Learn to lose or maintain your weight more successfully with these facts. By Estelle Low
The sad truth is, there’s no shortcut to losing weight. Photo: kzenon / www.123rf.com
Being a food and fitness writer at Shape, I often get asked: “So, what’s the best way to lose weight?”
When people say “best”, they actually mean “fastest and easiest”. I mean, who wants to pump in extra time and effort into losing weight if there’s a shortcut? If you’re like three-quarters of the women in this world who are unhappy with their bodies and looking to lose some weight, you’d know that weight loss – a sustained one – requires plenty of hard work and discipline.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut. There’s also no “best way to lose weight”, as weight loss works differently for everybody. What sounds like an ideal healthy diet may be impossible for someone else to follow. What seems like a reasonable high-intensity workout may be physical abuse to another. Get it? That’s why weight loss is complicated.
Still, there are some tried-and-proven strategies that are known to facilitate weight loss, which I learnt during my time at Shape.
1. To kick-start weight loss, adopt a sensible diet.
Bariatric doctors and personal trainers I’ve spoken to agree: Diet plays a bigger role than exercise when it comes to weight loss. What’s a sensible diet? More lean meat, veggies, fruits and whole grains, less sweets and junk food.
Think about it: You consume about 1,500 calories a day from food; in comparison, 30 minutes of jogging burns about 300 calories. With that amount of calories going into your body, it certainly pays to take a closer look at what you’re eating. For the record, I haven’t met anyone who has lost weight successfully without having to tweak her diet.
Of course, regular exercise is important, not just to burn extra calories, but also to increase your resting metabolism. The bottomline: If you can only manage one change at a time, work on your diet first.
2. For more fat loss, do strength training.
You know that high-intensity exercises – such as running and spinning – ramp up your heart rate and burn more calories than moderate-intensity ones, like brisk walking. But don’t just settle for cardio if you’re looking to lose fat.
Strength training exercises focus on building muscles, your most powerful engines for fat burn. The more muscles you have, the higher your resting metabolism, which means that you’ll burn more calories even when you’re not working out. So if you run thrice a week, start swopping one cardio session for strength training. It could be lifting free weights, or doing resistance exercises like squats, push-ups and planks. With strength training in your workout routine, you can be sure of long-lasting calorie burn.
3. To avoid sabotaging your weight loss, get enough sleep.
You may be top at making healthy food choices and getting enough exercise, but if your snooze hours are compromised, you’re on the losing end of the weight loss battle.
Without adequate sleep (at least seven hours a day), your insulin can’t function properly. When that happens, your body is less capable of removing fatty acids from your bloodstream and preventing fat storage.
Another major consequence of sleep deprivation: It messes with your hormones, causing your body to produce more ghrelin – the food-craving hormone that makes you want to wolf down an entire pizza – and less leptin, the hormone that regulates appetite. The lack of sleep also drives up cortisol, the stress hormone that’s frequently linked to weight gain.