If a weight loss programme is too severe or intense, the repercussions can be adverse. Why? The body needs adequate nourishment and a gradual exercise progression, or else there is possibility of a physical and mental burnout. A weight loss plan should be designed, taking into account an individual's health status, fitness level and goals.

You need to set realistic goals to improve your health. The body needs sufficient calories and nourishment for good health. There is a big difference in being thin and being fit. Make sensible changes to your eating, exercising and lifestyle habits so that you are physically and mentally happy, energised and well.

Tip: Don't overdo a good thing. It can tire your body and mind. To get results, your work-outs need not be hard, but they need to be smart.

BE EXERCISE-WISE

What is the downside of over-exercising?

If you exercise too much and do not allow the body to adequately rest and recuperate, you could put yourself at a risk for serious health problems. Here are some reasons why:

Depleted energy

Going to extremes can deplete the body of its energy reserves and lead to chronic fatigue. The body becomes prone to illness as immunity levels go down.

Resting pulse rate

It is important to be aware of the resting pulse rate, especially when you wake up. If it increases, it can be an indication of over-training.

Amenorrhea

Excessive exercise and severe dieting cause irregular menstruation. There is also a risk of infertility along with other health complications in the long run.

Change in sleep pattern

Day after day, an effort to maintain high levels of physical intensity makes it difficult for the body to relax. This results in a change in your sleep pattern:

* You have difficulty in falling asleep.

* Your sleep tends to be disturbed and you wake up frequently at night.

Change in eating pattern

The body can react in many ways when it is under stress. There can either be loss of or increase in appetite or constant food cravings, resulting in several health problems.

Fitness Guidelines

When starting out, always begin at a level that is right for your current fitness condition and progress at a suitable rate so as to keep your mind and body interested.

An exercise programme should always be safe and effective. Keep the following fitness guidelines in mind

How often?

Exercise should be performed five to six times a week for duration of 30 to 60 minutes. Your exercise intensity can range between 60 to 90 per cent of your target heart rate (depending on your fitness level and medical condition).

Rest

Rest plays an important role in formulating effective training sessions. It helps the body recuperate from fatigue and muscular exhaustion.

Progress gradually

Too much, too fast, too soon are the main causes of injury. Your objective should be to gradually prepare the body to exercise without over-training or over-straining.

GET ADEQUATE NOURISHMENT

What is the downside of obsessive dieting?

Unrealistic standards of beauty encourage crash dieting at the expense of health. Some people go to great lengths to get the skinny look, such as consumption of diet pills, unhealthy methods of weight control such as laxatives and skipping meals.

Obsessive dieting can lead to:

* hair fall

* dry skin

* loss of periods

* insomnia

* lack of concentration

* mood swings

* incontinence

* thinning bones.

Eating guidelines

It is essential that your body is properly nourished. Looking healthy, feeling energised and active are all related to balanced and sensible eating habits. Consider these factors when opting for a diet:

Broaden your palette of pleasures. Eat in a way that doesn't place all the emphasis on the pleasure of food alone - such as great ambience, well-presented meals and good company.

It's not always what you eat, but how you eat. Learn the art of satisfying your taste buds slowly. Eat so that you enjoy each bite.

Watch-out for add-ons. Do not cover your plate with gravies, creamy sauces or dressings. They are laden with high fat. Instead, order sauces and dressings on the side and go easy on them.

Multiply meals, shrink portions. Eat six to eight small meals a day.

Your body needs only few calories at a time for energy and metabolism. Large meals overload the body's digestive system, excess is stored as fat. Make lighter food choices when possible. Eat egg white instead of the whole egg. Whole grain, instead of refined products. Low-fat instead of full fat.

Did you know? Skim milk gets 5 per cent of its calories from fat, while whole milk gets 51 per cent from fat.

Ways to lose weight and keep it off

* Choose a lifestyle that combines sensible eating with regular physical activity.

* Eat enjoyable and nutritious foods.

* Do not over do exercise or succumb to crash dieting

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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