Managing Weight with a Learning Disability

Managing your own weight is hard and managing the weight of someone you care about can be harder but there are a few top tips I can suggest to help break the barriers that prevent a change in habit and behaviour. In order to lose weight, we need to reduce the amount of food that is consumed and increase the calories burnt through exercise and other physical activity. This is called the energy balance equation. We’ll focus on reducing our energy input or food consumed each day for this post. With so many diets it’s often hard to know which is best and which provide short term weight loss but with eating habits that just aren’t sustainable leading to the inevitable weight gain a few months later.

Top tips to help those you care about lose weight and keep it off!

  1. Calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) – The BMI calculator will give you an idea of how much weight you should be aiming to help the person you support lose. Healthy and sustained weight loss should be at a rate of 1lbs or 500g per week. This means reducing the number of calories eaten each day by 500kcal. Plot weight on a graph and record it every week. When weight goes down offer praise like “You’ve worked really hard this week and look what you’ve achieved, well done and keep it up!” and if weight goes up offer encouragement such as “What could we have done differently? I know next week will be better if…”.
  2. Weekly Shop & Meal Plan – Sit down and plan a number of different weekly meal plans. I would suggest at least 2 so that there is a variety from week to week and make a shopping list agreeing what snacks and treat will be purchased beforehand. Never go on an empty stomach as this will increase the amount of high calorific snacks heading to the checkout.
  3. Reducing Snacks – If the goal is to reduce calorie intake by 500kcal a day then reducing the number of snacks will go a long way to achieve this. A cereal bar contains roughly 150kcal and encouraging eating at meal times rather than a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon will take you 60% of the way there. If this isn’t possible think of alternatives that are low in calories.
  4. Smaller Portions – Portion control starts when preparing the meal. This is difficult because many items come in a large volume. If we use a spaghetti bolognese as an example then try the following. Allow approximately 75g of pasta and 65g of lean minced beef per person and freeze the rest of the minced beef in equal portion sizes ready to defrost at a later date. Avoid jars of sauces high in sugar and cooking all of the mince at once and then separating into portions as cooked food is too tempting to eat.
  5. Healthier Choices – Following on to our previous example of spaghetti bolognese try grating carrots or courgettes into the sauce made from chopped tomatoes to bulk it out a little more. This will give the illusional of a large portion size with far fewer calories. A plate of food should be at least 30% vegetables and 30% carbohydrates. By being creative and including vegetables into sauces you can enjoy some of your favourite meals with far fewer calories. HEALTHY and TASTY!

Here is a visual aid I give to my clients to help remind them of some of these techniques. When applied weekly sustained weight loss will result.

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