Starting a Healthy Weight Loss Journey

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Starting and Maintaining a Healthy Weight Loss Journey

Have a plan and stick to it!

Losing weight is a goal for so many, and a very common New Year's Resolution. The question is - how do we turn the resolution into reality and later, into a lifestyle?

Dr Riekie Smit, a medical practitioner from Pretoria with a special interest in weight management, shares some valuable advice about starting and maintaining a healthy weight loss journey. South Africa has very high rates of adult obesity. More than half of the female population and over a quarter of the male population are obese, and up to 70 % of the female population are either overweight or obese.1,2

Before starting any weight management program, it is generally recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for a medical health checkup. Your doctor can also check your insulin levels, thyroid levels, and hormone levels, all factors that can affect your weight.3,4,5

The thyroid is one of the most important organs in your body as it regulates your metabolism1. An underactive thyroid is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain crucial hormones and can lead to fatigue and weight gain. This condition can often go unnoticed for many years and can become more apparent as you grow older, and as your metabolism slows down more.3 The good news is that this can be treated.1

A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of a specific hormone, with even small changes in hormones having the ability to affect your health. Because hormones play a significant role in regulating your metabolism and the way your body uses energy, a hormonal imbalance can cause weight gain.4

Insulin is a specific hormone that regulates the levels of glucose in the blood and can, in certain circumstances, cause weight gain when the cells absorb too much glucose, and the body converts this into fat. Weight gain is a common symptom of diabetes, insulin therapy and other insulin-related medical conditions.5. Fortunately, losing weight can help people manage diabetes symptoms and even reverse prediabetes and insulin resistance.5

Having these medical checks done can assist you on your weight loss journey by identifying any underlying problems early on.1

Often, the most difficult change to make for those starting their weight loss journey is to take back control of their habits. Dr Smit says that it is important to have a goal, that is not only realistic, but is also specific, measurable, attainable, and time bound.

It is important to understand that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in.1

One of the key factors that may contribute to losing weight is exercise. Dr Smit says that instead of viewing exercise as a form of punishment; it should be a celebration of what your body can do. She suggests that striving for a healthy balance on your weight loss journey could include eating less on the days when you skip your exercise, which could help balance the calories used versus the calories burnt.1

Besides possibly aiding your weight loss, exercising has multiple benefits which also include strengthening your body and improving your metabolism.1

According to the World Health Organisation, recommendations include that adults should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.6 Worldwide statistics show that approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy.6

Remember that some physical activity is better than nothing and that by becoming more active throughout the day in relatively simple ways, these recommended activity levels can be achieved.6

Starting a new lifestyle can be lonely. Dr Smit says to try and find a friend or family member and surround yourself with people that are health conscious, which can be very motivating.1

She also recommends that you use social media to your advantage. "Review your social media pages to avoid being negatively influenced and follow fitness trainers and health enthusiasts who will have a positive impact on how you view your weight loss journey and will keep you motivated".1

Dr Smit says that there is no need to be afraid of the scale, and to remember that there is always room for improvement. She recommends tracking your progress by using food and exercise diaries to get an overview of how your daily routine is contributing to your overall goal.1

"Incorporating your weight loss journey into your everyday life means that you must have a plan and stick to it," she says.1

Dr Smit says to be cautious of using products you can buy off the shelf at a pharmacy or herbal supplements you can purchase online. While these may be a motivational addition to your weight loss journey, there may be no guarantee of their efficacy and safety, especially as these products are not medically tested. Prescribed medication for weight loss may be beneficial from a safety perspective as these medications have been scientifically tested. As with any medication, medication for weight loss may have side effects which your doctor can discuss with you should a weight loss medication be prescribed.1

Along your weight loss journey, and as your efforts are being rewarded and you are losing weight, you can hit what is called a weight-loss plateau.7

Being stuck at a weight-loss plateau is very common and can happen to anyone who is trying to lose weight7. Dr Smit advises not get despondent when this happens, and that there are ways to break this phase. Changing your exercise pattern and adjusting your calorie intake may help.1

The bottom line is to not let a weight-loss plateau lead to an avalanche! Speak to your doctor or a dietician about possibly reassessing your goals or adjusting your weight loss programme.7 If you are worried about your weight or health, or for any further information, speak to your doctor for advice about how to lose weight.

Remember that if you are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss can improve chronic health conditions related to being overweight.8 Celebrate your success and continue your efforts to reduce and maintain your weight loss.7

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. This editorial has content that includes independent comments and opinions from independent healthcare providers and are the opinions and experiences of that particular healthcare provider which are not necessarily that of iNova Pharmaceuticals.

Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. Name and business address: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07. 15E Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. IN4214/21


  • 1. Dr Riekie Smit – Facebook Live webinar – 19 January 2021 at
  • 2. Q&A with Dr Riekie Smit - 26 January 2021
  • 3. Mayo Clinic Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) (2020) at (Website accessed on 2 May 2021)
  • 4. MedicineNet. Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Weight Gain? (2020) at (Website accessed on 2 May 2021)
  • 5. Medical News Today. What to know about insulin and weight gain (2019) at (Website accessed on 3 May 2021)
  • 6. World Health Organisation. Physical Activity (2019) at (Website accessed on 5 May 2021)
  • 7. Mayo Clinic. Getting past a weight-loss plateau (2020) at (Website accessed on 5 May 2021)
  • 8. Pietrzykowska, NB. MD, FACP. Benefits of 5-10 Percent Weight-loss. Obesity Action Coalition. (Accessed on 15 August 2017).