This month we have a guest blog from Amanda Josephson, a Registered Dietician who can be found at . As physios, we are very aware of the impact of weight-gain on joint pain and we advocate people to exercise to keep trim and fit as part of their lifestyle. But we are also aware that you cannot out-train a poor diet. Food, exercise and health fit together like puzzle pieces. Let us hear what wisdom Amanda can offer us in the area of diet over this Easter Lockdown period…

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Generally during times like Easter, we tend to take this as an opportunity to over-indulge as if it won’t affect us or as if the extra calories don’t count.  Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and hot-cross buns have been in the shops since the first day straight after Valentine’s day.

Then came the hoarding pre-lockdown and nothing to do but eat our way through the stockpiles of treats for 21 days with little energy expenditure.

When we are finally allowed out of our homes and may resume normal life, we will be faced with temptations at social gatherings like birthday parties, family get-togethers, weekends away with friends and other celebrations.

While it is great to have a healthy relationship with food where you can enjoy a nice treat every now and then between your balanced diet, it can sometimes be difficult when there are constant temptations around, especially when we are bored.  Let’s put things into perspective.

Portion-Distortion Pro Tip

Reduce calorie density, and increase volume

A small portion of high fat, high sugar will not full you up, but if you compare this to a meal that is high in fibre with vegetables, whole-grains, some healthy fats and proteins of the same calorie content, this will full you up for longer and sustain your energy for longer, preventing you from consuming even more “empty calories”.  The picture below illustrates this very well.  A high fat snack (calorie dense) such as fatty dry wors or deep-fried hot chips, or a sausage roll, will not curb your hunger for as long as the same calorie content but with whole grains and vegetables (increased volume but equal calories).  After eating the high fat snack, you are most probably going to have little energy and will start to feel hungry and start looking for another snack sooner than if you had the whole grains and vegetables.  This results in over-indulging and mindlessly taking in more calories than needed.

Empty calories = In human nutrition, the term empty calories applies to foods and beverages composed primarily or solely of sugar, fats or oils, or alcohol-containing beverages. These supply food energy but little to no other nutrition in the way of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, or essential fatty acids. (Wikipedia)

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Getting into the Nitty-Gritty

For those of you who are following a strict lifestyle in order to reach nutritional / fitness goals, here is nutritional information of some typical Easter treats, and how they compare to other foods that are generally eaten during daily routine.

If you compare hot cross buns to white hamburger buns and low GI Seeded bread (per 100g):

 Hot Cross BunsWhite Hamburger BunsLow GI Seeded Bread
Energy (kJ)11741070924
Protein (g)8.4109.2
Total Carbohydrates (g)5248.432
Carbohydrates of which are sugar (g)
Total fat (g)
Of which are saturated fat (g)
Of which are trans fat (g)000
Of which are monounsaturated fat (g)
Of which are polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary Fibre (g)
Total sodium (g)323318387

To put this into perspective, there is very little fibre compared to low GI seeded bread, and roughly the same fibre as the white burger bun.  So, calorie wise, it is very similar to low GI Seeded bread, but it will not sustain your energy for as long as the low GI seeded bread.  There is significantly more sugar in hot cross bun than in both white burger buns and low GI seeded bread.  It works out to be about 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per hot cross bun.

1x marshmallow Easter egg = 290kJ, 0.7g protein, 10g carbohydrates (6.7g sugar), 2.7g fat (1.7g saturated), 0g fibre and 1mg sodium.   Calorie wise, a better option would be (equivalent calories) about 1 slice of low GI seeded bread with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter on it.

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How Diet and Obesity Affect the Body

It is important to be aware of the risks of obesity so that we understand why it is suggested that we prevent it and manage it. Especially in a time like we are living through. It is shown in many studies that physical health functions decline faster in the obese as well as those who are gaining weight compared to those who are considered normal weight.

