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The art of losing weight and maintaining it

The art of losing weight and maintaining it

Eat the right food, in the right portions and at the right time; add regular exercise and good lifestyle choices and you have the right recipe at hand
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K

Ria Shah struggled with her weight all through school and college. Although she did not have any major health issues due to her weight – 88 kilos – it was the taunts that got to her.

“I was obese and I started disliking my body. I had no other choice than to get fit,” says the 23-year-old make-up artist from Bengaluru.

In 2017, she decided to take charge of her weight – and began by eating right and exercising regularly.

“I decided to go on a calorie-deficit diet (burning more calories than you consume is referred to as a calorie-deficit diet.) Ninety per cent of weight loss is about what you eat. It takes a minimum of six months and after that, your body starts showing the number of kilos you have reduced,” says Shah.

In ten months, Ria lost 21 kilos – she now weighs 67 kg.

Ria’s determination helped her achieve her life goals. Something that experts say everybody can achieve if they inculcate healthy lifestyle habits. They do sound a note of caution though – everybody responds differently to diet and exercise and one should not anchor their goals to somebody else’s achievement.

“Weight loss can be achieved and maintained over time if people make long-term lifestyle adjustments,” Dr Sawinder Kaur, deputy dean, head of the department, food technology and nutrition, Lovely Professional University, Punjab, tells Happiest Health. “Individuals who are cognizant of how and what they eat and engage in daily physical activity or regular exercise will be successful in both losing and keeping off the extra weight.”

What goes in matters

Sneha Satla, a dietician from Citizens Speciality Hospital, Hyderabad, says that every health condition is related to weight. “Hence, losing weight has many benefits. First, it keeps you healthy. It helps to avoid developing chronic conditions.”

Dr Kaur suggests people to follow a diet that is high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and dairy products. “We should not skip any meals. It can result in acute hunger, overeating and poor food choices. Some people skip breakfast and lunch to avoid gaining weight. However, they get hunger pangs at night and eat excessively. People who have at least three regular meals everyday weigh less than those who do not,” adds Dr Kaur.

Satla said timings matter a lot.  “A proper time should be allotted for each meal. Breakfast should be eaten by 8:30 am, lunch by 1-1:30 pm and dinner by 8 pm. To lose weight, cut down on your carbs for breakfast and dinner as much as possible. One should consume vegetable salad before every meal/ big meal,” advises the dietician.

“Sitting or sleeping right after a meal should be avoided. One should go for intermittent fasting, once or twice a week. One can go for a cheat day (breakfast or lunch) once in 15 days,” she adds.

According to the National Health Service, UK, skipping breakfast is not advisable for weight loss. Skipping breakfast leads to missing on important nutrients and overeating throughout the day.

Elaborating on her routine, Shah says that after waking up in the morning she consumes warm water to cleanse her body. “Then, after an hour, I eat my breakfast, which usually is oats or muesli with milk and a cup of black coffee. In between, if I feel hungry, then I eat some fruits. For lunch, I eat daliya (porridge) or khichdi (a dish made of rice, lentils and vegetables) or roti sabzi (bread and vegetable curry) or brown rice and dal (lentil soup), along with salad. Before my workout (usually in the evenings), I consume black coffee and bread with peanut butter. For dinner, I have juice, sprouts with mixed vegetables, pomegranate and yoghurt,” she adds.

Watch the portion

Along with eating healthy and on time, one should mind the food portion.
“It’s not only about choosing healthier food, but also about paying attention to the serving size. Most meals offered in restaurants and at homes are larger than you require. Get your measuring cups out to understand your portion. Consuming optimal portion of food could aid in ten to 20 per cent weight reduction,” Dr Kaur says.

Satla adds that if one feels hungry in between their meals they can consume green tea, black tea and choose a very low calorie drink. “Choosing the right snack and beverage will  help you to lose weight. One should avoid aerated drinks, alcohol, smoking, drugs and sugar (which can be compensated with jaggery and mishri (rock sugar).”

