I’d always like to set the tone right. For Part 2 of the Healthy Weight Series, here it is: a realistic weight loss program consists of about 80% better eating and 20% increased physical activity. If you have a lot of weight to lose, better eating is absolutely non-negotiable – not even you want to spend two hours exercising with high intensity every single day of the week. Relying solely on exercising is very tiring, ineffective and time-consuming. Not to say you should not exercise, but better eating comes first (don’t worry, working out is in Part 3).
Start with small changes such as having a smaller portion, or halving your portion, learning to listen to your body (it takes about 20 minutes to send the satiation signal to your brain), and making concessions. It is not that hard once you get the wheels going. I work full time, I am currently in an apartment without a domestic helper, and extra small kitchen. I don’t always have the means to prepare my own meal at home, but I have shifted my choices of food, even when eating outside. So it’s not impossible, even if you live in a boarding house (i.e., “kos”). There are countless of food-substitutions out there. Skinless chicken breast instead of chicken thigh. Brown rice instead of white rice. Green Tea (no sugar, brew it yourself) instead of sweetened iced tea. Skinny Vanilla Latte instead of full-fat cappuccino with whipped cream. And water instead of any other liquid. Low-fat chocolate milk for snack instead of chips for snack. The choice is endless. You just have to look and try.
2. Consider Budget
Your friends can tout that this diet or that diet is the best thing to lose weight. But when it comes to you, it is your own budget at a stake. There is no point in going for the “best” diet if the cost doesn’t suit your budget. We all have limited budget, and investing in healthier option may cost some dough, so it is inevitable. Healthier food costs more than its junk counterpart – not always, but often. You don’t have to go all crazy about the investment part, just make reasonable substitutions. Although, consider yourself lucky – we live in a country where fresh produce doesn’t cost as expensive as those in more developed country. Take that advantage.
3. Invest in More Protein
You don’t have to buy a huge tub of protein powder. You can, but you don’t have to. Try to look around on what is available. If you are on a budget, consider having more eggs, lean meat of poultry, soy-products like tofu and tempeh. They are cheaper alternatives than red meat or fish like salmon. Allow some carb, but choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice. Protein, combined with complex carb, gives you much more energy and keep you satiated longer. They don’t also cause a crash in your blood sugar crash, leaving you craving for more food.
4. Beware of Hidden Calories in Snacks and Beverages
Trust me, you can easily shave off up to 500 calories just by being more careful on the choice of snack and beverages. A pack of Teh Kotak is 105 calories. Similar to Es Teh Manis too. A piece of gorengan is 150 calories. A can of soda is about 200 calories. A piece of that small bun served in the bread basket at fancy restaurants? Up to 200 calories apiece. Having a salad drenched in Thousand Island dressing? You’d better off having a Tenderloin steak for lunch. Seriously. I have limited myself of sweetened drinks, dips, fried appetizers and snacks. I’d rather have my calories from my meals, where I can actually feel fuller.
5. Befriend Water
Sometimes you mistake hunger for dehydration. If it’s not your mealtime, and you feel hungry, try downing a glass of water first. It works, trust me! Try substituting any liquid with water every time. You will be amazed how much calories you will save. If you are eating out, and you see that a bottle of water is expensive, think about the time and energy you would save from having to burn that extra calories. Or, just have water with you at all times! I keep a small bottle of water in my bag, and a jug on my desk at work. Now I have no reason not to drink water all the time!