Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weight Loss

I am no stranger to weight issues. Being very skinny in my teens I wished nothing else but to bulk up and like most people I ended up with a paunch in my mid 20's. A recent road accident and the long period of inactivity that followed made me ring in 90 kg's on the scale and that served a good jolt to get back into shape. It's been 6 months since then and I am now much fitter and slimmer at 78. Though 12 kg's in 6 months is not a big achievement I know for sure that it's not a magic drop I achieved overnight and will gain back again the next day. A gradual weight loss is more permanent than an immediate one and without the vagaries of loose skin. This one is here to stay for life, to be maintained with a little bit of discipline and self control.

Daily compliments on the new me notwithstanding, I am constantly prodded for advice by those facing the same dilemma. And my advice to them is simple:

On a daily basis you need to burn more calories than you consume.

This is the magic mantra of them all. Every ab burner/cruncher, magic pill, diet program works on the same principle. Make the body dip into its fat reserves and burn them. Though this is a rule that only people wanting to lose weight need follow, everything else mentioned below can be imbibed by anyone wanting to lead a healthy active lifestyle. Any weight loss program can be divided into two sections, one on calorie intake and the other on burning them and here's my attempt:

Calorie Intake
Common sense dictates that lesser the calories consumed, lesser you'll have to burn to remain fit. A well balanced diet is recommended for everyone but what I want to touch upon is the things to avoid. Eliminating these items from your daily intake will immediately show results. One thing I do want to point out is that if you are used to consuming any items mentioned below on a daily basis, stopping them completely would be detrimental to what we are trying to achieve. Most of them are high on the "good for tongue" factor and if you starve yourself off them there's gonna be a taste bud mutiny and good chance for a complete relapse with vengeance. The best way to go about it is to slowly wean yourself off it by reducing the frequency of intake. Indulge in smaller portions of each listed item once every week or fortnight and you'll find it much easier to stick to the plan.

1) Refined flour (Maida): The bane of all things healthy. Avoid refined flour in all forms. It has almost nil nutritional value, be it naan, white bread, biscuits, pizza base or most Indian street food items made from it.

2) White Rice: Indian diet wouldn't be complete without this staple but when push comes to shove you gotta take the leap.

3) Deep fried: Items like samosa, vada pav, pakodas, papads. Fried potato in any form, chips, wafers. The farther you stay away from them the better.

4) Processed items with added sugar: Everyone has read those forward chain mails on the sugar content of colas but it's not just them. Most other cold drinks, fruit juices, snacks, cereals, chocolates, cakes and its variations in dessert have added sugar in varying forms that's just going to pile up useless calories on the body. Use your common sense and be sure to read the ingredient list before dropping an item into your super market shopping bag.

As mentioned before and I repeat again, an occasional indulgence needs to be there to maintain sanity and most of the items can be replaced by much healthier and equally well tasting options. Refined flour items with whole grain ones, fruit juices itself have much natural sugar that they can be consumed without any extra added, sugar free substitutes, soy milk products instead of dairy ones, fat free and low fat substitutes, margarine instead of butter and so on.

Burning Calories
At any given time while asleep or awake the body is burning calories. Just helping it catch up by reducing your calorie intake will help the cause but prodding it along by increasing the rate at which it does so is what will deliver those fantastic results. So, how does one do that? The most common and much ignored way is to exercise. It is imperative to sweat it out for half an hour daily. Be it brisk walking, jogging, swimming, active sports, lifting weights, incorporate whatever rocks your boat and you'll find yourself more energetic and upbeat for rest of the day.

A few other tips and tricks involve:
  • Eating smaller portions more frequently (4-5 times a day). This will keep the digestion and metabolism process going on whole day ensuring more efficient calorie burn.
  • Eating slowly to trick the body into feeling full. According to recent research by scientists at the University of Rhode Island, once you start eating a meal, a chemical signals the brain after 20 minutes that the stomach is full and it no longer has to feel hungry. The lesser quantity you eat before that full feeling the better.
  • Drinking enough water to keep the body well hydrated. Water is the main element using which metabolism occurs and any lack of it will impact the process.
  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only will they substitute your meals as healthy alternatives they are rich in fiber. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate and the body will spend a lot of calories in an attempt to digest it.
  • Consuming items like Green Tea and Fish that are known to boost the metabolism rate besides the other health benefits they afford.

Please share your opinion on this post in the comments section.

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