Health and weight-loss will always be one of most pertinent topics with today’s lifestyle and I promised to write about diet in my previous article “The Running Man: Let’s Start“. So here we go!
I know many people who go on and off a variety of diet programs from low fat to no fat, low protein to no protein, low carbs to no cards, et cetera, et cetera. I can easily attest that 30% to 40% say it did not work and 50% to 60% see great results only to gain back their weight after a few months. I have personally gone on one of these programs and actually found great results that stuck. So why do most diet and weight-loss programs not work effectively?
In reality most people do not follow a diet or weight-loss program 100%. So even if you are on the greatest weight-loss program on Earth, you will not gain its full benefit if you only follow it partially. That is a fact. You cannot take 50% of the program and expect 50% of its promised result. You are either on it 100% or not at all.
Before I get into diets and weight-loss programs, I want to first ensure that you understand what you are getting into. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is your objective for losing weight? Are you overweight and want to lose some pounds? Maybe you are concerned for your health? Or maybe you just want to get fit? Whatever it is, you need to make sure that your objective is clearly defined.
Next question is; are you losing fat or muscles? They both contribute to your weight and losing either one or both will show on the scales. You can starve yourself for two week and I promise you will lose weight. However, this is not a good way of doing it. A healthy weight loss is when you lose fat and gain muscle. It is actually easier than you think once you understand the relationship of fat and muscles. When I was diagnosed for diabetes, I had to do a lot of research and while doing it I discovered that one of the best ways to maintain my blood-sugar level is to gain more muscles. See energy comes from carbohydrate converted into glucose which is then used by your muscles. Fat is essentially stored backup energy. Excess fat on the other hand comes into play when you have loads of carbohydrates and fats flowing through your system that is not being used. Fat on its own passes through your system as it really has no reason to stick around. The problem occurs when there are loads of carbohydrates coming in from stuff like rice, noodles, sweet drinks and even alcohol. The carbs collect the fat, binds them and get lodged all around your body. When you build muscles, they use the carbs and in turn the fats just flow through your system. In short, when you build sufficient muscles, you will lose weight.
Back to the question – Are you losing fat or muscles?
There is a huge variety of diet and weight-loss programs out there. Now I mention diet and weight-loss programs as two separate things because they are two completely different animals. The difference is a diet program only takes food or food groups off your daily food intake; whereas a weight-loss program would also include either some minor exercise routine or a dietary routine such as what time of the day you should have your meals. I personally believe that that diet programs don’t work. A diet program is a temporary immediate solution. Your body needs carbohydrate, fat and protein. Therefore, any program which involves removing any one of these from your daily diet is not a good program. Reducing food intake is not not a good idea. Your body is an adaptive system designed to survive. If you stave it of food constantly, it will seek to store any food it can grab and you end up battling weight gain over diet all the way. So what do you do?
Let’s first understand what each key food group is about and how they contribute to our bodies.
Carbohydrate, as I mentioned earlier, is your body’s source of energy. Without carbohydrate you will feel weak and sluggish. Too much can also make you feel weak and sluggish. This is because, your blood stream is so loaded with sugars that other nutrients and vitamins cannot pass through.
Carbohydrates is generally divided into two categories – simple and complex. I will explain this in a very simplified way. If you want more information, you can always look it up on web. Simple carb goes into your system faster than complex carb. However, complex carb provide more sugar than simple carb. Some examples of simple carb are rice, white bread, sweets and ice-cream.
Fruits, pasta and whole-grain bread are examples of complex carb.
Protein is your muscles’ building block. Muscles help your body function efficiently. Exercise combined with sufficient protein intake will build muscles.
So, what is fat for?
Fat help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K which maintains healthy skin and hair. Fat provides your body with essential fatty acids which is vital for your system. Fat also provides a source of backup fuel for your body. Fat in your body is broken down into glucose by the liver and in turn used by your muscles.
As you can see, you actually need all three. However, anything in excess is not good. Too much of any or all three components can cause serious problems to your health. Diabetes, gout and high blood pressure are some problems that can occur. So how do you find balance in your dietary requirement?
Self-control and exercise. You can enjoy a scoop or two of ice-cream every now and then while you are on your path to losing weight. Finishing off a tub of ice-cream after every workout is the same as tossing out water from a leaking boat in the middle of a lake. Proper dieting is about self-control; enjoy your favourite food but don’t go into a bingeing session or you will simply offset everything you had done in the gym.
Ensure that you have carbohydrate, protein, fat and fibre in all your meals. Have a small bowl of noodles, bread or rice for carbohydrate. Add some meat or soy based products for your protein intake. Your supply of fat will come from the meat and the oils used to cook your food. Take note that sauces are also carbohydrate, so sparing amount only. The last item is fibre. I did not mention it earlier as most diet and weight-loss programs don’t mention it either. Fibre such as fruits and vegetable help clean your digestive system. It’s mother nature’s soap and brush. Another great thing about fibre is, it hold water in your body. Liquids general run through our system quite fast. Adding fibre into our diet ensures we have a backup supply of liquid in our system.
In short, when you have your meals, aim to fill your belly and not over-fill. if you feel hungry in between main meals, have a light protein snacks as it takes a longer time to process and does not add unnecessary carbohydrate in your system.
Regular exercise is the key to maintaining a decent and healthy body weight. Exercise also helps you tone up so that you look better. Exercise done properly, will release certain chemicals that makes you feel good and confident. Spare 30 minutes a day to exercise. It can be a short run, a cycle, rope skipping or simply following your favourite aerobics video. That is all you have to do.
The last question I have for you is simply: Are you willing to do the work?
Yes, you have to do the work. Watching an exercise video is not exercising. Just tell yourself “No excuse. Today I am working for 30 minutes”. If you don’t do what is necessary, don’t expect results and certainly don’t blame the weight loss program that you had paid for. Watch your food intake. You can have 3 or 4 square meals a day but don’t pile your plate to the brim. Eat moderately and eat timely. Scheduled eating time is another key ingredient of a successful weight-loss program.
You decide what shape you are in by the actions that you take. Like it or not, it is all up to you.