Weight Loss : How to Achieve Your Goals Properly?
Has weight loss always been a struggle for you? Has it left you feeling like you’re ‘different’ from the rest?
If you’ve ever had these thoughts and have given up on your weight loss goal, you’re definitely not alone.
Maybe you’re feeling stuck in an unhealthy cycle of overeating, feeling guilty, severely undereating, feeling extremely hungry, then back to overeating.
Or you’re wanting to get back in shape from your post-pregnancy weight gain, but your post-natal body is not quite ready to start an exercise routine.
Perhaps you’ve just had a minor health scare. A recent medical report tells you that high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and high blood sugars would make you prone to a ripple effect of developing certain diseases. At this stage, you’re probably in shock and looking for a way out.
The truth is, losing weight involves a lifestyle change – not a shortcut 7-day diet plan that you go on and off from. This means establishing healthy habits which will take time. So you’ll first need to be realistic about your goals.
Start with small changes, and with time you’ll definitely see a difference!
This article provides a step-by-step guide to help you get started on your weight loss journey in a healthy way using nutrition and healthy foods for weight loss.
Although your body weight is not the sole indicator of how healthy you are, it is important that you take care of your health when starting your weight loss journey. Here are some benefits of having a healthy weight :
- Lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes (1)
- Improves levels of blood cholesterol
- Improves your quality of life by improving sleep quality and preventing back pain
The best part is that you can start enjoying these health benefits by losing just 5-10% of your total body weight. (1)
LOSING WEIGHT HEALTHILY
What does a healthy weight loss mean?
Being overweight or obese means having an accumulation of excess body fat. (1) So the aim of weight loss, or fat loss, is to lose these body fat deposits. A healthy weight loss is not a mere decrease in the numbers on the scale as that does not provide an indication of whether fat or muscle has been lost.
Why is it important?
Nowadays, with so much misinformation and fad diet myths circulating it’s important that you know the truth behind losing weight the healthy way as a rapid weight loss will do you more harm than good.
What happens if I lose weight too quickly?
When you lose weight too quickly, the majority of the weight lost is not actually body fat because losing body fat takes time. Rather, it comes from muscle loss and water weight, which could lead to weakness and dehydration. This is because when deprived of energy, your body will break down your muscles for fuel. In general, it is safe to lose around 0.5 to 1 kg per week. (1,2)
Fad diets that eliminate entire food groups could mean that you’re missing out on vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. They’re not something you can maintain for a long time as they’re restrictive – meaning that you’re likely to regain the weight you lost once you resume your normal diet.
There is excellent evidence that good nutrition is essential for a healthy weight. (1,2) This means a balanced diet that fuels your body AND provides the nutrients you need.
Simply put, it’s a sustainable lifestyle you can adopt – weight loss journey doesn’t have to be boring!
While this is by no means an exhaustive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ list, applying these principles will help you get on track to kickstart your weight loss journey.
Simply put, weight loss involves eating at a caloric deficit – meaning that you should consume less calories than you burn. Consuming more calories than your body burns ie. eating at a caloric surplus leads to fat gain, and subsequently weight gain.
Nutritionally speaking, you should consume meals which enable you to maintain a caloric deficit while still leaving you feeling full and satisfied. The number of calories you need depends on your age, gender, weight and activity levels.
If you’re unsure of how many calories you should be consuming each day to meet your goal, the Health Promotion Board has excellent resources to help you get started!
Not into counting calories? That’s fine too – let’s take a look at these basic principles :
IS THE KEY
Based on Singapore’s My Healthy Plate guidelines, a good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with veggies and fruits (fist-size), a quarter with wholegrains (cupped hand), and a quarter with lean proteins (palm-size), and a small amount of healthy fats (thumb-sThere are a couple of things you need to consider:
The size and number of plates (ie. meals) you need depends on your age, gender, weight and activity levels.
Generally, this could be applied to any meal for those who are not engaging in high intensity exercises. Your protein and carb needs would be greater if you’re very active, which could alter the proportions.
Keep in mind that this does not exclude the allowance for healthy snacks.
CONSUME MOSTLY WHOLE FOODS
At Fresher, we strive to create meals using minimally-processed ingredients to give you nutrient-dense meals.
Food processing removes much of the water, fibre and nutrients in foods. Whole, minimally-processed foods have a higher volume and concentration of nutrients, yet a lower calorie density than their processed counterparts. High volume foods also require more chewing and eating time, which will keep you fuller for longer. Consume mostly whole foods in their unprocessed form from the 5 food groups.