The cardio and weight-training cocktail

According to the United States’ national public health agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity helps in burning more calories. Along with following a calorie-deficit diet, it is important to engage in physical activity to lose weight.

Sharaf Ali, a freelancer fitness coach from Bengaluru, tells Happiest Health about the importance of burning calories. “It can be done by staying physically active. One must not sit at one place and binge watch or eat. If a person is overweight, then he/she should start with stability and mobility exercises. Afterwards, the person should start with resistance/strength training as it is a full-body exercise where more than one kind of joint is working.  The best exercises for strength training are compound lifts which include barbell squats and dead lifts,” he says.

Ali says that after strength training, doing cardio helps in losing weight. “Focusing mainly on cardio exercises will not help one lose weight. In fact, it will lead to muscle loss.  So equal importance must be given to both strength training and cardio exercises. Apart from those, stretches should be added to the workout plan.”

There are two types of stretches – dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches mean moving of all the joints at a time such as swinging your hands up and down. Static stretches are done after workouts. It is holding the body in one position and it helps to relax and cool down muscles.

Dr Kaur says it’s crucial to be active. Exercise, in addition to having several health benefits, can aid in the burning of excess calories that cannot be lost by diet alone. Physical exercise recommendations differ for active adults, older adults and people with disabilities. However, the overall suggestion is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week, with muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week, to get health benefits.

Shah says she exercises for two hours a day that includes 45 minutes of cardio. The rest is devoted to weight training. “Both are important in the initial stages of workout because cardio will help burn more calories and weight training will help in strengthening the muscle.” She highlights that stretching at the end of every workout is important as it helps to relax muscles.

Time for a lifestyle change?

Dr Kaur and Satla recommend a few changes that can work wonders in one’s weight loss journey.

Say no to alcohol and carbonated drinks:
Drinking alcohol on regular basis should be avoided. A standard glass of wine has about the same number of calories as a piece of chocolate. Drinking too much can easily lead to weight gain over time. Drinking sugar-sweetened soda, tea, juice or wine can add up to hundreds of calories every day. These are referred to as ’empty calories’ since they supply more energy without providing any nutritious value. Dehydration should not be confused with hunger. A glass of water can typically satisfy hunger pangs between scheduled mealtimes.

Sleep tight:
Although there is no evidence to support the idea that sleep is an independent risk factor for obesity, it appears that those who sleep too much (around ten hours per night) or too little (five to six hours) gain three to five pounds more than people who sleep for eight hours. One possible explanation could be that the production of hormones that control appetite get disrupted. Therefore, adequate sleep of six to eight hours will help.

Pay heed to your feelings:
Many people eat more when they feel angry, anxious, unhappy, tired or bored. To maintain your weight, examine your eating patterns and replace unhealthy behaviours with healthier ones. Emotional eating refers to eating food in response to feelings other than hunger (such as stress, boredom, anger and exhaustion). The first step is to figure out why you’re feeling this way and then address the main issue. Changing your emotional eating habits also entails finding new ways to deal with your emotions other than through food, because food will not cure the problem.

Control the surroundings:
Controlling your environment, from filling your kitchen with plenty of healthy options to choosing the correct eateries, is another simple way to help you lose weight. That means keeping away from all-you-can-eat eateries to prevent temptation. Many social and environmental signals could lead to overeating. Some people are more likely to overeat while watching television. Others find it difficult to pass a dish of candies to another person without having a bite.

Stay positive:
Weight loss is a gradual process, and if the results do not come as quickly as expected, a person may become disheartened. Some days will be more difficult than others. When self-change appears to be too difficult, a successful weight-loss programme demands the individual to persevere and not give up. Some people may need to reset their objectives, possibly by changing their exercise patterns or lowering the total number of calories they consume. The most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude and persevere in conquering the obstacles.

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