In my previous post Health is Investment : Do You Know, it was discussed that weight control is an important instrument of health investment. One should maintain BMI (body mass index) value of less than 25. Ideally for a long, healthy and disease free life, BMI value of 22 is desirable (Read Secrets of centenarians). Overweight/obese people must lose weight to attain a BMI value of less than 25. Dieting, the commonly employed method to lose weight works only for an initial one to two months and most of the dieters come back to their original weight after two to three months.
Recap of Previous Knowledge
In the post dieting harms: be careful, it was informed that dieting is regarded as a starvation like situation by the body. The body reacts to it by reducing BMR (basal metabolic rate), TEF (thermic effect of food) and daily activities to reduce energy expenditure, a process called as adaptive thermogenesis (AT). Due to AT, the lost weight returns back, once normal diet is resorted to. I have also discussed that repeated dieting leads to Yo-Yo syndrome, which is responsible for increasing percentage of fats in the body up to 40% or more (Normal value is 25% fats). High percentage of fat in body slows the BMR, causing weight gain even with lesser calories. Our weight reduction program must address these two issues and reduce triggering of AT. So dieting is not a preferred method for weight reduction.
If you have decided to lose weight and be healthy and wealthy, you deserve to be congratulated. Your decision will empower you to mitigate all the ill effects of overweight in future (Read, Obesity harms). To maintain weight loss on a long-term basis, one has to change the life style completely. It requires self-discipline and dedication. One can lose weight by judicious use of diet control and physical activity on a life long basis. Either of them in isolation will not help. Long term goals should be made with a target of losing 0.5-1 kg per week. Once a conscious decision to lose weight is taken, you will enter into a one way traffic zone. One cannot revert back to the original life style or else weight will bounce back with vengeance due to AT. To lose weight one has to perform following actions in the first stage:-
1. Maintain a Diary. Note down all the items consumed on a daily basis for one month at least. Calculate the total energy intake over a period of time. You may be surprised by the amount of extra calories you were consuming without being aware of it. A sedentary adult male does not require more than 1800 calories per day. Any thing extra above 1800 will definitely add to the weight. If you use packaged foods you can calculate calories from the packet itself. Since it is not possible to list calorie content of various foods, I have listed some websites dealing with the calorie content of various foods. You can use it as a guide. The actual caloric value will differ according to preparation methods.
2. Buy a weighing machine preferably a digital weighing machine to record your weight. Calculate the desired weight to keep your BMI at 25 by the formula; Desired weight= 25 x height square (height in meters). For eg, if your height is 170 cm or 1.7 meters, your weight should be 72 kg. If your weight is 82 kg, you are 10 kg over weight. you will require approximately three to four months to reduce weight at the rate of 0.5-1 kg per week. Once your weight loss program takes off weekly recording of weight should be done on a fixed day. It will help you to titrate your food intake and exercise viz a viz weight reduction.
3. If possible, get a static bicycle and use it for half an hour in the morning and evening daily to start with.
4. Write down on a piece of paper ” I have decided to protect myself from excess weight. I am now dedicated to live long and live healthy. I will reduce my weight by 4 kg in this month“. Repeat these lines 10 times after getting up and before going to sleep. It is self-suggestion technique to motivate oneself to remain committed. One can prepare his own set of motivational sentences.
Control Your Diet to Lose Weight
Diet control is the crux to lose weight. No crash dieting is recommended. No change in basic diet pattern should be done. One should stick to usual regular meal times. No skipping of meals. To lose weight some people have only one or two meals in a day. It is not advised to restrict meals to one/two times as AT will be triggered leading to reduced BMR and lesser or no weight loss even with restricted food intake. If you take three meals a day and snack twice between meals, stick to it. You must eat what is usually consumed by you. To lose weight you have to make the following changes in your food habits pattern:-
First Stage; Cut Mid Meal Snacks.