Obesity and weight gain:

  • Increases musculoskeletal strain (imagine the load on your knees if you gain 5kg during lockdown and return for that first longer run on 17 April)
  • May add to internal metabolic stress and inflammation
  • Increases risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke
  • Increases risk of developing diabetes (overweight 3x more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and obesity 7x more likely than normal weight)
  • Increases risk of some cancers such as gallbladder, liver, ovaries, prostate and leukaemia.
  • Increased risk of infections and infectious diseases
  • Being overweight in midlife increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  There is an even higher risk for those who are obese.  Interestingly exercise among these individuals can assist with reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
  • Economic burden –
    • Obese spend significantly more on health care, particularly on hospitalisation and chronic medication compared to non-obese.
    • Increased absenteeism, sick leave and short-term disability in the workplace.
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Easter without Food Stress or Envy

Here are a few practical ideas to still enjoy Easter and quality time with family and friends without depriving yourself of the delicious treats that come with it – while maintaining your health!

Its okay to “let go” just a little bit. 

If you really feel like having a marshmallow Easter egg, then have one!  For this short time, allow yourself some freedom of enjoying food without having to label foods as “good” or “bad”.

Listen to your hunger and satiety cues.

If you are hungry, then eat!  Choose foods that are high in fibre, whole-grains, plenty vegetables and lean proteins.  Including these foods daily will lessen the chance of over-indulging when you do have your treat.  If you aren’t sure if you are hungry or if you are perhaps bored, then have some water as you may be thirsty and see how you feel after 10 minutes.

Be mindful

Eat together with friends and family.  Don’t busy yourself while you are eating – switch off the TV, put cell phones and iPads down, and be present.  Enjoy every bite (especially if it is a treat!) and take note of all the flavours and textures.  This will enable you to listen to your satiety cues more easily. Mindful eating can even be done if you are alone during lockdown.

You’ve all heard it before – Moderation is key!

Depriving yourself is so difficult and often not sustainable.  If you say you aren’t going to have a chocolate this Easter, then that is probably all that you are going to think of the whole time.  Is it worth it?  Rather limit yourself to a few in the holidays or one treat per day (Easter, not the 21 days of Lockdown) and save your treat for when you are eating with your family or friends so that you don’t end up watching them eat theirs while you are empty handed.

Don’t skip meals

Skipping breakfast or lunch so that you can eat more later in the day does not work.  This often leads to high-calorie snacking (which sometimes we don’t consider how much they contribute to your daily calorie intake) and then you still end up eating more calories than you usually would at the family gathering.

Continue with your exercise and sleep routines

You can use the opportunity to get into a routine of doing exercise, even if it is a dance party with your friends over Zoom or countertop push ups every time you turn on the kettle. How about following the Movement Snack ideas on the HG Physio social media pages…a movement snack instead of or before every Easter egg.  It will make it easier to get back on track with your usual exercise routine when you are back at work.  The same goes with your sleep patterns.  Getting 8 hours of sleep daily can assist with appetite regulation and may help to avoid over-indulging.

If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly

Alcohol intake tends to increase over most holiday seasons and apparently to cope with lockdown too.  Again, if you enjoy a G&T by the pool, then have one, or 2 but it is recommended that you stop after that.  Two units 2-3 times per week is the recommended “healthy” amount.  Remember that alcohol also provides empty calories and often leads to high-calorie snacking.

Stay hydrated

Remember to keep drinking your 8 glasses of water a day to keep you hydrated!  Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and may cause you to eat even more as you look for something to pick up your energy levels.

While these are occasions to spend quality time with family and friends’ occasions, it is also important to keep it in moderation and there are ways that you can do this without being an “anti-social” eater.  A treat every now and then is okay, if you get back to your normal eating routine afterwards.

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  1. Svärd, A et al (2015).  Obesity, change of body mass index and subsequent physical and mental health functioning: a 12-year follow-up study among ageing employees. Pharmacoeconomics 33(7): 673–689.
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