Fun, food and family. It’s that time of year again, when we bust out the fat pants and the sense of humour and go about our day with merry cheer.
It’s only after the holidays that those extra kilos begin to show in earnest and if one isn’t careful turn into a permanent fixture in life.
A recent survey by Zurich International Life showed that slightly over 47 per cent of UAE residents were overweight with a BMI between 25 and 30. And according to a senior UAE health ministry spokesperson, obesity-induced diseases such as diabetes have affected 1 million residents and already accounts for 3 per cent of all deaths in the country.
However, while we all know the benefits to being fit — a healthy body protects you against diseases, for one thing — at this time of year it becomes that much more difficult. Still, all hope is not lost. Gulf News tabloid! asked the experts for some easy tips to still the twitch of the weighing scale.
What is the most effective way to eat well during the holidays?
Tanya van Aswegen, who is a registered dietitian at Valiant Clinic in Dubai, tells tabloid!: “Some practical advice I would suggest is to try a lower carbohydrate (<130g per day) diet; learn more about portion sizes and find a method that works for you. Your ‘diet’ or lifestyle doesn’t have to have a label, sometimes the best results are seen by combining a number of strategies, as long as you can sustain it.”
For example, during festive season, if you eat a piece of turkey along with some low glycemic index carbohydrates, such as sweet potato, carrots or some green vegetables, that is the best thing you can do, instead of reaching over to the bread rolls and mashed potatoes. If you have to have dessert, go for a pumpkin pie, rather than a piece of cake.
The highest calorie desserts include those containing high amounts of fats, sugar and cream, such as fried pastries, sweets or cake covered with cream and sweets and desserts made or covered with syrup, among others.
How can you avoid overeating?
May Al Joudeh, a clinical dietitian at Medeor 24x7 International Hospital, suggests not leaving the house hungry. “Do not go out on an empty stomach. Before going out, be sure to eat something filling like wholewheat cereal, a plate of fruit salad or sliced vegetables such as carrots. Skipping your daily meals and going to a party while hungry cause you to increase your intake of calories, which you should avoid.”
What happens if you don’t have time for exercise during the holidays?
“Contrary to popular belief, I believe you can lose weight without exercising just with your diet,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, a UK-based nutritionist specialising in women’s health. “However, weight-training exercises are helpful in the process of losing fat faster. As building muscles takes up five times less space than fat, you can change your body shape quicker while you look and feel thinner. The benefits of regular exercise cannot be exaggerated.
“The older we get, the more important exercise is for our health. Regular exercise has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease and a higher tolerance to stress.”
Try and move as much as you can during festive season, but exercise isn’t 100 per cent necessary. If you choose not to work out, then at least make sure your carb intake is lower than usual.
Try the au natural approach
Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD says: “The real enemy in your food is sugar. Sugar is nothing more than empty calories — it gives you no nutritional value at all. Worse than that, because sugar is devoid of nutrients, your body has to use the essential nutrients stored in your system to digest the sugar. So, not only are you getting absolutely no vital vitamins and minerals from the sugar, but your body is also losing valuable nutrients just by eating it. Hence, sugar causes a double whammy on the nutritional front and causes nutritional deficiencies. Try and stick to natural foods, turkey, vegetables and again, if you must have dessert, try a plate of fruit and dark chocolate.
The balancing act
Dr Andrew Jamieson, who is a consultant endocrinologist at Valiant Clinic, says: “Make sure you start your day on a healthy note and eat as light as you can during the day. Start with a high protein meal that hardly has any sugar in it, it will keep you feeling full and satiated for the entire morning until lunch. To keep your blood sugar levels steady, try a low fat meat option with a fresh side salad. At this point you can have a snack, which involves some dairy or nuts. That is a light enough day to give you room for some extra calories during dinner.”
Extra things you can do: In addition to a healthy diet throughout the day, a great way to prevent festive dinners from affecting you too much, is by exercising on that morning, or right before dinner. Make sure you do both HIIT cardio and weights as well.
Be naughty — but only sometimes
Kayla Itsines, trainer and social media sensation, says: “There is no denying that it is difficult to eat clean all the time. And sometimes you feel like you just can’t exercise. It’s okay to rest and it’s okay to have a naughty meal. I try and balance my life out as much as possible. Honestly, I don’t really limit myself to one very naughty meal a week. Like I said, I try and live a very balanced life. So, I will have a little Greek pastry with some coffee when I visit my grandma, or I will have something delicious at dinner. I don’t consider it a cheat meal, because if you exercise and you eat well, you can actually enjoy your food and give yourself treats here and there. I never feel bad about it.”
Count — then count again
For Shreya Katyal, from Diets & More by Shreya, it’s all a game of numbers. “If you get up and you know you have a get together that night, you can plan your day in advanc … so you can keep your breakfast and lunch comparatively on the lighter side, by having more soups and salads and fruits and milk. The idea is, if you are supposed to have a 1200-1300 calorie plan in a day, if in breakfast and lunch if you’ve only consumed 400-500 calories … you have kind of saved yourself [some calories] so you won’t be overdoing [it] with the calorie intake of the day,” she says.
Gulp this down
Katyal explains a trick that will rev up your metabolism and prevent your body from storing fat. “You can have apple cider vinegar in a glass of water 20-25 minutes before your meal, or aloe vera juice, whatever is convenient, because both the things will boost your metabolism,” she says. The quantities? Take one tsp of apple cider vinegar in one cup of warm water. For the aloe vera juice, it’s 2 tbsp per glass of water.
Gokul Ram K, owner of Trance Yoga UAE, says a good counterbalance idea is Dhokan Kriya. It sees a practitioner sit in a meditative posture and exhale deeply through the mouth. The inhalations and exhalations are doing quickly and in sort of rhythm. The benefits of doing this in the morning include the oxygenation of the body, making you feel more awake and besides, it gives your metabolism a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Pick one only
“Once you are out for a meal, you should try and avoid different kinds of carbohydrates. The other things if you are having, you can have salads, grilled stuff, etc. If you are mixing carbs, the overload of carbohydrates is what’s going to give you greater number of calories at any point of time,” says Katyal.
So what’s it going to be today? Pasta, pizza, rice?
Sip on this
“Just before you start your meal, have two glasses of water. The idea behind this is you are already filling your stomach half with water, so that you have half the appetite you normally have and you have that feeling of fullness,” says Katyal.
Keep it sweet
If you just can’t manage your sweet tooth, says Katyal, you need to out-manoeuvre its tendencies. “Pick any one dessert and have it properly. And if someone is really fond of desserts … just skip your main course and hit the dessert section and have a good 500-600 calorie meal in which you have desserts only.” It’s a mental game and the power, well, it’s yours.