lose weight conceptRight from teenagers and brides-to-be who want to look more attractive to middle-aged men who want to cut risk of heart disease – a lot of people want to lose weight. While most of them know that exercise and diet can help them reach their goals, most just delay the process of getting information and working towards losing weight. In this mega-guide, we give you all the information that you need to lose weight in a healthy way.

Diet and supplements

Diet is an important aspect of losing weight since if you consume more calories than you can burn, it will lead to weight gain. Here are some tips, foods and a sample diet plan that can help you lose belly fat.

1.    What are some basic dietary changes I can make to lose weight?

Cut down salt: Too much salt in the diet contributes to edema and bloating. Stick to the recommended 1500 mg of salt intake a day. Don’t put salt on the table to add to your dinner and limit the amount whilst cooking. Avoiding ready meals is a must too as these are laden with salt for flavour.

Eat more fibre: Eating a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre is an effective way to stay fit and avoid the bloated feeling that comes with constipation. Foods that are rich in fibre include oranges, mushrooms, raspberries, broccoli and cabbage.

Focus on potassium-rich foods: As sodium makes body retain water, potassium helps it to get rid of excess water. Eating potassium-rich foods like bananas and sweet potatoes can help minimise your middle waist. But make sure to exercise right as these can be fattening too.

Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water ensures that fibre can do its job to ease constipation too. Not drinking enough water can also aggravate your sodium and potassium levels.

Avoid digestive stress: Stay away from foods that are difficult to digest like sugary or fatty foods. Focus instead on simple meals which are made with whole foods and steamed vegetables to heal the digestive system.

Ditch artificial sweeteners: Found in flavoured water, diet, low-carbs and sugar-free foods, artificial sweeteners aren’t completely digested by body. Bacteria in the large intestine tend to ferment them, causing gas and bloating. Always check food labels to avoid sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and lacitol. 

2.    What are some foods that are good for weight loss?

Spinach: Also called as Palak, it is a good source of various nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and iron. Vitamin C in spinach helps raise metabolic  function.

Capsicum: Known in India as shimla mirch, the chemical capsaicin in capsicum or bell peppers is an effective metabolic booster. When we eat it, our body temporarily releases stress hormones that speed up our metabolism. This burns more calories as the body tries to cope with the spicy flavour. 

Beans: Beans are high in both protein and fibre. While protein helps build and maintain muscle mass that helps raise the metabolic rate; fibre too perks up the metabolic rate because the body takes a long time to break it down.

Green Tea: Green tea has many ingredients in it such as caffeine, theobromine, saponins, theophylline, vitamins and epigallocatechin. The compound Epigallocatechin (EGCG) boosts your metabolic rate and reduces your appetite. (Read: 10 ways green tea keeps you healthy and fit!)

Ginger: It helps in digestion, but it also has a thermic effect by raising the body’s internal temperature, meaning it expends more energy. Ginger, known in India as adrak also has cholesterol lowering properties, so can help improve cardiovascular health, as well as speeding up the metabolism. (Read: 10 health benefits of ginger)

Chillies: Experts say eating chillies or mirchi can help burn energy, hours after a meal. It’s also been suggested eating spicy food may temporarily suppress the appetite. However, be wary of eating too many chillies as it can cause digestion problems.  

3.    Can you give me a sample diet plan for weight loss?

Here is sample diet plan for weight loss diet plan by renowned dietician Shilpa Mittal.

Breakfast: Start your day with milk and cornflakes, or milk and poha/upma. If you are from northern India, and are into eating parathas, you can still have them but make them healthy. Instead of just aloo paratha have potato mixed with other vegetables and use less of oil/ghee/butter. Similarly, if you are from southern India, you can have idlis, dosa, uttappa but avoid medu wada since that is fried. You can even opt for egg omelette or sandwiches.

Lunch: This can consist of a proper meal like rotis/ bhakri with vegetables, salads and a source of protein from dal/curd/ sprouts/ non-veg dishes like eggs, fish, chicken plus a small helping of rice. Avoid pickles and papads.  