The main reason of being overweight is the unscheduled mid meal snacks. Obese people often claim that their food intake during meals is not much. They may be not be lying. I know an all members obese family. Their food intake during scheduled meals was not that much so as to make them grossly overweight. However, all of them were foodies. I have seen the family finishing 1-2 kg sweets in just one go. Whenever they got the opportunity they ate. They knew every restaurant and eating joint of the city. Their main cause of obesity was their casual mid meals snacking but they always blamed their genes for being obese. Therefore, the first step to healthy life style is to cut down all mid meals snacks/eats consisting of fried foods, high and calorie dense foods, eg biscuits, sweets, pastries, cakes, aerated drinks, fruit juices and other junk foods. Cut down sugars. Craving for sweets is a definite sign of increase in weight. Excessive intake of tea/coffee should also be curtailed. If a person consumes 6-8 cups of tea/coffee per day, he is adding about 420 calories per day (one cup of tea/coffee provides approximately 70 calories in Indian type of preparation). Tea or coffee should be restricted to four cups only with half the sugar content. One may use artificial sweeteners to reduce calorie intake. Use fruits preferably seasonal fruits for mid meals snacking. Avoid fruit juices. This will cut down a large number of calories without altering your routine diet pattern and help you to lose weight. Use of herbal teas, green teas for weight reduction is also not required. You may do so to increase their sales and make the companies richer. Diet control also means restricting your alcohol intake. One gm of alcohol provides about seven calories. These calories have no nutritional value (empty calories) and adds to your weight. People who love alcohol also eat high calorie snacks. To lose weight calorie control is required. In the first stage, this routine would help you to lose weight as per the desirable target of 0.5-1 kg/week. Usually after a few months, the body may get adjusted to this stage and the weight loss may reach a plateau. Now its time to switch to the second stage.
Must Avoid Foods
Second Stage: Impose 25% Cut in Food Intake During Meals.
In the second stage, one has to cut down food intake by 25% in all meals without affecting the diet pattern. For eg if you take four pieces of bread or paranthas in the morning, reduce it to three. Similar, reduction should be done in lunch and dinner also. Gradually replace high calorie content of food with low-calorie, high fiber foods like whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits (for supply of vitamins and minerals). Dairy products in moderation also help to lose weight. Listen to voice of stomach not the tongue. Our stomach desire nutritious foods and not bothered about taste. On the contrary, our tongue is only interested in taste. Large number of the tasty foods are calorie dense, rich in sugar and fats, which adds to the body weight. Traditional Indian diet is best to maintain weight. Some people try to lose weight by eating boiled foods or skipping dinner to reduce calories intake. Do not resort to boiled foods or skipping dinners to prevent triggering of AT. Also there is no requirement of resorting to fancy proprietary preparations to reduce weight. 25% reduced intake will again be effective for next few months, after which another 25% cut is required, the third stage and so on. You have to gradually reduce your food intake in stages, till the system stabilizes. One thing must be kept in mind that after fifth decade there is gradual reduction in BMR by 2-3 percent. Your food intake should decrease accordingly after 50 years of age. There is no need to hire a dietitian and get a diet chart. There is no need to resort to crash diet as the effects are short-lived. There is no need to count calories for each day or meal. Gradual reduction in calorie works much better in long-term than restricting diet to 1000 cal or less (crash dieting).
Exercise Daily to Lose Weight
Obese/overweight people are generally sedentary in their habits. To lose weight exercises must be included as part of life style modifications. Exercise helps in preventing LBM (lean body mass, consisting of water, proteins, glycogen and muscles) loss during initial stages of weight loss. It also strengthens the cardiovascular system and helps you to prevent/delay, heart attacks, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and peripheral vascular diseases. One has to dedicate one hour daily, at least four times a week for the desired results.
Few questions are commonly asked. What type of exercises should be done? Shall I do weight training? How much exercise and of what intensity should be undertaken? For weight loss, aerobics exercises like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling are the best. They should be an integral part of your workout. Weight bearing and flexibility building exercises may be added. To attain maximum benefit of weight loss and cardiovascular protection, an exercise program should raise the heart rate to a certain level for at least twenty minutes. This threshold heart rate is calculated by formula; 220-Age= Maximum heart rate. At least 60% of maximum heart rate should be attained for beneficial effects. For eg an individual aged 50 years should attain at least heart rate of 102 (60% of 220-70= 102) Trained people can attain up to 90% of maximum heart rate. As a layman criteria, one should feel mild breathless during a workout or brisk walking. Each aerobic exercise session should include five minutes of warm up and cooling down. Adequate hydration should be maintained by consuming water as per requirement. You will be surprised to know that daily regular exercises also reduce hunger and craving for food.
Be gradual in your approach. Do not overdo to reduce your weight overnight. If you feel discomfort, stop the exercise. Consult your physician before undertaking it again.
