The beginning of the year is usually a time when people who have been thinking of reducing weight, decide to put those thoughts into action.

It is also a time when the health supplement industry starts to promote the sales of weight loss agents and detox products that are labelled with generous promises to cleanse our bodies from harmful toxins, alongside guarantees to help us loose weight without much effort. Despite the abundance of these products on our market shelves, the number of overweight people in South Africa is on the increase.


Do we need to detox, and do we need diet supplements to do this?  The human body is already naturally equipped with a barrier system in the skin, lungs and the digestive system, which function very efficiently to protect the body from foreign substances. If any harmful “toxins” such as too much of the wrong food or alcohol does get into our body, our natural detoxification systems in the liver and kidneys start working to get rid of them. Without these very powerful protective mechanisms we simply would not survive in our environment!  If you stop eating and drinking the wrong things your body will detox itself. 

In reality there is no miracle cure for poor lifestyle choices. To follow a radical diet for a few days is not going to change your lifestyle habits or give you lasting results. You might loose weight rapidly, but these results will last just about as long as the “detox” or “diet” itself.

If you want to improve your health and weight it is important to start as you mean to continue. Set realistic goals that can be achieved through making practical changes and better decisions. Ensure that you know what nutrition your body requires and how this can be achieved through balanced eating.  Be realistic about your time frame to reach your target weight, current science recommends that a safe and sustainable rate of weight (fat) loss is approximately 0.5 – 1 kg per week.

Ten tips to get you started:

1. Reduce your intake of calorie dense foods, eg. Foods high in sugar and fat like sweets, chocolates, sweetened beverages, biscuits, take aways, fried foods

2. Limit alcohol to less than 2 drinks day for men, and less than 1 drink per day for women.

4. Consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day

5. Drink at least 6-8 glasses per water a day.

6. Increase intake of fibre, – wholegrain bread, high fibre cereals, legumes, fruit and vegetables

7. When choosing protein rich foods, opt for low fat dairy and leaner cuts of meat and chicken.

8. Try and eat fish at least 3 times per week.

9. Choose healthy plant based oils that are rich in unsaturated fats such as Olive oil, Canola Oil, – but use sparingly as these are calorie dense foods.

10. Exercise regularly, working up to 4-5 sessions a week of 30-45 minutes in duration.

Dieticians have a specific scientific training and knowledge of human nutrition and eating behaviour.  (In contrast to “nutritionists” who have no recognised training.)  Dieticians will be able work out a balanced eating plan that can be individualised to suit your lifestyle. They can also motivate you to keep on track and get you to your weight goal through balanced eating, and not through radical diets that offer empty promises and short lasting results.

Posted by Catherine Boome. Catherine is a registered dietician and has a special interest in weight control. Catherine is now consulting from Brampton Practice and can be contacted on 082 4494554.