• It's amazing what the body can withstand. (Dr Michael Mosley's Reset)Source: Dr Michael Mosley's Reset
A new three-part series on SBS, Dr Michael Mosley's Reset, explores how dietary changes can holistically turn your life around to lose weight, battle depression and improve our guts.
Yasmin Noone

27 Feb 2019 - 11:28 AM  UPDATED 16 May 2019 - 1:06 PM

Shantelle van der Leeuw always struggled with her weight.

When the 27-year-old from Wangaratta in Victoria turned 18 and left home, she put on 20-30 kilos and moved from being overweight to clinically obese.

The weight lingered for years and she was later diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and endometriosis. In order to conceive, van der Leeuw dropped 10 kilos in her early 20s. But the weight returned soon after she gave birth.

“I put on what I lost and more,” says van der Leeuw, who appears on Michael Mosley’s Reset, a new SBS series.

“In 2016, I decided that enough was enough. I needed to do something about it.”

“I didn’t go on a specific diet but what I did was create a lifestyle change."

All the diets that van der Leeuw tried previously had failed or not lasted long-term. So this time, around rather than opting for a quick fix, the mother of one simply made a commitment to eat healthily, forever.

“I didn’t go on a specific diet but what I did was create a lifestyle change,” she tells SBS.

“Initially, I lost weight quite quickly just by cutting out the takeaway food I used to have. When that stopped working [as my weight loss plateaued], I reassessed what I was eating. I started to do meal-prep. Because I am quite lazy, if my meals were already prepared, I knew there’d be no temptation.

“I eventually had to cut down on [the amount of] bread and pasta I ate– that was the biggest thing for me. I used to eat a lot of spag-bowl but now, I only eat it once a week. I use low-calorie noodles and make the sauce full of vegetables. So basically I am still eating some of the same meals I used to eat before [I changed my diet] but I am just having a healthier version of them.”

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van der Leeuw tells viewers on Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset that she lost around 35 kilos and has maintained the weight loss ever since.

“Fat is one of those words that is now loaded with blame and stigma and can be difficult to use,” Dr Mosley says in the better bodies episode of Reset.  “I think it’s important to use the f-word because it really impacts our health.”

“Too much fat, particularly around the gut, hugely increases your risk of heart disease, type-two diabetes, dementia and even some of the common cancers.”

In the show, Dr Michael Mosley aims to explore major health issues, like obesity and weight gain, which affects so many Australians. The series also sheds light on how important good nutrition is to our weight and why improvements in diet quality can reduce our risk of developing disease.

van der Leeuw explains that her personal health story is evidence that obesity can lead to a deterioration of physical health, while weight loss and can reverse many physical issues.

“I used to physically struggle with sciatica back pain and had PCOS, endometriosis, bad migraines and fatigue,” van der Leeuw tells SBS. “Now, my endometriosis and PCOS is really managed. Because I’ve lost the weight, I don’t have the symptoms now and I don’t have any back pain or fatigue. Getting healthy and losing weight has honestly changed my life.”

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The mind-food connection

van der Leeuw’s long-term weight loss journey, which she made public on Instagram, also produced an unexpected benefit: it helped her beat depression. 

“I used to struggle with depression and anxiety,” she says. “Now, my depression is gone. I do still struggle with anxiety every now and again but it is very well managed. I think when you eat well, you’re getting the right nutrients you need and food can put you in a good mood.”

According to Beyond Blue, in any one year, around one million Australian adults have depression and over two million have anxiety. Although pharmacological treatments for mental health conditions work well for many, the concept of using food as a medicine to heal our brains or prevent the onset of depression is a popular subject in modern science.

“In the dietary group, 30 per cent of people went on to have full clinical remission compared to eight per cent in the social support group.”

Professor Felice Jacka, director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University, who appears in the ‘Better Minds’ episode Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset believes that in some people, nutrition can be a powerful psychological healer. 

Prof Jacka and colleagues at Deakin University conducted a study, published in 2018, showing that improvements in your diet can improve depressive symptoms

As she explains on the show, half of the participants in the study were randomly assigned to get social support while the other half saw a clinical dietitian, who gave them general dietary advice. The diet followed was a Mediterranean diet, rich in whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and olive oil.

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“What we found was diet seemed to be very efficacious in helping people to improve their depression but what was notable was the degree of dietary change correlated very closely to the degree of improvement in depression,” Prof Jacka tells viewers.

“In the dietary group, 30 per cent of people went on to have full clinical remission compared to eight per cent in the social support group.”

Feed your gut feeling 

It’s also been proven that eating a diet rich in processed foods and high in sugars may cause depression. A global analysis of 41 studies, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry last year, found that a bad diet heightens your risk of depression as it leads to inflammation, especially in the gut.

“Your guts are surprisingly clever,” says Dr Mosley in the Better Guts episode of Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset. “They are lined with brain cells. In fact, there are as many brain cells down there that you find in the head of a cat.

“This second brain in your gut is linked to the brain in your head by something called the vagus nerve. So your gut and the brain are in constant communication.”

“They are lined with brain cells. In fact, there are as many brain cells down there that you find in the head of a cat."

Although maintaining a healthy diet full of fibre is one sure way to prevent inflammation and protect your gut, for some people, it’s a lot more complicated.

The Gut Foundation estimates that half our population complain of some digestive problem in any 12-month period. Gut problems include any issue from heartburn to diarrhoea, ulcers to irritable bowel or Crohn’s disease, colitis, or bowel cancer.

Alicia, a mother of three who lives with diverticulitis, tells Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset of the extreme pain and discomfort experienced by the condition. The disease results in the inflammation or infection of small abnormal pouches that occur in the wall of the bowel. 

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Alicia reveals that the serious condition, which was once debilitating, is currently being managed with dietary intervention. She says the secret was to make slow, gradual changes to her diet so she could identify what foods agreed with her and those that caused harm. 

“I don’t eat a lot of potato anymore but I do use sweet potato,” she says on Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset. “[Another] surprising thing I learnt was that the canned variety of beans were easier for my gut to process than the dried beans you soak yourself overnight.” Fermented foods also feature strongly in her diet.

“Listen to your body and just get as much colour and diversity in your diet as much as you can.”

But the biggest lesson Alicia came to understand was the impact that food has on her mind, body and gut. “I do identify a strong connection between mind and gut. Having this nice sense of wellbeing in my body [now] helps with feelings of anxiety.”

Alicia now advises Australians to think carefully about the food they eat, because “food as something that’s in your mouth only for a few seconds but it’s in your body for eight or more hours”.

“Listen to your body and just get as much colour and diversity in your diet as much as you can.”

Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset is a new series, created in partnership with Medibank and produced independently by SBS, exploring some of the latest research on the big health issues that affect so many Australians. It's exclusive to SBS On Demand and will air at10pm Tuesday nights on SBS. Watch epsiode 1 now right here:


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