Some examples that you can try :
- Whole fruits : Contrary to their ‘healthy’ branding, a typical 610mL fruit smoothie could contain over 60g sugar and 400 kcals! This could be the calorie equivalent to a meal and 15 teaspoons of sugar. A tip is to consume your fruits whole instead of blending them, because it is easier to over-consume liquid foods than solid foods. If you enjoy having these beverages, try downsizing to a smaller portion size and only have them occasionally.
- Vegetables and beans : Rich in nutrients, water and fibre yet low in calories.
INCLUDE LEAN PROTEINS IN EACH MEAL
Compared to carbs and fats, proteins are the most satiating. So having more proteins will keep you fuller for longer and less hungry between meals – decreasing the chances of overeating later on.
For example, you could double your portion of chicken breast while halving your portion of brown rice, and having some yoghurt instead of a plain bun as a snack in between meals.
You can find proteins can be found in many animal and plant sources. Here are some examples:
- Animal sources : eggs, poultry, red meat, seafood, dairy products
- Plant sources : soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts, seeds, quinoa, green peas, grains (oats, rice)
Swap processed and refined carbs for wholegrains
Whole grains are an excellent source of fibre, which will keep you fuller for longer and promote a healthy gut. (2) They’re also rich in B vitamins and antioxidants, and some varieties such as oats are associated with lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels. (2)
- Processed and refined sugars: white rice, bread & flour, many processed cereal.
- Wholegrains: brown/black rice, whole wheat/wholemeal bread, flour & cereals, oats, rye, barley.
To start off, try incorporating wholegrains or replacing some refined carbs in one or more of your meals, and actively look for wholegrains when ordering food outside.
Swap unhealthy fats (saturated & trans fats) for healthy fats (mono & poly-unsaturated fats)
Contrary to a once widely popular belief, you shouldn’t completely cut out fats from your weight loss diet as not all fats are created equal.
That being said, overconsumption of healthy fats could lead to weight gain as fats contain more than double the number of calories per gram of proteins and carbs.
Incorporating moderate amounts of healthy fats will help you feel more satisfied, which means that you’ll be less prone to cravings in between meals.
Healthy fats also have a plethora of health benefits, such as promoting heart health by improving your blood cholesterol levels and helping your body absorb some vitamins. (2)
Where can we find healthy fats?
Basically, there are 2 main types :
- Monounsaturated fat : You’ll find them in olive oil, nuts and avocados
- Polyunsaturated fat : They’re also called ‘omega 3’. You’ll find them in fatty fish (salmon, sardines), eggs and walnuts.
Then, you’ll want to limit unhealthy fats such as saturated fat and trans fat, which won’t benefit you nutritionally but may actually harm your heart health in the long run. There are 2 main types:
- Saturated fat: They’re found in animal fats, poultry skin, processed meats, butter, cream, ghee, palm oil and coconut oil
- Trans fat : They’re found in pastries, deep-fried foods and hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils.
You could go for low-fat or fat-free products, but be aware that some of these products may be excessively sweetened to improve their palatability.
To start off, try replacing meals and snacks high in unhealthy fats with those high in healthy fats. Here are some easy tips you can try:
- Snack on a small handful of nuts, an egg or an avocado instead of a pastry or chips.
- Trim off the excess fat and skin from meats & cook in olive oil instead of palm oil.
- Switch from full cream to low fat or skim dairy products ie. milk, cheese, yoghurt.
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LIMIT YOUR INTAKE
ON SUGARY FOOD & DRINKS
These include :
- Cakes, biscuits, donuts
- Sweetened drinks and desserts
- ‘Hidden’ sugars in sauces and condiments such as sweet black soya sauce, chilli sauce and tomato ketchup
You’ll find it easy to overeat them because they’re not as filling. Yet they tend to be high in calories and saturated fats.
You can still enjoy them occasionally in small amounts. The recommendations suggest that sugars should not make up more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. For the best weight loss benefits, reduce your intake to no more than 5 teaspoons a day.
To start off, you could reduce your consumption of sweet beverages to once per week. You can replace snacking on cakes with a piece of fruit instead of on 5 days of the week.
Initially, your sweet tooth may not immediately get used to the change in taste. But your taste buds are made to adapt so that over time, you’ll find yourself craving for less sugary foods and drinks.
For a healthier dessert options, try : Fresher’s Incredible Low-Carb Japanese Cheesecake (it’s sugar-free & keto-friendly!)
GO LIGHT ON THE SALT
Salty foods make you thirsty, and you may turn to sugary drinks to quench the thirst. Salt contains sodium, which if consumed in excess can lead to high blood pressure. You can find sodium many processed foods (eg. potato chips, instant noodles), sauces (eg. soy), many takeaway foods and stock cubes. Often, it is written in other forms such as MSG and other flavour enhancers.