Snacks: This can be mixed dry fruits, seasonal fruits or any fruit you like or a handful of roasted channa or kurmuras.

Dinner: Preferably opt for an early dinner and it can be just like lunch or it can be a single wholesome meal like khicdhi, pulav, briyani.

Along with eating these healthy foods, you should also avoid methods that are bad for you.

4.    Should I try fad diets that promise speedy weight loss?

Everyone wants to lose weight quickly. This has led to a number of fad and/or crash diets hitting the market all of which claim to help you lose a lot of weight very fast. Some of the more common ones are The Atkins diet, Zone diet, Cabbage soup diet, Blood group diet, The three day diet, South beach diet, Pritikin Plan, Ornish diet and the Grapefruit diet. Older diets tend to fall out of fashion and get replaced by newer ones. While some of them may help you achieve short term weight loss, they are extremely hard to sustain for long and can be detrimental for your overall health. Weight lost during fad diet regimes usually returns the moment one stops following it. (Read:  Fad diets – why they are bad for you)

5.    Is alcohol bad for losing weight?

Kris Gethin, editor-at-large of Bodybuilding.com writes in his book, The Bodybuilding.com Guide to Your Best Body:  ‘Alcohol, even antioxidant-rich red wine, has calories that do nothing to fuel your workouts and fuel only the fat deposits around your waist. Studies have shown that alcohol can increase cortisol levels, which promote fat gain, especially in the abdominal region— which should definitely be avoided when you are looking to trim down and show off a six-pack.’ Also the body sees alcohol as a toxic substance and attempts to get rid of it. This means your body will significantly reduce fat-burning to about 75% of its normal capacity after just one and a half drinks. It will also stop using carbs as energy which is why after a few drinks your body tends to accumulate more weight.

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Exercises

Spending hours in the gym, running for miles on the road are just staying at home and doing yoga, there is no dearth of exercises that can help you lose weight. However, you need to find time to do them. Here are some exercises and exercise tips that can help you shed those extra kilos.

6.    What are some cardio exercises I can do to lose weight?

Here are some cardiovascular exercises that’ll not only help you lose weight but also maintain your heart health.

  • Walking/Light Jogging

This can be performed either in the gym or outside. The speed will really depend on your own capacity. When I began exercising (I was 123kg), I would start off with 5km/h on the treadmill without inclination for 15 minutes. I kept this pace for a week and gradually increased the speed. It’s important to listen to your body and not push it too hard. Remember, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon.  Gradually, as you lose weight you will able to jog/run faster. (Read: Walk your way to a healthier you!)

  • Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling is another great exercise option for obese people. Like the treadmill it doesn’t put pressure on your joints. Most gyms have two kinds of cycles – either electronic cycles with padded seats and armrests or mechanical ones which look like proper bikes. The second option might be a tad uncomfortable for a big person and you should start off with the first and gradually move to the second kind which is better for burning calories.

  • Elliptical trainer

The great thing about the elliptical compared to other cardio machines is the fact that it puts very less pressure on your joints. Also it works your upper body as well giving you a full body workout. And thanks to the perceived lack of exertion, people tend to spend more time on the elliptical which is a good thing.

  • Try HIIT

High intensity interval training or HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise regime which combines periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity. The concept is simple – periods of highly intense activity followed by periods of low activity or complete rest. For example, when you get on the treadmill run at 15kmph for 2 minutes and then walk at 5kmph for a minute. Continue this regime for fifteen minutes (or five sets) and you will have burnt more fat than 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio.

7.    Is weight training good for my weight loss regime?

There’s a widespread notion among many people including gym-goers that weight training is for building muscle while cardio is for weight loss. The truth is that not only does weight training help you burn calories while you’re doing it, it will also keep on burning fat long after you’ve stopped exercising. Here are a few exercises that can help you lose weight recommended by Kris Gethin in his book The Bodybuilding.com: Guide to Your Best Body. These exercises will help you get the body of your dreams as Kris Gethin was the trainer who trained our Bollywood hunks John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan.

