Losing weight is on almost everyone’s agenda. But how many of us take that as the idea behind staying fit too? Very few. Increased fitness level is usually accompanied with youthfulness, better physical rigour and a good body shape, whereby losing numbers on the weighing scale becomes a derivative.
Why do so many people find it difficult to either stick to a diet or to an exercise schedule? Being intimidated by it and blaming it on the lack of willpower are easy ways out. Often there are practical, mundane reasons why we fail in our resolutions. Here’s how one can ensure better fitness:
• Plan your meals: Most of us believe that losing weight is all about clearing the fridge of all things that will make us fat, instead of focusing on the right food types and groups. Planning a meal is of utmost importance, making it imperative that the food you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is healthy, and meets your daily requirements of protein, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Skipping meals and going on crash diets have never been effective ways to get fit. It is crucial that you eat more frequently and keep the meals small in portion. Don’t skip a snack if you are hungry; instead eat something healthy. Choose homemade food items instead of takeaways.
Plan what you will eat in a day, for every meal.
• Know what to eat: A popular belief is that to attain an athletic body we should blindly cut down on calories. However, being informed about food groups and their constituents enable us to make better decisions. It helps achieve our fitness resolutions effectively, without feeling deprived of good food or a desirable lifestyle.
The magic mantra is not only to cut down on calories, but also to watch the kind of food we eat. Food that not only provides our body with the required nourishment, but also satiates our hunger.
Including all food groups in your diet plan is important. Refined or simple carbohydrates such as white flour, rice, pasta, pastries, soda and other sugary foods and drinks should be limited or eliminated altogether. These carbs are short of fibre and other nutrition found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The processed ingredients in fast food such as burgers, pizzas, fries, cakes, chips, cookies and other confectionery items are metabolised quicker by the body, thus unnaturally elevating blood sugar levels. This compels the body to aggressively release and maintain dangerously high levels of fat-storing hormones and enzymes for longer periods.
In the short term, they may give an energy boost and excite the reward centres in your brain, but in due course, it will lead to a major energy slump.
Image: Leonhard foeger / Reuters • Eat out, but eat well: Eating out is an integral part of our lives and is not something that we can wish away. But what we can do is intelligently select our food.
So, you could pick a clear soup to drink before or along with your meal instead of a sugary drinks (it’s best to avoid thick soups as they contain plenty of corn flour, which adds a lot of body fat). If you are drinking alcohol, restrict it to 120 ml (or two pints if you are drinking beer) a day and opt for non-caloric additives such as water, soda, sugar-free soft drinks instead of sugar-rich soft drinks, sugary juices or sweetened energy drinks. Opt for unsalted variants of nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts or macadamia to go with your drink.
You can replace deep fried starters with grilled or shallow fried ones made of vegetables, chicken, seafood, sprouts and nuts. Opt for salads with fat-based dressings (mayonnaise, bleu cheese, Caesar, ranch, mustard, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar) instead of carbohydrate- and sugar-based dressings (such as barbecue sauce).
For the main course, choose a steak dish such as cottage cheese, fish or chicken because steaks offer a balance of all food groups such as protein, greens and potato starch.
You should avoid liquid- and gravy-based items, while replacing refined grains (white rice, naan) with wholegrain (brown rice, multigrain bread/roti/paratha).
• Choose an exercise routine that suits you: The simplest strategy for reducing weight and staying fit is to follow an exercise routine that fits your schedule, lifestyle and preferences. Your workout could be anything ranging from a walk, a run, an hour of yoga or Zumba. The idea is to remain active. Do not think of exercising as a chore. The exercise should be something that fits into your daily routine without causing too much disruption. The more the disruption, the less likely you are to continue with it.
If you enrol in a gym, try out a plethora of activities. The variations will help you remain motivated and accomplish your goal faster. You could incorporate weight training, core strengthening, circuit training, group exercise classes and a lot more.
Exercising has benefits that dieting alone doesn’t. It boosts metabolism, burns fat faster, builds muscle, increases muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness and improves body shape. A workout also helps you speed up weight loss, improves the quality of sleep, lowers cholesterol, and reduces stress levels.
Now that you are aware of what you need to eat and how to exercise, remember to never underestimate the importance of talking yourself up. It could be something as simple as “I can do this!” to be able to go on that run or hit the gym. Set up realistic goals and join classes if need be to achieve them. Rope in a partner to keep you motivated.
All successful ventures involve a plan that maps out its mission and specifics on how to achieve it. Even where fitness is concerned, you will have no clue where to start, how to progress, and how to get where you want to if you don’t have a realistic plan.