Behavioral Changes for Healthy and Lasting Weight Loss
Ashvini Mashru MA, RD, LDN
There’s a misconception that the New Year is the perfect time to begin a weight loss program. While it can be a great motivator, weight loss regimes can be started at any time. Ashvini Mashru, owner of Malvern’s Wellness Nutrition Concepts, believes that when a person is truly ready, he or she can begin to make lifelong changes for lasting health benefits. Through customized programs, she goes far beyond quick fix and fad diets. Mashru, who has a master’s degree in nutrition education and is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist, has over 15 years of experience helping individuals make lasting impacts on their health.
Q: Why don’t fad diets work for permanent weight loss?
A: A fad diet is a very restricted means of losing weight. They typically involve cutting back calories, leaving only 500 or 1,000 calories per day. Often times, they’re paired with other quick fixes, such as juice cleanses or meal replacements. They are short term, not sustainable, and most fad diets aren’t realistic. For example, the cabbage soup diet or grapefruit diet, or a no-carb diet has people buying commercial products. You can’t live on these diets for the rest of your life.
Q: What problems can fad diets lead to?
A: Most people don’t realize that when they go on and off these diets they are actually doing more harm to their bodies. You start restricting carbohydrates, which is the first source of energy a body burns. Once a body is deprived of carbohydrates or calories, water starts leaving the body, and as a result, people can start getting dehydrated and have symptoms like headaches, fatigue or dizziness. Depending on the diet you are following, you don’t get a steady supply of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber throughout the day to keep you blood sugar levels steady and therefore can cause your levels to spike and quickly drop which over time can cause insulin resistance. You can kill your metabolism, too.
Q: How can you break the cycle?
A: Most people are looking for an overnight change in their weight. People don’t gain weight overnight, so they shouldn’t expect to lose weight overnight. It takes time, a lot of accountability, and a lot of work and commitment. Make small changes and focus on the little changes that you can do every single day.
Q: How can a dietitian help change behaviors?
A: Dietitians are trained to help people make healthy lifestyle choices. I customize it according to each person’s lifestyles, their medical situation—if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, gastric bypass issues. We have one-on-one sessions to keep you accountable to your weight loss goals. I also educate clients about how to be healthy, what a healthy meal should look like.
Q: Why is behavioral change an effective way to lose weight?
A: Before we get into changing behaviors or lifestyles, people need to understand that it’s time to make the change. Behavior change strategies include increasing physical activity and setting health goals for yourself. Dietitians can help you lose weight by reviewing the weight loss methods you've used in the past, evaluating your current situation, and helping you set specific, realistic, goals to gradually change your behavior to lead to lasting weight loss. Behavior change is an overall change of your lifestyle—not just your food, but your exercise, your stress. It all has to come together for weight loss to happen.
Q: What are some ways people can be accountable?
A: I recommend setting goals—measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals—and writing it down. Put it on your office desk, on your kitchen calendar or refrigerator. Share it with a family member or a colleague who can hold you accountable. Self-accountability takes a little time. Find support from a friend, parent, partner, or somebody from the office.
Q: How can you prepare to make behavioral changes in your lifestyle, especially around the holidays?
A: I always tell people to be mindful during the holidays of what, how much, and when they’re eating. Always ask yourself questions: Do you really need to eat that other piece of pie or drink another cocktail? Being mindful and keeping up with those routines and small changes—packing a lunch, taking time out, even if it is 10 minutes to exercise, drinking plenty of water, starting the day with a healthy breakfast—really adds up to make sure you get through the holiday season and don’t gain an extra 10 pounds. People think holidays are a green light to binge and that mentality has to change. Be mindful and aware of what you are putting in your body.
Wellness Nutrition Concepts
5 Great Valley Pkwy., #210
Malvern, PA 19355