Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lose Weight Gain Health

3 people have asked me in the last 2 days for tips on losing weight. So I decided to write about what I know and do. Before anything I want to etch into the reader's brain that the losing-weight concept should never make you lose focus of the motive - HEALTHY LIVING albeit there are many factors that tempt people to look at it purely from the point of having a good (or skinny) figure. It is akin to choosing fashion over comfort, yes, you can do that occasionally but in the long run only comfort pays off !

Warning: No weird losing 1 Kg-per-day tips. It is all plain and straightforward, right food, right eating habits and exercise.

Eating habits

- Eating 3 meals a day is important: Many working people skip breakfast, a very easy way to gain weight because the body assumes you are in ‘starvation’ mode and most of what you eat for lunch will be stored as fat instead of being used up as energy. Breakfast or breaking fast (since you have not had any food in nearly 10-12 hours) is the most important meal of the day and should NEVER be skipped.

- Snacking: The digestive system is active every 2-2.5 hours, so eating something between meals is a really good way to keep your metabolic rate high and a long gap between meals (lunch at 1 and dinner at 8 for example) would lead to hunger with the result that many people end up stuffing themselves at dinner !

- Avoid going to bed immediately after eating: There should be at least 2 hours gap between dinner and when you go to bed. According to me, even siesta is a bad idea but Spaniards manage to do it, no idea how !

Food

It is indeed true that what tastes good is not what is healthy but thankfully not all the time – eg: fruits, vegetables (well-cooked of course) etc.

- Drink water: 2-2.5 litres of water a day is a must – not necessarily plain water but can be in the form of buttermilk, teas and juices, but I would recommend only water because of the calorie content in other drinks. Water is extremely essential for absorption of all nutrients.

- Eat fruits instead of juices: Having an apple is better than apple juice because the former gives you fiber while the latter gives you mostly just sugar. Preserved juices have almost no nutritional value, so avoid them.

- Eat salads instead of stew (kootu): Cooking for a long time or frying or boiling almost always reduces the nutritional value of food. So replace cooked meals with salads at least once or twice a week. For example, shredded carrots with tomatoes and lemon (garnished with coriander and spices like mustard) is a tasty and healthy dish.

- Cut down on beverages: Remember the milk and sugar that goes into Coffee and tea have a lot of calories in them!

- Cut down on sweets and fried foods: obviously one need not completely give them up (Appa often says that he would rather enjoy life than do nothing and live until 80)! Switching to olive oil or some oil with omega-3 fatty acids will be a good choice (These are the unsaturated fatty acids that are good for the body).

- Avoid empty calories (a 2000 calorie pizza has very little nutritional content) – icecreams, sodas, soft drinks, chips and most preserved foods fall in this category.

Of course you can starve and lose weight like models do, but what is the point in looking like Aishwarya Rai, if you can't even run a km when rogues chase you ?!

Exercise:

While reducing food intake will definitely reduce weight, it will not help you maintain weight. For that there is no choice but to exercise since building muscle (no, no, am not taking about Arnold or Venus Williams, just increasing the muscle mass in the body) will automatically start burning fat.

- Any exercise as soon one gets up, on an empty stomach, is the most effective. You will have to spend 4 times the effort to burn the same number of calories when you do the exercise at any other time of the day. Yes, it is difficult to do it on weekdays, do so during weekends.

- Any exercise (walking or jogging) for less than 1 hour accomplishes very little. So if you cannot jog, walk for an hour everyday (when you come back from work or visit a temple closeby or go around your block, anywhere). Joining a fitness centre is a good idea too but only if you will go there at least 3 times a week! I wrote another post on the same topic, and there are a few more tips in it, towards the end of the post, that I do not want to reiterate here.

- Doing simple stretching exercises for 15 min after jogging or walking will help. It will keep your muscles flexible and will avoid any strain caused by exercise that your body is hitherto not used to.

- Some other tips that you can incorporate in your routine (remember doing it a few times will make it a habit)
1.Walk short distances, Avoid cars or taxis or autos
2. Avoid elevators, take the stairs
3. Avoid a remote, walk to the TV every time you want to change a channel
and above all, doing everything with a friend or someone with the same objectives always helps. This way there is someone with whom you can share your progress as well as compete with.

One of my friends lost 12 kilos in 3 months. All she did was have a healthy diet and walk for an hour a day. This is how her diet plan looked like
- 3 idlis for breakfast
- 2 chapathis, vegetables and a cup of rice rice for lunch
- 3 chapathis for dinner
- fruits between meals as snacks

According to your basal metabolic rate (BMR), you can increase the quantity of food (one should never feel hungry since the body will then go into ‘starvation’ mode) but the gist remains the same - right food, right eating habits and exercise. Of course it does not mean you should not have a party or attend a wedding and have rich food once in a while, only just make a note that you should work out another 30 min the next day.

It is also important to track your weight. So have a weighing scale at home and check your weight at the SAME time every day (or week or any time period you prefer) and preferably as soon as you get up. The body weight will vary by 1-2 kilos throughout the day depending on what you do. Weight will drop after vigorous exercise due to dehydration and will increase after food intake.

Trust me, habits die hard, once you start doing it, you will keep doing it. For motivation, look in the mirror and keep a pair of pants that you have not been able to fit into for the last couple of years and the day you fit into it, you will be in the seventh heaven (I know this works for girls, wonder what works for guys - the girlfriend or wife :D ?!)

Note for pregnant and/or lactating women: Being pregnant or having a baby is not an excuse to bloat ! Even for these stages, doctors recommend a certain weight gain, a certain diet and certain exercises. Please follow those because while gaining weight is 3 times easier, losing weight is 4 times slower.

Note for All: In spite of eating the right food and exercising, if there is still no change, perhaps it is time to check your thyroid levels and/or if you have other hormonal imbalances.

Update as on 25th Jan:

Thanks to Musingal for bringing up a valid point, Protein intake. When you watch your eating habits, it is not enough to just reduce food intake but it is important to reduce fat, carbohydrates while still keeping protein. Most vegetarians assume it is not possible with their diet (and some use it as an excuse to eat meat) but nothing could be farther from the truth. Right from milk and yoghurt to lentils and beans, there is protein everywhere. In fact plant protein is easily digestible and hence is more effective than animal protein. Unfortunately, even doctors are not aware of this fact since most of them hardly have enough knowledge and experience with Nutrition itself.

I usually check nutritiondata.com or wikipedia for protein content. If you cannot watch your protein take with natural foods, you can try the protein drinks available in the market. But care should be taken that you do not overdo it. Too much protein is again not good (both for sports and general health) since it interferes with calcium absorption and can also cause undue stress on kidneys and Vitamin b6 deficiency.

Copyright for exercise picture
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