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No more excuses: CSIRO shakes up its Total Wellbeing Diet

Adelaide woman Deb says she has lost more than 18 kilograms with the CSIRO's latest diet innovation.

Adelaide woman Deb says she has lost more than 18 kilograms with the CSIRO's latest diet innovation. Photo: CSIRO

Adelaide social work support officer Deb has battled weight – and the cravings that helped make it hard to shed unwelcome kilos – for years.

A pattern of shift work, and a consequent habit of grabbing convenience food, made it even harder.

But a CSIRO revamp of its 10-year-old Total Wellbeing Diet has proved key to Deb (who did not want to give her last name) finally managing to lose weight.

“I was always coming up with excuses and thinking ‘oh, no, I can’t do it’,” she told The New Daily.

Realising she was unhappy, lacking motivation and constantly tired, Deb decided to something had to give. She turned to the CSIRO diet, and its new Fast Start program.

Pictured is Deb before the diet and after.

Deb says the program has been transformative. Photo: CSIRO

Launched on Wednesday, Fast Start is touted as a way for overweight or obese Australians to make sustainable, healthy and safe changes to their diets.

CSIRO research scientist and dietitian Dr Gilly Hendrie said the Total Wellbeing Diet aimed to help people make healthy, sustainable changes. Fast Start built on that with a short-term program meal-replacement shakes to help build confidence.

“You know, improving the way they eat, improving their exercise, improving the whole health – as well reducing their risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” she said.

“It’s about the diet and losing weight, but it’s also about educating people around nutrition. It’s about teaching them how to put together a healthy meal, put together a healthy day and obviously put together a healthy diet.”

Research by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, found cravings were one of the biggest obstacles dieters faced.

A survey of 330 Australians found 66 per cent struggled to resist high levels of cravings. Of the same group, one in five had more than 25 attempts actively maintain their weight.

Enter the shakes, which bring quick results.

“Evidence shows that people that start strong in the first three weeks of a weight-loss program go on to lose 3.5 times more weight after 12 weeks, than those who struggle to get started,” CSIRO said.

For Deb, Fast Start was transformative. She used shakes for three weeks and then moved to three healthy meals a day.

The meal-replacement shakes helped curve her cravings. That  motivated her to keep going and gave her the confidence to stick with the program.

Deb said found the diet relatively easy to follow, even with the temptations of the Christmas period. She managed to lose more than 18 kilograms – although it’s not just the weight loss that she has noticed.

Deb said she was now more active and enjoying going for walks with her partner and trying on clothes in her wardrobe that did not previously fit.

“This has become my lifestyle,” she said.

CSIRO said its findings showed that people who followed the meal-replacement shakes program lost weight – and their confidence in their ability to resist cravings increased by 19 per cent.

What is this diet from CSIRO?

The Total Wellbeing diet, released in 2013 after 20 years of research involves a 12-week high-protein, low-GI eating plan.

Those who sign up get meal plans and access to a community of others doing the diet. Fast Start brings in the meal-replacement shakes for the first three weeks.

Dr Hendrie said the CSIRO had found that most people who signed up reported previous unsuccessful attempts to lose weight.

“They’ve probably been through a roller-coaster of weight control and so their confidence in this area has taken a little bit of a hit,” she said.

As well as teaching people how to eat well, confidence in their ability to do so was key, she said.

The idea behind the shakes is that participants get quick results – whether losing a few kilos or getting more energy – that keep them motivated.

Pictured is the CSIRO Fast Start starter pack.

The Fast Start program aims to help people build confidence.

Tips for dieting in 2023

Dr Hendrie said people should have realistic expectations about any potential weight loss.

“It takes time to gain weight, so it’s going to take time to lose weight. Any quick fix is probably not going to work,” she said.

The trick is to find a sustainable program that will work in the long term – and then getting the mindset right.

Dr Hendrie said people were often hard on themselves. It was crucial to take care of mental health and self esteem along the way.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, but there will be benefits,” she said.

She said the goal of the Total Wellbeing Diet was to get people to the point where preparing healthy meals was enjoyable – and dieters didn’t notice the effort it took.

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