Dumbbell shoulder press

Dumbbell-shoulder-pressHolding a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a military press bench or utility bench with back support. Place the dumbbells upright on top of your thighs. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time, using your thighs to help propel them into position. Be sure to rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. This is your starting position. Exhale as you push the dumbbells upward until they almost touch at the top. After a brief pause at the top, inhale as you slowly lower the weights to the starting position.

Dumbbell Flyes

flyesLie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on top of your thighs, palms facing each other. Using your thighs to help raise the dumbbells, lift them one at a time until you are holding them in front of you, shoulder width apart. Raise the dumbbells up as if you’re pressing them, but stop and hold just before you lock out. This will be your starting position. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, inhale as you lower your arms in a wide arc, until you feel a stretch in your chest. Exhale as you return your arms to the starting position, squeezing your chest muscles. To perform this exercise correctly, imagine that you are hugging a large person, and focus on creating that same arc when lowering and raising the weights.

Squats

squatsSet a barbell on a rack that best matches your height. Once it is loaded with your desired weight, step under the barbell and place the back of your shoulders under it. Lift the barbell from the rack by simultaneously pushing with your legs and straightening your torso. Step away from the rack and position your legs shoulder width apart with your toes slightly pointed out. This will be your starting position. Inhale as you slowly lower the bar, sitting back with your hips as though you were going to sit on a chair. Maintain the arch in your back. Continue lowering the weight until your hips and knees form a line parallel to the floor. Exhale as you lift the bar to the starting position, leading the movement with your head.

Trainer Tip: As you squat, don’t let your knees drift forward over your toes; keep them in line with your ankles throughout the movement.

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8.    How can I lose weight with yoga?

Yoga mixes the best of both worlds – fitness and meditation. The best part about it is that no matter what your weight is or where you want to get rid of flab, you can do it with aasanas in yoga. It is light on the joints and the chances of injury – if done initially under the guidance of a trained professional – are minimal. Moreover you don’t have to waste thousands on that expensive gym membership; yoga can be practised from the comfort of your home. All you need are some comfortable clothes and a yoga mat and you are good to go. Here are some yoga exercises you can do:

ardha chanrasanaArdha Chandraasana: This pose is great to tone your buttocks, upper and inner thighs. If these are your problem areas, this is the pose for you. The added stretch on the sides of your tummy, help burn off those unsightly love handles and strengthen your core.

Steps to do this pose:  Stand with your feet together on your yoga mat. Now, raise your hands above your head and clasp your palms together, extend the stretch by trying to reach for the ceiling.  Exhale, and slowly bend sideways from your hips, keeping your hands together. Remember not to bend forward and keep your elbows straight. You should feel a stretch from your fingertips to your thighs. You will feel the strongest stretch along the side of your stomach and back. Hold this pose for as long as you can. Inhale and come back to the standing position. Repeat this pose on the other side.

Tip: If you have digestive disorders, a spine injury or high blood pressure,  avoid doing this pose.

vrksasanaVrksasana: Also known as the tree pose, this aasana is great for the muscles of your stomach and abdomen. Apart from concentrating on your core it also helps your mind focus and tones the muscles of the thighs and arms.

Steps to do this pose: Stand with your legs together. Now put most of your weight on one leg and a little weight on the other leg. Now raise the leg with the least weight such that your foot is facing inwards, towards your opposite knee. You can hold your ankle to help you pull up the leg. Place the heel of your foot on your inner thigh of the other leg, as close to the pelvis as possible. Now gently raise your hands above your head making sure your fingers are pointing towards the ceiling. Make sure you focus your mind and try to maintain your balance. Breathing steadily and focusing on one spot in front of your eyes helps in maintaining the pose and not falling over. In yoga, it is believed that an unsteady mind leads to an unsteady body. So the more you can control your mind the better you can do this pose.  Do not try to hold a chair or wall for support while doing this pose. It will only reduce the intensity of the aasana. Keep trying till you can get it just right.

