Festive indulgence prompts many people to don a hair shirt at the start of the New Year to get back in shape and bring their ballooning weight under control. But drastic measures can backfire, so the slimming regime should be approached with caution and long-term gradual goals rather than rapid results.
Avoid diet regimes that stick to one particular type of food or cut out certain foods completely. Eating only chicken breast or eggs all day or cutting out wheat is largely pointless, and worse, can be dangerous to health.
"Such strenuous plans cannot last more than two or three months at most, and prevent you from getting all the nutrients your body needs," said Prof. Oh Sang-swoo at Dongguk University.
The stress alone of leaving food cravings unsatisfied can have an adverse effect and even make you gain weight. "When you get stressed out, cortisol is discharged and obstructs weight loss and promotes accumulation of visceral fat. There are some studies that argue that long exposure to cortisol can cause adipose fat to build up around the stomach."
Instead, eat fatty food less frequently, or change the way you cook. Kim Jeong-eun at a weight-loss clinic said, "You can allow yourself junk food up to three times a week, and starchy food once every two or three days."
Meat has many nutrients that are essential to the body, so do not cut it out completely. Eat it without marinade or seasoning, or grill it instead of frying it to make it less calorific."
Another tip is to change the order in which food is eaten. Start with vegetables or fruit that are rich in fiber, and then move on to beans, meat, or fish that are high in protein, and only then carbohydrates. Fiber takes longer to digest, which prevents protein and carbohydrates being absorbed quickly while suppressing high sugar levels in blood. When blood sugar rises, the body is unable to burn calories and turns carbohydrates into fat.
Also, avoid eating at least three hours before going to bed. Eating late at night makes it especially easy to put on more weight because insulin, which breaks down sugar, is actively secreted in the morning but less so at night. In the evening, insulin cannot break down glucose as effectively and quickly as in the morning, and the remaining glucose is stored as fat.
You do not have to go to a gym in order to exercise, but workouts should be an essential part of any slimming program. "Do any physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day that makes you short of breath," says Oh, like running up the stairs or walking briskly.
If you can't do it for 30 minutes in one go, do it for 10 minutes at a time three times a day.
Exercise is needed the most two to three months after a diet starts, when you are likely to have lost five to seven percent of body weight. This is the time when you will struggle to lose more so the metabolism needs to be increased to burn off more calories. Many people make the mistake of exercising frantically at the beginning of a diet and then slowing down as their motivation wanes just when it is most needed.
Regular routines are also helpful. Weigh yourself at a fixed time every day and record the results in a log. This helps with motivation and keeping the eye firmly on the goal.
Put stationary exercise equipment like an exercise bike in the living room, where you see it all the time and it calls your name. You can also watch TV or listen to music while exercising to make it less boring.
Getting a good night's sleep for six to eight hours is also important. "If you don't get enough sleep, you will get stressed, and cortisol will get discharged, which will make you accumulate fat," said Kim. "The longer you stay awake, the more calories you take in as you eat more."