Physical Health

Why you should join the Healthy Weight for Life program

For people with type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart conditions, losing weight can turn around your health. Here’s how the Healthy Weight For Life program can make that happen.

There’s little doubt maintaining a healthy weight can do a world of good for your health and future risk of illness. But if you’re carrying additional kilos, have a medical condition or are at risk of developing one, the road ahead can feel overwhelming. You might know what you should do, in theory, but how do you pull it all together and hold yourself accountable?

You might not know that eligible HCF members* have access to an evidence-based weight management program – Healthy Weight for Life – specifically designed for members with a BMI over 28, living with type 2 diabetes, heart conditions or osteoarthritis. Healthy Weight For Life also has two prevention programs to help stop the development of various chronic conditions.

The weight loss plan aims to help you lose weight, quickly but safely, on a diet plan lasting 18 weeks. The plan uses a mix of meal replacement shakes that help you feel satisfied, recipes for healthy meals, combined with a gradually progressing exercise plan. Support over the phone, SMS and email is provided by qualified allied health professionals every step of the way to help you through your journey to better health.

As the weeks go by, you eat less processed foods, cut back on extra calories and rely less on the shakes, so by the end of the plan, the aim is that you should have lost a healthy amount of weight and learned how to eat and exercise in a way that helps keep the weight off.

Using shakes might sound a bit controversial, “and it’s true that diets like this used to have a bad reputation as they weren’t nutritionally balanced, but that has now changed and they are proving a very successful way to lose weight quickly”, says Professor Amanda Salis from the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at The University of Sydney. “And it was also believed that if you lost weight fast, you’d regain it just as quickly. But if you change your habits, there’s no proof that this is the case.”

Can type 2 diabetes go away if you lose weight?

Weight loss can have a great impact on health, particularly for people with type 2 diabetes. Ground-breaking research from the UK’s Newcastle University shows people who have had type 2 diabetes for less than four years could actually reverse their condition and go into remission, by losing about 15kg, on a plan very similar to Healthy Weight for Life.

Prof Salis explains fat releases hormones that can have a negative impact on your health, so “if you lose fat, you release fewer of these substances, and in the case of type 2 diabetes, this seems to make the cells more responsive to insulin, which lowers sugar levels in the bloodstream”.

HCF member Laurie, 70, from Sydney, achieved great results with his type 2 diabetes following Healthy Weight for Life. He was first diagnosed in the 1990s but, since being on the program, he’s dropped from 95kg to 77kg and his non-fasted blood sugar levels are now a healthy 4.1 mmol/L (over 8mmol/L is cause for concern; 11 or higher signifies diabetes).

“When I first got the letter about Healthy Weight for Life, I threw it in the bin as, while I’d been told I needed to eat well and exercise more, I don’t like being told what to do. But I thought about it for a few days and decided I had nothing to lose,” says Laurie. “Once I’d made my mind up, I found it very easy to do. Using the [shake] sachets made the plan easy to follow and I really liked the taste.

“As I moved through the plan, I learned more about eating healthily and now have a diet I follow every day – Weet-Bix for breakfast, a healthy sandwich for lunch and then something like a salmon salad for dinner. I still use the sachets occasionally.”

Laurie has also had heart problems in the past, but now has healthy blood pressure, normal cholesterol and a very happy cardiologist. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health.

How weight loss can be the best thing for osteoarthritis

Excess weight is the number-one preventable risk factor for osteoarthritis, which is why it’s also part of Healthy Weight for Life.

Osteoarthritis is when inflammation causes pain and stiffness in the joints, “but losing weight reduces inflammation and can also take pressure off the joints,” says rheumatologist Dr John Van Der Kallen from the Arthritis Centre in Georgetown, NSW.

To help with this condition, weight loss of at least 5% is suggested, but the more you lose the better. “Losing 10% of body weight reduces pain by about 25% and also slows down progression of the problem, which could mean avoiding surgery in the future,” says Dr Van Der Kallen.

Words by Helen Foster
First published November 2019

Our Healthy Weight for Life programs have shown an average weight loss of 7% year on year since launching the programs in 2006. *If you’re overweight and living with type 2 diabetes, a chronic heart condition, or osteoarthritis — or are at risk of developing a chronic condition – and have held eligible HCF hospital cover for 12 months, you may be eligible for a free Healthy Weight for Life program, including personal eating, exercise plans and coaching. Other terms and conditions apply.  See our Healthy Weight for Life page or call the Healthy Weight for Life team at 1800 226 180.

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