With time, the body will adapt to the your exercise regime akin to diet control. The calories expenditure during the workout will reduce. At this stage, one has to increase either the intensity or the duration of exercise, or both to attain similar weight loss and desired heart rate. In the first stage, half an hour exercise in morning and evening will suffice. After few months, the exercise duration should be gradually increased by fifteen minutes or more to attain the same weight loss. Intensity of exercise should also be increased to attain the 60% heart rate target. You should be able to titrate the exercise level, heart rate and the weight loss by careful observation. No definite methods can be evolved for this. Yoga & Breathing exercises or pranayam (kapal bhati, anulom-vilom and bhastika) also help in reducing weight and can be included in exercise program. A fifteen minutes program for breathing exercises can be included for beneficial results.
Replace sedentary habits by a physically active life. You have to find out ways and means to be physically active in your daily life. You can use stairs instead of lift or walk down or use a bicycle while going to your grocery store if it is near by. Park your car at a distance from your office so that you can walk to your office. If you are shy of dancing in social get to-gather functions, change your habit and make a point to dance rather than having alcohol and eating snacks quietly in one corner. You have to devise your own methods for increasing the physical activity level and no tailor-made solutions can be given.
By careful observation and self monitoring you will be able to make out whether your weight loss is as per the expectations or not. You should follow the similar routine till the desired weight loss of 0.5 kg/week is maintained. When further weight loss is not coming, you can proceed to next step for diet control or exercise program. As brought out earlier, you don’t have luxury of reverting back to original habits. You have to adjust to new situation. If you are found of parties/get together, please go ahead with full zeal. Meet people, dance to glory, but when it comes to eating be patient and do not overeat. One overeating episode will increase your weight by one to two kg, nullifying your efforts. If you do not believe, than you must check your weight by a digital machine next day after parting. Healthy, slim and trim people are very cautious about their food intake. Adequate sleep is another important aspect of weight loss. A minimum 6-8 hours sleep is required for good health. Maintain a positive attitude and do not get disheartened and give up if results are not up to your expectations. Instead, sit down and analyze the situation calmly and make adjustments. Sooner or later you will eventually succeed.
My Own Story
In 2005, my weight was about 75 kg. I was looking after the hospitality department of my institution as an additional responsibility. Late night meetings, lot of parties and social get to-gathers was the norm. The only physical activity I use to do/could do was to walk down to my office in the evening or leisurely walk for two to three km, if time permitted. Progressively the weight increased and reached 80 kg by 2007. The weight never bothered me as I was too busy in my routine life. In 2007 my work place got changed. One day I saw myself in a full-sized mirror and got shocked to see the profile with protruding pouch and round face. I, then decided to reduce my weight and come back to my original shape. I used the strategy shared with you in the post. With ups and down in weight, I have been successful in keeping the weight at 69 Kg or below till now. Over a period of time my food intake has reduced and stabilized to one chapati and a half katori/bowl of rice in lunch and dinner. I eat a lot of fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables. I eat everything, but in moderation. My favorite drink is lemon water without sugar or salt and I enjoy it. In parties, plain water may be replaced by soda. I don’t take alcohol even in parties. I dedicate two hours daily, at least three times a week for exercises. One hour in morning is dedicated to yoga and breathing exercises and one hour in evening is utilized at gym for a formal exercise program which is a mix of aerobic (jogging, cycling) & weight training. Twice or thrice in a week, I go for a run either on a treadmill or in open for thirty minutes. I am my own trainer. While entering gym, my first action is to measure my weight by the digital weighing machine kept in the gym. I have seen that the weight is usually up by 1-2 kg, if there was a party or get together on the previous day. Our body keeps on adjusting to new environment and even today, slight laxity in diet control or exercise regime leads to increase in weight. I have seen a definite pattern of weight gain in a year. There is usually a gain of 3-4 kg in winters. In summers this weight gain is brought back by concentrated efforts and the cycle repeats itself. To maintain weight one has to remember that with increasing age ‘less food and more exercise’ is required. As I said earlier, losing weight is easy, but maintain it is challenging. It requires a lot of self-discipline and constant vigil by you on yourself. There are no magical remedies and shortcuts.
To maintain weight loss on a long-term basis is a challenge. It requires dedication and self-discipline. If we want to live long and healthy, we must reduce our weight and bring it back to acceptable level of BMI. Some people may still feel that one should lose weight first by dieting and later maintain it by exercises. There is no objection to this philosophy, but invariably one has to follow the above regime to maintain long-term gains, otherwise the weight will be regained soon.
Long term weight control requires dedication & self discipline; No short cuts, No magical remedies
Did you like the article? Does it give you enough armament to fight obesity/overweight. I have narrated my story, if you have one, please share with us. It may motivate others. Please give your valuable feedback & comments. You can also share your views at Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to news letter for regular updates. You can contact us through CONTACT US page, Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.