It is agonising to watch when the weighing scale mirrors all your indulgent nibbles. As you gawk at the arcing needle, the damage has been done, the bulge is out, and your BMI (body mass index) has already crossed 25.
The first thing that strikes you might be to revisit your diet. However, experts insist that diet cannot be the holy grail.
Take the weight loss story of Nirmal Bhatt, 44, an academic counsellor from Noida. Her weight loss plan included giving up fried and junk food and sweets, besides having an early dinner. “Although diet did play a crucial role in my weight loss journey, relooking my lifestyle and overall wellbeing has helped me to lose inches. It has also kept my blood pressure and thyroid levels in check,” she says.
Diet and weight loss
Nutritionist and mindful eating coach Harleen Gulati adds that a balanced diet can help you to lose weight, but adding exercise to the daily intake would take you closer to your fitness goal.
Dr Swathi Reddy, consultant physiotherapist and certified diet counsellor, Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru, is of the opinion that while the internet tells us of the many ways to reduce weight, the reliable ones are those which emphasise on regular diet and exercise.
‘Aim for negative calorie balance’
Arooshi Garg, Lifestyle Expert at GOQii, a technology-enabled healthcare platform, says one should aim for a negative calorie balance. Ideally, “You eat fewer calories and burn more calories and give a chance to stored fats to get metabolised.” This can be achieved by small steps such as cutting carbohydrates in the daily diet while increasing protein-rich food to meet the daily nutrition requirements.
“If you consume more calories than you burn, then there won’t be any weight loss,” explains Dr Reddy. Her word of caution is that one should not go overboard when aiming for a calorie deficit diet pattern. Depriving your body of necessary calories can lead to health issues like fatigue, sleeplessness, a decrease in metabolism, among others.
The virtue of fibre
When weight loss is the case, fibre-rich foods improve your gut health and digestion. Such foods keep your stomach feeling full for a long time as fibre takes time to digest.
Black grams, lentils, kidney beans, cucumbers, fruits, oats, nuts and brown rice are a few easily available foods packed with fibre and other nutrients needed on every platter.
Small changes, big difference
Instead of making drastic changes in diet and lifestyle changes, small and persistent steps hold the answer to weight loss. In Nirmal Bhatt’s case, her coach guided her to make small changes in her lifestyle – physical fitness, stretching, fixed meal hours, early dinner, apart from regularly having salads and practising 15 minutes of pranayama. Bhatt had to reduce her tea intake to two cups daily and pass up sweets and junk food.
“Being persistent and relooking what I feed my body has helped me to reach 61 kilos from 82 kilos,” says Bhatt. “Diet definitely plays a huge role in managing weight. However, without appropriate training or physical activity, whatever weight you lost will keep bouncing back. So one needs to burn the calories right with cardio activities and also gain lean muscle, which can happen through weight training,” says Garg.
When exercise is limited
Individuals whose physical activity is restricted either due to injury, knee surgery, arthritis, or low blood sugar levels are the group most likely to lose weight with a well-planned diet. Alone.
What goes in
According to Dr Reddy,
- Eating a balanced, nutritious diet which consists of carbohydrates (cereals, millets), protein (whole grains, nuts, sea food and lean meat, etc), and vitamins and minerals (fresh fruits and vegetables) is the best method to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Green, leafy and colourful vegetables and fruits can do wonders as they are packed with good-quality carbohydrates and fats. And the proteins, fibres, and micronutrients add an extra star to make them the best choice for a weight loss platter.
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Drinking half to one litre of water before a meal can aid in overall calorie burn. Pre-meal water intake combined with a hypocaloric diet turns out to be a gem.
A study led by Elizabeth A Dennis from the Department of Human Nutrition, USA, analysed two hypocaloric groups for 12 weeks. It reveals that the group with a hypocaloric and pre-meal water intake of 500 ml shed extra two kilos with a 44 per cent more weight loss than another group which was only on a hypocaloric diet.
In another study examining the effect of increasing water intake to more than one litre in overweight women, the subjects shed extra two kilos over a 12-month period.
What goes out
- Sugary beverages, drinks, colas, seasoning sauces, and energy drinks are a strict ‘no’ as they have empty calories without any nutrition. They rapidly get absorbed by the body and excess calories get stored as fats. Nonetheless, sugary beverages are also linked with decreased metabolism – how well the body digests and drives, research has shown.
- Those packed fruit juices which are perceived as healthy are actually not: they contain a lot of added sugar than you think – 250 ml of juice has around 30 grams of added sugar (seven teaspoons).