Like fulfilling New Year’s resolutions, sticking to a diet is easier said than done. How many of us, for instance, start on a diet to lose unwanted fats, only to forget we’re on it when faced with delicious food at a buffet restaurant or party?
Maybe the problem is in the word “diet” itself. Dr. Marco Escareal, a medical doctor who is also a workplace wellness coach, said a diet — such as ketogenic or paleo — connotes something temporary and sustainable. He’d rather have an “eating plan” which is “sustainable for the rest of your life.”
Sustainability is the real key to a successful weight loss program. Dr. Josef Soller, a faculty member at Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health and also a wellness coach, said that to be effective, a diet — or eating plan — has to be something one can do for the long-term, not just for the short-term for the purpose of looking good while attending a wedding, for instance. Escareal espouses the same view and said, “If you can’t sustain it after five years, it’s a band-aid solution.”
Here are Escareal and Soller’s tips for achieving long-term weight loss:
1. Eat breakfast.
Don’t skip meals. When you want to lose weight, it may make sense to skip a meal or two, but such is not a wise thing to do, said Soller. “Skipping meals can promote binge eating,” he said.
2. Be wary of mindless eating.
“When your focus is not on the food but on the TV, for instance, you’ll tend to eat more,” Soller said. He advises focusing on the food before you and eating in a place you usually eat, such as the dining table at home.
3. Commit to a diet — or eating plan — if you are on it.
Soller said many dieters have given up easily due to reasons such as higher cost and lack of choices. The key, he said, is to plan ahead, research, choose a diet or eating plan that is affordable and can be done for the long-term, and start gradually. “A diet has to be related to the lifestyle of a person,” he said. Soller advises consulting a health care provider for a personalized diet or eating plan.
Doing exercise regularly can promote muscle development and improve cardiovascular health, said Soller. “The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. If you’re going for weight loss, the formula is 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent exercise,” he said. Soller recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. The World Health Organization, he said, recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
Escareal said studies have shown that sitting is the new smoking. “If you sit for two hours, you just negated 20 minutes of exercise. Stand up every hour. Move to use up fuel; if not, tataba ka,” he said. Escareal advises getting about 100 to 150 steps per hour, equivalent to 10 minutes. Achieving 10,000 steps a day is even better, he said. A good workout, he said, involves strength training “which enables you to increase your muscle to help sustain a healthy burn, healthy metabolism,” and interval training which involves having intervals of average speed exercise and bursts of high speed exercise.
5. Eat healthy.
Aim for balance and portion control. Soller recommends following Pinggang Pinoy, a food guide recommended by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology. Pinggang Pinoy is patterned after MyPlate, a food guide developed by the US Department of Agriculture to replace the classic food pyramid. Pinggang Pinoy recommends having one-fourth of your plate for Go food, another one-fourth for Grow food, and half of your plate for Glow food.
Escareal, on the other hand, prefers the Healthy Eating Plate, developed by the Harvard Medical School. Vegetables take up the biggest share on the Healthy Eating Plate. Whole grains and healthy protein take one-fourth each of the plate, and the balance goes to fruits. It also calls for the use of healthy oils such as olive and canola oil, and drinks such as water, tea, or coffee with little or no sugar.
6. Sleep better.
“Your body needs to rest. It’s part of stress management. If you don’t manage stress more or don’t sleep more, you’ll eat more,” Escareal said. Seven hours of sleep on the average is advisable, he added.
Don’t eat this, eat that — we’ve heard of such things as avoiding fried food when trying to lose weight.
“Puwede ang fried food,” said Escareal. The important thing though, he said, is to make sure the better kind of oil is used. “The best is olive oil since it’s anti-inflammatory. It contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids,” he added.
Having a snack is also okay, Escareal said. “Puwedeng mag-snack. Take fruits and vegetables to meet the required five to nine servings a day recommended by the US,” he added. Escareal however said one should choose what fruits to eat. Grapes, pineapple, watermelon, and mango can cause sugar levels to spike, so these should be eaten in moderation, he said.
You don’t have to eat frequent small meals. Escareal said it is harder to ascertain food proportions with frequent small meals. He also added that the body is built to digest food for four to five hours so it has to recover first from the previous meal before you eat again.
Eat matchbox-sized portions? This is wrong, said Escareal. “You need enough protein so you’ll stay full longer,” he explained.
Your weight on the weighing scale is also not enough indication of fitness. What’s more important, said Escareal, is body composition. One component of this is the body mass index. However, it is not applicable to all, like athletes who have a high muscle percentage. It is best to get a breakdown of your body composition which will show your fat percentage, muscle percentage, and visceral fat percentage. There are machines available at gyms, hospitals, and wellness coaches’ offices that can measure these.
And perhaps the best myth debunked: Food can be either good or bad. This is not true, said Soller. “You can’t say this is good or that is bad. Food can give you calories. It’s the combination of foods that can be bad. For instance, lechon can give you fat and energy. But it’s the amount of lechon you take in that may not be healthy,” he said.
Soller said food has to be enjoyed but not at the expense of gaining excess weight. So in a nutshell, the rule is to eat healthy.