Tip: If you have injured your knee or back please do this aasana under the supervision of a trained expert. (Read more: 12 yoga poses (asanas) for weight loss)

9.    Are there any fun ways to lose weight?

You could try these exercises if you want to lose weight and have fun at the same time.

  • Hula Hoops: Would you believe that hula hooping can burn up to 600 calories an hour? Having said that, it’s difficult hula hooping for an hour but you get the idea – it’s fun, physically intensive and you can do it in the privacy of your room. Yes, it also helps you lose weight. If you are beginner, try a weighted hoop because it’s easier to rotate but as you get better switch to a lighter hoop which requires more effort from you to rotate and hence, helps burn more calories. And the elderly can try them too. Just put on some music and you are good to go.
  • Skating: Something we’ve all tried and enjoyed despite falling flat on our backsides or tripping over a bump. But here’s something you didn’t know – it can help you shed calories too. In fact, if you are over 70 kilos, you can possibly burn more than 500 calories an hour! Not only does it help muscles become stronger, it’s good for your heart as well. It’s cost-effective and has less impact than running. All you need is a smooth surface and an open area.
  • Frisbee: Got a dog and a park nearby? Buy yourself a Frisbee and get cracking. You can get some friends along on a weekend and have a game too. Either way, all the throwing, catching and running helps your body. In fact, a 30 minute game can burn nearly 100 calories assuming you are 60 kilos. And it needn’t be a Frisbee – you could give volleyball a shot as well.
  • Badminton: One of the few games that you can play anywhere. And it’s seriously addictive. Although you can explore other options like tennis, cricket and even basketball – most of these need more space, more people or expensive equipment. For badminton, you don’t even need a net! Lots of energy, competition and running around – all of that does a ton of good to your stamina. In a nutshell, any form of sport is great.
  • Dance: Possibly the most fun of all, dancing will not only help you stay fit, it’s also a great way of meeting new people. It gets you out of your shell too, to say nothing of adding a new skill. You could take up a Zumba class or salsa. Aerobics class is also a great way to exercise while having fun.
  • Kickboxing: Most health centres or gyms also offer courses like boxing and kickboxing – both are great ways to blow off some steam after a hard day and a fun sport. An added benefit is that they sharpen your self-defence skills.
  • Trekking: This might sound too much hard work to be fun but it isn’t. Make a group of friends and take off for the hills every weekend for a few hours. You can climb your way up and have a picnic and play a few games. It’s not only a chance to exercise but to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Nowadays, there are many adventure groups who organize bi-weekly camping or trekking trips. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted.

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10. My child is obese. How can I help him lose weight?

Children too aren’t spared these days and many are tuning obese right from a young age. The confines of the city which do not have enough open spaces for them to indulge in recreational activities leaves them no option but to be at home and play on the mobile or laptop. But it can cause serious harm to their health. Here are some tips to tackle childhood obesity by Dr Zinal Unadkat

  • Discipline your child and enforce some restrictions regarding their diet.
  • Give them tasty and fresh home-made foods than outside, readymade food.
  • Keep a balance in time spent on studies and playing.
  • Encourage physical activities as a family like going for swimming, badminton, etc together.
  • Let them take part in sports too and not only be focussed on academics.

