — you’re losing muscle.

Whether it be swapping out grazing table staples for healthier alternatives or monitoring drinking at the string of Christmas parties on the social calendar, Ms Hayes said it came back to basics.

“The maximum weight that you can realistically lose is a kilo a week but dietitians — we like to be very safe and we talk about a kilo a month as well,” she told podcast host Jenna Clarke.

“In that timeframe, somewhere between two to eight kilos would be realistic. If you’re losing it faster than that, you’re losing muscle mass and you’re also dehydrating your body. It’s not realistic and it’s not long term sustainable.”

Festive feasting tips for keeping the weight off:

  • Make sure there’s lots of vegetables on offer.
  • Choose lean meats like turkey, chicken, fish and other seafood.
  • Swapping out rich desserts for fresh fruit makes perfect sense for your waistline and Christmas in an Australian summer.
  • Potion size and quantities of prepared food is a simple way to cut calories.
  • Try putting out smaller serving plates near grazing tables or spreads and instead of picking straight off a board throughout the day, plate up to be more conscious of what you’re consuming.
  • When it comes to drinking, make sure you’re spacing out your beverages. Have low or no calorie drinks like water and soda, then consider these options as mixers rather than “calorie-dense” pre-mixed spirits.

“I tried to talk to my clients about a four-pronged approach to weigh management,” she said.

“People are just choosing the wrong foods. I spend a lot of my time encouraging my clients to get half their plate of vegetables at lunch and at dinner. Our intake of vegetables is so low.

“Most people only have vegetables at dinner time, if they have them at all. Upping their intake of vegetables would be my first point of call for most people to start doing.

“The old way of look at weigh was energy in, energy out — so reducing your food intake and then increasing your exercise levels.

“Then comes stress and sleep, which I always feel you have to add into the equation. Getting adequate sleep is really important for people. A lack of sleep changes our body hormones and I don’t think people acknowledge that enough.

“(Then) addressing our stress levels because again stress increases our body hormones. When people are really stressed out or having stressful events in their life, we need to turn to stress relaxation techniques — yoga and exercise comes under that category as well.

“I think they can make better chooses about their food intake and then maybe look at reducing their weight down.”

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