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Designing the healthy body you want

With a balanced lifestyle, together with science and medical expertise, curating a healthy, strong and attractive body is possible, and can be sustained.

Designing the healthy body you want 1

When the body is at its optimal weight, it can function like a well-oiled machine. According to Dr Graham Duncombe, an anti-ageing and aesthetic medicine specialist at the Renewal Institute in the Western Cape, there are a multitude of benefit to attaining your ideal weight. ‘Reducing excess weight relieves chronic inflammation (which has been repeatedly linked to chronic illness such as high blood pressure, premature ageing and cancer), improves cellular metabolism and reduces stress on weight-bearing joints which prevents pain and degeneration.’ Better sleep is also on the cards, he says. ‘Reducing excess weight benefits one’s quality of sleep as well one’s circulation, which provides optimal fuel and oxygen to the body’s tissues,’ adds Dr Duncombe. A decrease in body weight of just five percent is enough to gain these benefits, and the benefits improve exponentially as you get closer to your optimal weight.

Why structure and support matter

Getting healthier can be an uphill battle that is difficult to maintain, so having a team to support and keep you on track is extremely valuable. ‘Traditional weight loss guidance used to focus heavily on the “calories in vs calories out” strategy. With time, it has become clearer that weight loss is not that simple an equation,’ says Dr Merle Williams from the Renewal Institute in KwaZulu-Natal. ‘Weight loss efforts can leave people feeling frustrated and despondent. The programme at the Renewal Institute offers patients a structured, safe and consistent approach. The supervision and support ensures that patients are more likely to stay on track,’ she adds. ‘Consistent medical supervision is essential in identifying metabolic reasons for weight gain, overcoming obstacles in weight loss during the programme and for reinforcing the healthy benefits of weight optimisation. Many of these benefits are on a biochemical level and by monitoring certain biomarkers during the programme it is extremely motivating for clients to visualise the health benefits even on a chemical scale,’ says Dr Duncombe. ‘Many toxins, such as excess oestrogen hormones, which have been stored in unnecessary weight compartments are also released and will be required to be effectively flushed from the body. Monitoring this process allows a safer, more effective and comfortable process. Consistent moral support and guidance are also essential in motivating clients and ensuring that they have more success in maintaining their ideal weight after completing the programme.’

Out of touch

Our busy lifestyles mean we have started to lose touch with natural hunger and satiety signals, making us overeat in response to emotional and external cues. The Renewal Institute’s programmes assist to reverse this response. ‘The body relies on various signals to balance hunger with satiety. Some of these signals are hormonal and include hormones such as ghrelin for hunger, leptin for fat storage and insulin for sugar craving. In response to stress, we become resistant to insulin and leptin and require more frequent snacking on higher carb content foods to appease these signals. This also becomes a demand-satisfying pattern psychologically with dopamine signals in the brain, which involves the gut. We assist patients in remodelling these responses to such cues by improving discipline to meal times, portion sizes and correct food choices,’ says Dr Duncombe. ‘Recent research has also implicated the bacteria in our gut in food cravings. By changing our gut bacteria we can overcome many unhealthy cravings. Clients need patience and time to achieve this, however, which is probably the most difficult part of the process, which we assist patients with.’

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The five pillars of health

The Renewal Institute takes a holistic approach to maintaining optimal health and focuses on five pillars. ‘The two pillars most people are familiar with are healthy nutrition and exercise. This tends to be the focus of their weight loss journeys. With exercise, consistency and moderation are key for ongoing benefits. And it’s true, a body fuelled by mainly processed, high carbohydrate, pro-inflammatory foods is not going to function and thrive as well as one fuelled by nutrient-dense real food. While these two pillars are important and necessary, why do they not result in a 100% success rate for every individual achieving and maintaining their weight loss goal? This is where the remaining pillars play a vital role. Optimal gut health is the third pillar and it ensures the nutritional foods and supplementation from healthier choices are being properly digested and absorbed. The fourth pillar addresses stress management, an important pillar often neglected and underestimated. Chronic stress can disrupt cortisol levels, leading to weight gain and possibly sleep disturbances. Sleep optimisation is the fifth pillar that forms the foundation for overall health. The quality of the sleep is as important as the quantity. Deep restorative sleep maximises the effect of all the other pillars previously addressed,’ says Dr Williams.

No single pillar is more important than the other because if just one aspect is out of order, it will negatively impact the other. For more information, complete the form below or visit


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