Healthy is in, and stick-skinny is out.
I’m a huge advocate for a having a lean, healthy physique, even if it means having some trouble fitting more muscular thighs into skinny jeans.
Still there’s no denying that some of us carry a couple of extra kilos that we can do without, and I say this not from the perspective of vanity but health.
Whether you are currently at a healthy weight or not, it is worth considering a few lifestyle tweaks.
What’s your ideal weight?
There are many ways to determine what a “healthy” weight range is, for convenience’s sake, let’s stick to the Body Mass Index measurement (BMI).
If you’re at a BMI of 18.5 to 25, you’re safe, but if you’re hovering over the 25 mark, losing a moderate amount of weight (based on your BMI calculation) to keep your BMI within the optimal range will help improve your overall fitness.
As a general rule of thumb, each kilogram of fat lost translates to running about 3 seconds faster per kilometre. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you shed the 5kg that’s tipping you over the healthy BMI range, that’s just 15 seconds faster per kilometre.
And of course, this isn’t taking into account the additional advantage of feeling better and potentially working out more efficiently and for longer.
The Paleo diet
Essentially, healthy weight loss is 20 percent exercise and 80 percent diet.
By “diet”, I mean making wise food choices and eating healthy meals, as opposed to crash or fad diets that are not sustainable. Personally, I’ve had great results by following a slightly modified version of the Paleo Diet that is written about extensively in a great book, "The Paleo Diet for Athletes".
In a nutshell, the Paleo Diet advocates eating the way our caveman ancestors did, which means eating only food in its natural form, without any processing. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, wheat and grain-free, with an emphasis on meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Carbs are consumed in the form of fruits, as well as vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
Not the easiest diet to follow, hence the slightly modified version includes only lean meat (no fatty or organ meats), and allows for processed carbs such as whole-grain bread and cereals, but only before or after a workout to quickly replace the energy consumed.
The Paleo Diet does requires a pretty major lifestyle overhaul, so I’m not necessarily recommending it for everyone, but some there are some takeaways that I highly recommend, for instance, eating more un-processed foods (i.e. food found in its natural state), so you’re getting the maximum nutritional content of food without added sugar and weird chemical preservatives.
Muscle up your diet
And for most of us on a hectic work, family and social schedule, it’s not always easy to be in complete control of what we eat, especially when eating out is an everyday occurrence. Still, with a couple of easy tweaks, you can cut out unnecessary fat and calories without compromising on the convenience factor.
- Chicken rice: Ask for skinless breast meat, brown rice where possible, extra cucumber, and hold off on the soy sauce drizzle
- Noodle dishes: Choose rice vermicelli instead of yellow egg noodles, and request for no sesame oil added on top
- Economic rice: Ask for brown rice where possible, choose more vegetables and lean protein like fish and tofu, and avoid anything that’s been deep fried to a crisp
- Western food: Anything grilled, broiled, charbroiled, or baked is preferable to fried, and if you must have a side of potatoes, a baked potato (minus the bacon bits and sour cream) is better than fries. Mashed potato usually contains a lot of butter and gravy, so don’t be fooled!
- Pasta: Choose a tomato-based rather than cream-based sauce, and whole-wheat pasta where possible
- Desserts: Pick sorbet and frozen yogurt over ice-cream, or red-bean soup over sugary and syrupy ice-kachang and chendol
The common wisdom of exercising moderation applies here as well, and it’s important to keep in mind long term sustainability when you’re embarking on a lifestyle tweak.
Aim for subtle substitutions that you’ll be able to maintain in the long run, rather than drastic measures like suddenly cutting out many types of foods.
I also give myself a “cheat” day once a week. If you eat well six days a week, having a day off when you’re not too concerned with what you eat will not ruin your week in the larger scheme of things, and will go a long way towards keeping you mentally focused.