Lose weight the right way

Three-pronged approach: Work at it and you’ll see the difference.

Three-pronged approach: Work at it and you’ll see the difference.   | Photo Credit: Photos: G. Krishnaswamy and The Hindu Photo Librar


Healthy eating, physical activity and dealing with stress are the A,B,C of a sensible and realistic weight loss programme.

Let’s start at the very beginning/A very good place to start/When you read, you begin with A, B, C…

When you talk Nutrition, you begin with…

Why does weight gain happen?

A gain in weight happens when there is an imbalance in the calories: either the intake is high or the expenditure is low or sometimes both. The extra calories are stored as fat tissues in the body. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is an important indicator in determining weight gain. This is the rate at which the body burns calories it gets from food to maintain normal functions of the body ‘at rest.’ The body’s normal functions include the beating of the heart, respiration, and the maintenance of body temperature.

What is the right recommended amount of body fat? How is it measured?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a reflection of body fat. BMI can be easily calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared (BMI =Weight in kg/Height in meters2).This should be ideally between 18.5 and 22.9 for Asians including Indians.

What is obesity?

A BMI of more than 27 signifies obesity in Indians. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing diabetes and heart disease. The risks are significantly higher if the waist measurement is higher than 34 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.

Do I need to lose weight? Why?

Yes, if your BMI is more than 23. A BMI greater than 23 increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and metabolic syndrome. The probability of developing disease increases if you have three or more of the following: age (more than 45 years for men and more than 55 years for women); a family history of heart disease or diabetes; currently have high blood pressure (or are taking medication for it), high cholesterol, high triglyceride, low levels of high density cholesterol, impaired blood glucose or diabetes, left ventricular disease, or cigarette smoking. Research shows that, if you are obese, even a moderate loss of five kg cuts your chances of developing lifestyle diseases to a great extent.

Do I need to get my BMI to 23 to become healthy?

Health can improve even with modest weight loss. Losing even 5-10 per cent of body weight can significantly improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose. Thus, a person weighing 100 kg with an average height of 5 feet 6 inches begins to see improvement with a weight loss of even five kg.

Why do some people gain weight after going off the diet?

If a person opts for a very low calorie diet to shed weight, his/her metabolic rate lowers as the body tries to conserve energy with this new low calorie intake. When the person gets off this ‘impractical’ diet and returns to a more realistic meal pattern, the body, however, does not take cognisance of this. Instead, it remains in the same low metabolic rate mode, not burning the extra calories but storing them. This leads to weight gain even if the food eaten is less than earlier but more than when on ‘diet’.

How does stress lead to weight problems?

If not dealt with, stress wreaks havoc on the body’s hormones, interfering with metabolism, appetite and hunger signals. Stress has a direct effect on the hormone cortisol, which is primarily responsible for fat accumulation in the body.

How do I lose weight?

The cause of weight gain is a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and an erratic diet, rich in processed food. Thus the solution lies in making realistic lifestyle changes like a sustainable exercise regimen and a diet change that enables weight loss. A sensible and realistic diet ensures that calories closest to what the body needs, are consumed; while regular exercise increases BMR and thus enables extra calories to be burnt away.

How quickly should I lose weight?

A weight loss of 0.5-1.0 kg a week is optimal, but up to 2 kg a week may occur initially due to water loss.

A common sense approach includes A, B, C… i.e. Healthy Eating, Physical activity, Dealing with Stress. Ultimately, the science behind weight loss is the way ahead to a long and healthy life. Be sensible, proactive and follow through with goals set for weight control.


Steady weight loss:

* Helps reduce fat storage in the body

* Limits loss of muscles and protein stores.

* Avoids sharp dips in your metabolic rate, which occurs on a very low-calorie diet.


The A, B and C

Healthy Eating

* More whole grain foods such as atta, brown rice, parboiled rice, jowar, bajra, ragi, barley, fruits, vegetables and dals

* More non-fat or low-fat protein foods like non-fat or low-fat milk, curds, paneer, egg white, dal, chicken and/or fish at least 3-4 times a week.

* Keep refined carbohydrates like maida, rava, cakes, pastries, chips, traditional fried savouries, and biscuits to a minimum

* Less unhealthy fats in fried foods like samosas, bhujia, full cream milk and curds, ghee, skin on chicken, marbled meats, sausages, cream biscuits

* Less outside foods with “super, deluxe, double, jumbo, supreme” in their description

* Smaller portions

* Alcohol in moderation, if you drink. For women, one drink a day and for men two drinks a day is acceptable

* Eat regular times; do not skip meals

* Cook food through healthier methods like baking, steaming, sautéing, pressure cooking and grilling instead of frying

* Physical Activity every day…

* Cardio exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, skipping, dancing increase calorie expenditure, move the large muscles and make the heart stronger

* Resistance exercises like weights, push ups and crunches help tone and strengthen muscles and help increase lean body mass

* Proper warm up and cool down before and after these activities prevent injury

* If you can’t exercise, just MOVE. Use stairs instead of the elevator, park the car further away so you walk to it, do gardening, and walk to nearby places instead of driving.

Deal with Stress

* Exercise, meditation, and yoga help to regulate hormones

* Yoga lowers levels of cortisol and increases insulin sensitivity leading to lowered blood sugar levels

* Endorphins released during exercise help reduce stress and boost the spirit

* Meditation and deep breathing help focus on what is truly important in life-ourselves and not the rat race we have chosen to be a part of.


How weight loss helps

Among other things, it will

* Reduce risk of lifestyle diseases

* Improve fitness levels

* Increase self esteem

* Improve family dynamics.

The writer is a Dietician with Visit >

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