11. What’s a healthy diet for children?

In order to ensure that your child is eating right, nutritionist Neha Chandna has devised a healthy meal plan for kids. ‘A growing child needs all the nutrients in adequate amounts to promote growth and development both mentally and physically. Their diet must have foods from all food groups,’ she says. Include the following in their meals:

  • Cereals: Oats, brown rice, whole wheat, jowar, bajri, ragi for energy, fibre, and B-complex vitamins
  • Pulses: Dals, sprouts, soya beans for proteins and muscle formation
  • Milk and milk products: Curds, cheese, paneer for calcium to promote bone and teeth development
  • Eggs, chicken, fish (if non-vegetarian) for protein. Fish also contains DHA for brain development of the child
  • Fruits of all varieties for vitamins, minerals and fibre
  • Green leafy veggies like spinach, methi, broccoli for iron and blood formation
  • Healthy oils like olive oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil for essential fatty acids and overall good health

Tips:

Dr Reshma, the editor of this site and mother of an eight-year-old also gives some handy tips. ‘A child is highly influenced by the parents. So it is up to us to inculcate healthy habits in ourselves first before we preach to kids. Exercise at home, get the kid to do it with you. Make it a fun activity by calling their friends over. Serve food in fun plates and make healthy yet interesting dishes,’ she advises. On regulating junk food, she says it can be negotiated with your child – keep it to once a week, once in two weeks, then once in a month. (Also read: 5 healthy recipes your kids will love)

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12.  Besides keeping a watch on one’s diet and exercising are there any alternative methods to lose weight?

Besides exercising and dieting, people turn to surgery, weight loss pills and many strange things in order to shed those pounds. We look at two such alternative methods to lose weight.

Bariatric surgery

A bariatric surgery is a procedure that promotes weight loss by changing the digestive system’s anatomy, limiting the amount of food that can be eaten and digested. Though bariatric surgeries have become synonymous with weight loss, and people who can afford it consider it an easier alternative to healthy eating and exercising. Dr Ramen Goel, a bariatric surgeon tells us more about the procedure.

It isn’t a shortcut to weight loss

People who believe that it is a short cut for weight loss are generally not the ones who need it. This is for people who have honestly tried to lose weight and tried various gyms, diets, have gone and have lost weight which keeps coming back. It’s suggested for patients who are 25-30kg overweight with a BMI higher than 32.5. People suffering from obesity-related ailments should opt for this surgery.

They are not the same as liposuction and tummy tucks

Liposuction and tummy tucks are cosmetic procedures and are done in a person whose weight is near normal and only has stubborn fat areas in particular body parts. Liposuction removes excess fat from thighs, back, etc. while a tummy tuck is done in the lower part of abdomen. The part of the abdomen that is in excess is tucked or removed and the skin is tightened so that you get a flat tummy.

Weight loss pills

Most weight loss pills work on the principle of appetite suppression. They affect a region of the brain called hypothalamus which regulates your appetite. Another type is those that are prescription fat blockers which inhibit an enzyme called lipase. Normally, when we eat food with fat in them, the lipase breaks down the fat when it enters the intestinal tract, but with the inhibitor, a per cent of the fat is removed from the body through bowel movements instead of being absorbed. Other fat loss pills are simply loaded with a lot of caffeine which gives you an impetus to burn fat by working out for longer periods.

Why they don’t work: Most fat loss pills don’t work because their effects wear out the moment you stop taking them. Also, they need to be supplemented with regular diet and exercise (the supplements need to be supplemented, the irony isn’t lost here), in a sense they’re catalysts rather than miracle pills, and unless you watch what you eat and workout, they won’t work. In the long run, people who use them, develop tolerance and the drug stops being of any effect.

Dangerous side-effects:  Side-effects vary from person to person and the drug used. Expert nutritionist Shilpa Mittal has seen many clients scammed into using these products, ‘Most pills are either suppressants or stimulants that hinder the absorption of fat into your body. Subsequently, they can also hinder the absorption of other essential nutrients and vitamins. They’ve also been known to increase the heart rate, blood pressure and cause other gastrointestinal side-effects like constipation,’ she said. They can also cause heavy sweating, insomnia, mood swings, headaches and anxiety.

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Image source for yoga poses: onsugar.com, cnyhealingarts.com, smilingdogblog.com, yogapilates.it, artofliving.org, yogasanatraining.com, yogalifejourney.com

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  • Sanju Gupta

    Adinath Ayurvedic Research Center
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