The recommendations suggest less than 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of salt, or 2000mg sodium per day. A typical takeaway meal could contain over half of this!
At Fresher, all our meals are kept to
a maximum sodium level of 800mg!
We achieve this by using only salt, herbs, spices & house-blend sauces – not flavour enhancers – to bring out the natural flavours of foods.
Some tips to reduce your sodium consumption:
- To start off, replace some of the salty condiments you use with reduced-salt versions.
- Use herbs, spices and lemon juice instead of salt and MSG to season your food.
- Limit your consumption of instant noodles, chips and sausages to once per week.
Remember that your taste buds will adapt so that you’ll gradually get used to enjoying less salty foods.
YOUR ENVIRONMENT MATTERS
It helps to not put yourself in situations which will promote overeating. Here are some suggestions:
- If dining at a buffet makes it difficult for you to control portion sizes, it may help to eat at home or order a pre-portioned meal.
- It’s easier to overeat when your mind is distracted, such as when watching TV, so it may help to eat without distraction – plus you’ll enjoy your food more by savouring every bite!
- Free your eyes from temptation – it may be best to not keep the snacks that you tend to overeat at home.
HOW DO I APPLY THIS TO MY LIFESTYLE?
Examine your current eating habits and lifestyle – where do the excess calories come from and where can you make changes? Let’s take a look at how these principles can be applied to the typical Singaporean’s lifestyle.
If you’re not physically active due to lifestyle or medical-related reasons, a healthy diet would be your top priority. Maybe you’ve been told to just cut out white rice to lose the weight. This is not true – there is no single food to be blamed for weight gain and no ‘miracle food’ for weight loss either.
Or perhaps you have a busy work schedule, are unable to prepare home-cooked meals and rely mostly on takeaway foods. Often, your common takeaway foods are high in salt, unhealthy fats and refined carbs, yet low in protein.
SO, HERE’S WHAT WE RECOMMEND :
- Don’t starve yourself – having regular meals and snacks with enough proteins in each meal will ensure that you’re never too hungry – meaning that you’re less likely to binge and overeat.
- Watch out for excess calories in liquids, including alcoholic drinks – go for unsweetened drinks such as water, plain tea, coffee and low-fat milk.
- Swap 1 takeaway meal with our High Protein, Low Carb meals – designed to be portion-controlled yet still filling and satisfying as it’s packed with protein and fibre. Each meal would provide a third of your fibre needs for the day!
- It is not necessary to completely cut out starchy carbs such as white rice, but prioritise wholegrains as they keep you fuller for longer. Pair your choice of wholegrains and veggies with our Just Proteins meats (makes up 1 to 2 serves) for a complete protein-packed meal!
- Ready for a bigger change? Go for two or more of our High-Protein, Low-Carb meals as part of your daily main meals, alongside your choice of healthy snacks if you’re hungry in between meals.
If you’re looking into starting an exercise routine, but are unsure of how you can use good nutrition to support your workouts …
- Maybe you’ve heard that people who exercise only eat chicken and broccoli. This is not true – you shouldn’t completely cut out starchy carbs and healthy fats. You need starchy carbs to fuel your workouts and help your muscles recover afterwards, while healthy fats will help in your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Include proteins in each main meal to ensure that you’re not too hungry before or after a workout. No time to cook? Our Just Proteins bundles are a quick and easy way to include in your meals – simply add to your choice of carbs and veggies!
- Fueling your body with the right nutrients before and after a workout is essential for muscle growth and to maximise your performance. Check out our Pre- and Post-Workout bundles, which are especially designed to support your exercise routine.
- Ready for a bigger change? Go for our Just proteins with your choice of carbs and veggies + one or more Pre- and Post-Workout meals to keep all 3 main meals covered for the day.
Start today by making small changes.
All in all, nutrition and lifestyle changes both play a key role in your weight loss journey. Start by making small changes, allow time for your body to get used to the new habits and you’ll gradually see lasting results.
Depending on the number of changes you make, you’ll start noticing positive changes in your appetite, hunger levels, energy levels and eventually your weight. You should expect a gradual weight loss as your body adapts to these changes. Without using a scale, other indicators you could use are measurements such as waist circumference, or the fit of your clothes. Or you could head to your local clinic and get your body composition measured – such as percentage fat & muscle.
You may find that you’ll lose more weight during the first few months and then plateau at times – during these times you could start adding on to the changes, or start incorporating more light exercises such as walking. After a year or two of maintaining these new habits, they’ll likely already become part of your lifestyle and you’ll find it easier to maintain the weight you lost.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia. Melbourne: NHMRC.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: NHMRC.
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