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Sweet Ways To Lose Weight

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Diwali, the festival of lights, can just as easily be termed the festival of gluttony. Even the most diet-conscious, lauki juice-drinking ‘fit' people give in to the appetising aroma of mithais and chocolates, not to mention halwa and puri. And before you know it, you no longer fit into the pair of trousers bought a couple of months ago, and the needle on the weighing scale is turning much more than expected.

Well, you have indulged and now you have to pay for it. After all, that excess weight will not burn itself off. You will need to lose it through a combination of a good diet and exercise.

But before you decide to starve yourself or hit the gym with a vengeance, you need to understand some basic things about weight gain. Our body converts the food into energy, in units called ‘calories'. While sweets and oily foods are rich in calories, others such as salads and fruits have lower calories. The extra calories which your body does not burn are converted and stored as fat. So, in order to manage your weight, you need to balance the amount of calories you eat with the amount of calories you burn or use in your daily life.

AEROBICS (60 mins): 354
BADMINTON (60 mins): 252
LYING DOWN (8 hrs): 240
GARDENING (30 mins): 168
STANDING (60 mins): 156
MOPPING FLOORS (30 mins): 147
CYCLING (<10 mph for 30 mins): 120
CLEANING HOUSE (30 mins): 75
COOKING (30 mins): 45

But before deciding on the number of calories you need to burn, it's important you know your daily requirement of calories. There are several websites that help you calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you would burn if you stayed in bed all day without any activity. To this you add the number of calories you burn through various activities. For instance, driving a car for half an hour helps burn 84 calories, while sitting in office for 8 hours burns 360 calories (see ‘Calorie Counter'). This will give you the final figure of how many calories you need daily. Anything in excess of that needs to be burnt through exercise or its intake reduced through a balanced diet.

So now that you know the basics, here's what you need to do to get back into shape.

Watch what you eat: This is the mantra you need to live by if you hope to lose weight. "All indulgences such as those rich in sugar and starch have to stop immediately," says Zareen Watson, a Mumbai-based fitness trainer responsible for Malaika Arora Khan's enviable figure. It's easier said than done, especially if you have a sweet tooth. But consider this: to lose 1 kg weight your body needs to burn over 7,000 calories, that effectively means you need to spend almost 30 hours on the treadmill. You can reduce the number of hours by cutting down on sugar — skip that appetising helping of chocolate pudding and save yourself 315 calories.    

Gorge on fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with fibres, vitamins and antioxidants, and can fill up your stomach fast. What's more, they are low in calories and do not add significantly to your calorie count. Delhi-based wellness consultant Dr Shikha Sharma suggests a thick soup with lots of vegetables as your ideal dinner and a big bowl of fruits and vegetable juice for breakfast.

High-protein and carbohydrate diet: "Meals should be a combination of proteins and carbohydrates," advises Watson. For proteins, try chicken, egg, fish or low-fat skimmed milk. Paneer can be made from the low-fat skimmed milk. For carbohydrates, concentrate on fibre-rich grains such as jowar, bajra and pulses. Sharma suggests adding bran to the atta.

Skipping meals is one of the biggest weight loss myths. Skipping ropes can get better results; A sweet tooth won't make you overweight, but go for a balanced diet, and include the missing element: water (BW Pic By Ritesh Sharma)

Drink loads of water: Chuck the cola and grab that bottle of water. Water helps clean the body of toxins and keeps it healthier and fitter. It also helps reduce weight as it has electrolytes that help in the process of burning fat. On an average, you should drink between 3 to 4 litres of water a day.

Do not skip meals: Eating small frequent meals helps balance your calorie intake throughout the day and keeps blood sugar level balanced. Instead of eating three big meals, try eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. "But if your lifestyle doesn't allow that, make sure you eat at least three healthy meals," says Sharma.

Reduce sodium intake: Sodium leads to water retention which in turn gives you a bloated appearance. You can limit your sodium intake by decreasing consumption of canned food, buttermilk, salt, cornmeal, cheese and chick peas. However, sodium in the right quantity is essential for your body. Therefore, stick to healthy sources of sodium such as green leafy vegetables.

Fitness trainer to celebrities such as Malaika Arora Khan and Perizaad Zorabian

Say no to starch and sugar

Have high-protein and carbohydrate meals

Follow a strict exercise plan - three days each of strength training and cardiovascular
Wellness consultant

Eat at least one oil-free meal everyday

Drink lots of water

Have a light dinner, preferably thick vegetable soup

Exercise: While the right diet will help you reduce intake of calories, you still have to burn the fat that you gained, thanks to the Diwali sweets. And following a strict exercise plan is the only way. Ideally, you should enlist the help of a professional trainer who can plan a regime depending upon your metabolic rate, goal and body type. "I recommend three days of strength training and three days of cardiovascular exercise," says Watson.

Moreover, it is essential that you are regular with your exercise regime. Going to the gym for three days and taking a break for a week will not help. If you are unable to join a gym, go for a 30 minute-brisk walk daily, do some basic exercises such as skipping or push ups. Even your everyday routine can be healthier. Avoid the elevator and take the stairs, or park your car far away from the office building and walk it. Do some stretching exercises in offices or walk in the corridors briskly for 10 minutes after every couple of hours. 

Losing weight is not easy, but it is also not the Herculean task it is made out to be. All it needs is discipline. Follow the tips above and you will soon be fitting into those trousers.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 07-11-2011)