People are constantly asking me what is the best or fastest way to lose weight? Oftentimes, the ones asking are not the happy, overweight individuals, but the ones who look perfectly fine, although they may need a bit of toning.
They have a vision of an “ideal” body and they want to achieve it. Fast. With minimal effort. They’ll even pay for it. Honestly, I cannot give you an answer because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
What works for one person may not work for another, as our bodies respond differently to different foods and types of exercises, depending on genetics and other health factors.
To find a method that works takes time, effort, experiments, patience and commitment. Yes, you can lose weight by only exercising or only dieting, but the literature out there advises you to combine the two for best results.
If you eat more calories than you burn via exercise, you’re obviously going to put on weight and vice-versa. The equation is not rocket science.
Mayo Clinic states it in simple words: “Because 3,500 calories equals about one pound (0.45 kilogrammes) of fat, it’s estimated that you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose one pound.
“So, in general, if you cut about 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet, you’d lose about one to two pounds (0.45-0.9kg) a week. It sounds simple. However, it’s more complex, because when you lose weight, you usually lose a combination of fat, lean tissue and water.
“Also, because of changes that occur in the body as a result of weight loss, you may need to decrease calories further to continue weight loss.”
I’m blessed that I’ve never had weight issues to deal with. I’m not a food lover either – I don’t crave or think about food. My stomach gives me the signal with military precision when it is time to eat, which is every 3.5 to four hours.
When the hunger “bell” rings, I feed the body with a light meal. I don’t skip meals or starve myself.
Don’t skip meals
In fact, if you skip meals, you may find yourself eating more when you do eat and this may lead to a larger stomach capacity. Studies show that stomach capacity can increase if large individual meals are eaten.
This can then increase the amount of food you need at each meal before you feel “full”. But that doesn’t mean I take my physique for granted. If my movements are slow and the body starts to feel heavy, it’s an indication that I’ve gained a pound or two somewhere.
I dislike this feeling of being sluggish, so I do something about it. Others might sit on it and whine, reluctant to make a change. Or, on the other extreme, they try all kinds of diets just because they have gained a kilogramme!
Remember that when you lose weight too quickly, you lose fat and muscle. Muscle burns calories, but fat doesn’t.
So, when you eventually stop dieting and eat normally again, your body will burn even fewer calories than before because the relative amount of muscle in your body has decreased and your metabolic rate is slower.
You may be a victim of this eating pattern, which ends up affecting your general health in the long run. One cycle of weight loss and weight gain can contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, regardless of body fat levels.
But because people only think short-term, they have total disregard for their future health. Many trainers will say you need to make a lifestyle change. And many unscrupulous trainers with flourishing side-businesses will also entice you with all kinds of pills, powders and remedies to make the slimming journey easier.
Some have even offered me “magical” compression pants made of special fibre from Japan to reduce my butt size. It’s all the rage now and costs slightly below RM1,000. Please don’t fall for all these gimmicks!
I believe a mindset change is required before you can change your lifestyle. You need to manipulate your mind and have the will to want to change. It’s hard, but you’ve got to try. A strong mind takes a long time to develop.
You’ve got to push yourself to grow stronger in every aspect, be realistic and set healthy boundaries without surrendering to negative emotions. Mentally strong people rarely waste time or feel sorry for the predicament they are in.
Form a habit
When you focus on implementing small changes at a time, they soon become habits. Experts and spiritual gurus say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Others agree upon 40, while the rest say it takes 90 days to make the habit a natural part of your lifestyle.
However long it takes, focus on getting your body healthy without worrying about tomorrow or next week. By doing this over time, it becomes part of your daily life. And when that happens, your mind goes on autopilot mode and you will make the right choices everyday.
No one’s asking you to stop eating. Just reduce the portions a bit by cutting down on sugar and refined carbohydrates, which are the main culprits in terms of calories. Begin with one meal a day.
If your regular dinner involves rice, then trim the amount by a quarter. Instead of eating one bowl, eat three-quarters. Isn’t this achievable? Try it for a week, then trim a bit more, perhaps from your snacks during tea. Instead of devouring two nyonya kuih, have one.
Calories obtained from fructose (found in sugary beverages such as soft drinks and processed foods like doughnuts, muffins and candy) are more likely to add to the fat around your belly. Cutting back on sugary foods can mean a slimmer waistline, as well as a lower risk of diabetes.
Chew your food well and eat slowly, savouring every mouthful. The slower you eat, the faster you’ll feel full.
You don’t have to go the gym daily either. Start walking 5,000 steps a day, once a week. Not manageable? Okay, reduce it to 2,000 steps. On average, a person can burn up to 100 calories for every 2,000 steps by brisk walking.
Many people are too goal-oriented and engage in 30-day challenges, six-week challenges, etc, which are gaining popularity everywhere, especially on YouTube. Once it’s over – and yes, they’ve obtained some results – they forget the process they had to go through.
And when they don’t see the same results while embarking on the next challenge, they get discouraged and revert to previous habits. There are all sorts of exercises out there, but if I were to recommend the best one for weight loss, I’d say try resistance training, i.e. lifting weights.
Strength training helps you burn more calories throughout the day by increasing your resting metabolic rate. Ideally, you should lose no more than one kilogramme a week, which is safe.
The human body is designed for movement and any physical activity, no matter how much you hate it, brings benefits. You’re not going to be loved any less or more because of your weight, looks or dietary habits.
Train your mind to see things from a different perspective. Lose weight for yourself and your body will serve you like an obedient slave until the end. Don’t focus on the weighing scale, but pay attention to your energy levels and how you feel. Just take it slow – one day at a time, one meal at a time.