As 2011 ends, the one thing on our minds, besides where the party is at on New Year’s Eve, is making our New Year’s Resolutions. As the number of South Asians with weight and health concerns continues to rise, many resolutions will evolve around the pursuit of weight loss and attaining healthy goals. Reducing calories, watching what you eat, and exercising more are all ideal strategies to pursue. Fitness guru Gary Sethi has designed 10 tips to help you jump start your journey to a healthier and fitter waistline.
- Burn more calories than you consume. If this makes you go: “D-uuuh!!”, snap out of it and consider that this elementary aspect of dieting escapes countless clueless — and doomed — dieters. Tabloids may claim to have the “miracle foods” that will allow you to eat like a pig and have the pounds melt off, but it’s not true. You must burn off more than you consume.
- Try eating at home instead of restaurant Indian fare. Even though we may all have cravings for our favorite takeout butter chicken, preparing Indian food at home lets you control what goes into your food. Smart substituting can help you enjoy Indian dishes without giving up the flavors. Try to minimize use of fats, opt for using spices instead. In fact, the Journal of Epidemiology reported that a diet high in Indian spices (which typically includes turmeric) may help the aging brain. Ginger has always been used in India as an aid for digestion. Cinnamon is used for taste, but it comes with the added benefit of possibly helping lower cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants out there.
- Many Indian dishes use yogurt in their preparation. You can substitute low-fat for full-fat versions, and in most cases, the difference is taste is barely noticeable. Same for coconut milk: Switch to the light coconut milk. Opt for eating legumes, low fat chicken breast, and vegetable dishes. Avoid piling your plate full of rice, roti, and naans.
- Keep a journal and honest log. Make estimates of how many calories you consume every meal and tally up the total to make sure you stay within your target calorie goal. Convenient “mistakes,” under-estimates, and forgetfulness allows you to eat more, but defeats the whole point of dieting.
- Actively choose good sources of fat. This may sound like stupid advice — shouldn’t you AVOID fat when dieting? Well, yes and no. You have to keep consuming some fat, just not going overboard. Avoid butter, bacon, whole milk, coconuts and such – like the plague. Instead, make use of olive oil (virgin) and fatty fish. Peanut butter is an interesting topic. I used to put it in the same category as the “bad” fats. It belongs there, packing saturated fat as well as artery-clogging Trans fatty acids. However, based on highly unscientific testimonies by others as well as personal experience, it seems like a handful of peanuts once in a while when dieting can do wonders in keeping energy levels up while not wreaking havoc with your overall diet. Strange and illogical? You betcha. But it just so happens to work anyway, kind of like bumblebees flying, though they technically shouldn’t be able to.
- Eat small, but frequent meals throughout the day. You’ve heard it a million times, I’m sure, but facts remain: In order to keep an even level of blood sugar, you have to eat small, balanced meals.
- Don’t go wimpy on the weight training. When you diet, you’re in the danger zone for losing muscle mass most of the time. To avoid this, keep pumping iron, and be diligent about it.
- Avoid alcohol. Given that the festive season is upon us, this can be tough when your friends bring over wine or other alcoholic indulgences. It is best to stick with water or diet soda beverages so that you stay focused on your goal.
- Do cardio in moderation. Doing 45 minutes on the stair master every day is a great way to get the pounds off quicker. Two hours is not so great, since you’re bound to start losing muscle mass. When and how much is individual (and depending on what you’ve had to eat earlier in the day), but avoid cardio sessions in excess of one hour. If you need the punishment, do one session in the morning and one in the evening. Also remember to stay in the 65%-70% heart rate zone for optimal fat burn.
- Schedule “cheat” days to stay sane. It is important to stay on point for six days and then on the seventh day reward yourself with two “cheat meals”. Saturday is good as it gives you something to look forward to. Note that even this is in some form of moderation and preparation work is necessary. Slices of pizza, ice cream, or chips are fatty and calorie-dense, but if you prepare by doing extra cardio for three days in advance you’ll come in right on target for the week.Don’t be afraid of soy. I used to avoid fake-meat products, but having a lot of vegan friends/family I’ve tried soy hot dogs, burgers, chicken patties, even riblets that taste just like the real thing. And here’s the kicker: Soy products is mostly protein. Granted, soy protein is not the highest quality out there, but if you drink a glass of milk or have some other high-quality protein source with it, you can bump up the overall quality in a hurry. Besides, soy has a number of great health benefits when eaten in moderation and contains very little fat.
Many times in our enthusiasm to reach our weight goals, we set an unrealistic target and timeframe. When it becomes clear that the goal can’t be met, our best intentions are forgotten, and any weight that was lost returns with a few extra pounds to further discourage us from trying again. Permanent weight loss must be accomplished slowly, with a plan to drop no more than one to two pounds per week. This allows our body to adjust naturally and make the necessary metabolic changes to maintain our lower weight. So, that goal I had set to lose thirty pounds before Spring Break? It has been crossed out, and I have set a more realistic timeframe for myself. The best way to achieve weight loss is to make a structured plan and set appropriate goals. This way, you are more likely to reach your goals, and improve your health and overall quality of life.