“Due to my unhealthy lifestyle right from childhood, I was obese. However, I always wanted to lose weight and would try various fad diets, but nothing worked,” recalls Madhurya Mazumder, a 28-year-old software developer from Bengaluru.
The 30-second TikTok transformation videos have blurred the reality of body image. We expect fast results, overnight transformations and end up believing fads over facts. In the process, we skip the lifestyle factor and focus on the detrimental habits.
In March 2021, Mazumder bumped into one such transformation reel and decided to make one of her own someday. “I immediately researched on calorie deficit & strength training and started the very next day with YouTube workouts and a 1200-calorie diet without any knowledge of the importance of macro split.”
Low-calorie diets always lack in some or the other important nutrients. What is more, these deficiencies do not surface until too late. You could develop some sensitivity; your immunity may be compromised, or you would notice balding, all due to an imbalanced diet. But, is it worth the price to pay for temporary weight loss?
A healthy weight loss is one that enriches you with strength, stamina and immunity. The reality is that only building good habits that become a part of your lifestyle can give you a sustainable weight loss or gain.
Mind your macros
“The right way to do a calorie deficit is to keep yourself satiated with the right nutrients,” says Piyush Kushalani, a health and habit coach from Hyderabad. He emphasises on building habits that you will stick to all your life instead of going on a yo-yo weight loss.
According to the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA), all active adults require about 1,900 to 2,000 calories depending upon their activity levels. As Mazumder retraces her journey for Happiest Health, she recalls she was stuck with the same weight after six months, although she was only eating 1,200 kCals.
“Eating nutritious meals and enough calories, according to my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) requirements and following macro split for protein and fat made a major difference for my weight loss,” she says.
Vidhyapriya Rajagopalan, nutritionist and founder, Nutricomms India, says, “Foods with low glycaemic index (the lower the GI of the food, the slower it raises the blood sugar level) and glycaemic load (the lower the load, the lesser it raises your blood sugar levels) are slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and can prevent sudden spikes in blood glucose levels.”
“Low glycaemic index (GI) foods like green vegetables, carrots, millets and lentils, are specifically good for people with diabetes or obese people,” she adds. Since they are slowly metabolised, they keep you full for longer, thereby helping in weight loss.
However, carbs are a necessary source of nutrition. In addition to carbs, even high GI fruits like papaya, banana, watermelons and the like, provide several other nutrients to the body. She says, “People who are non-diabetic should not miss out on some key nutrients by excluding these fruits and vegetables, like carrots, pumpkins, beetroot, sweetcorn of high GI.”
Sleep – the hidden hero
A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, analysed sleep regularity, satisfaction, timing, efficiency and duration in relation to a 12-month weight loss intervention programme. The study states that all the multidimensional factors of sleep affect the body’s efficacy to lose weight.
Sleep deprivation deactivates the orexin (a chemical messenger made of amino acids that regulates motor, appetite and mood functions) system which makes you less active. In other words, lesser sleep makes you more lethargic, which in turn leads to weight gain.
Lack of sleep also affects the hormones leptin (hormone which makes you feel full) and ghrelin (hormone which increases appetite), messing up the hunger and energy expense clock, thereby, leading to overeating. Decreased leptin levels in blood, and increased ghrelin levels also increases cortisol (the stress hormone). With increasing cortisol levels, hunger pangs kick in, making you eat more than you require.
CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) states that an adult requires at least seven hours of quality sleep to function well. Rajagopalan opines foods rich in tryptophan (an amino acid), magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6 promote sleep quality by improving the hormones called melatonin and serotonin in our blood circulation.
The art of portion control
Kushalani says a diet that is restrictive of the foods you love will not help you with satisfactory results. “Any diet or exercise routine that you follow for only a month or two, might help you temporarily lose weight, but you will gain weight as soon as you stop doing those things.”
To avoid a restrictive diet and build a healthy routine, one should rather focus on controlling the size of meals. However, this does not mean one should cut down on everything and stay on an empty stomach. The smart way to work around it would be to add foods that are digested slowly such as pulses, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs such as peas, beans, whole grains and the like.
Portion control is understanding all that we eat is well and good, if it is kept under control. Kushalani suggests, “The best way to do this is to add one portion of protein in each of our meals, so we don’t feel unnecessary hunger pangs and stay satiated for longer.”
Rajagopalan adds, “Quality protein sources like legumes and pulses, soya, milk and non-vegetarian sources like eggs, chicken and fish are wholesome foods when taken in moderation for weight loss.”
No excuses to exercises
A healthy lifestyle is synonymous to an active lifestyle. The more you are active, the higher the number of calories you burn. CDC states that one needs at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity and at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as jogging, running or swimming each week to maintain a healthy weight. If you are new to exercising, start with just 30 minutes of brisk walking and slowly move your way up to aerobic exercises such as cardio and resistance training.
“Yoga asanas, pranayama and deep relaxation or meditation, which has a combined effect, ultimately lead to deep relaxation, improved metabolism when practiced over a period,” adds Rajagopalan.
No rest from a routine
Routine comes second to none. Mazumder recalls, “It’s not always that I feel like working out, but I do anyway. Especially if there’s a gap for over three days, I find it difficult to resume but I remind myself that I didn’t start to go back to how I was and I must keep going.” She lost 30 kg over a period of one year, but that happened only after sticking to a balanced diet and exercise routine.
In conclusion, Rajagopalan says, “Have a goal and work on yourself towards a healthy weight loss plan. Always seek medical/nutritional advice from a qualified healthcare professional.”