The holiday season might be a strange time to write about limiting calorie intake but, you don’t want to wake up in January 20 pounds heavier than you were last year.
Obesity is a dangerous future for all of us unless we take active steps in maintaining a healthy weight. I like to start every year fresh with some good New Year’s Resolutions. What about you?
For those of you who are into detox during the holidays, I found a cool and tasty way to do that here.
Table of Contents
- 1 BMI & OBESITY
- 2 What NOT to eat to maintain a healthy weight / prevent obesity
- 3 What to eat to maintain a healthy weight / prevent obesity
BMI & OBESITY
The World Health Organisation definition of obesity is based on a person’s Body Mass Index, which is the weight (in kilograms) of a person divided by the height (in meters) squared. For example, a person who weighs 80 kilograms and is 1.76m tall has a BMI of 80/(1.76*1.76)= 25.82.
A BMI value over 25 is officially ‘being overweight’, while ‘being obese’ means having a BMI over 30. Morbid obesity is defined as a BMI of over 35 kg/m2. There is some speculation about these values needing to be re-adjusted so that for example someone with a BMI of 28 is still not considered overweight, because, with these current values, most people in the Western World fall under the ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ category.
However, I don’t think that increasing the limit is the answer – the current values clearly show the problem, which is the epidemic of obesity in the Western World.
The problem with being overweight or obese is not a BMI value. The problem is the health risk that comes with it. That’s why BMI matters. It can be painfully confronting, but at the same time, it is very wise to listen to your BMI value, and re-adjust it if necessary.
With the following ‘What (not) to eat against obesity’ action plan, anyone can try to lower their BMI value to a healthy level. Turn to your health specialist or general practitioner to have your BMI professionally measured if you are doubting whether you should lose weight and/or how much you should aim to lose.
Before I start, two important pieces of knowledge:
- 1 kilogram of body weight is 7000 calories. To lose a kilogram, you must spend 7000 calories. To gain a kilogram, you must consume 7000 calories.
- On average, a grown-up woman needs about 2000 calories each day, a grown-up man needs about 2500 calories each day. This is assuming that you get some moderate exercise each day such as walking or cycling, but not assuming that you live a completely sedentary lifestyle (in case you might need a few hundred calories less) or a very active, sporty lifestyle (in which case you might need a few hundred calories more).
What NOT to eat to maintain a healthy weight / prevent obesity
Even the simplest cookie packs over 70 calories each. I used to be a sucker for cookies. If I had one, I had to have more. Most cookies pack about 80 to a 120 calories each – so, they are very caloric foods (empty calories, very few nutrients). To avoid gaining weight, I avoid buying cookies in the supermarket and I try to limit how many cookies I eat in one go if I do buy them. Eating just one extra cookie per day can lead to a gain of 5 kilograms when you look at a whole year of this one tiny, seemingly insignificant, bad habit. On the other hand – you can save yourself 5 kilos of weight gain just by avoiding cookies! 🙂
2. MICROWAVE MEALS
I used to live on microwave lasagna in my first couple of years of med school. If I felt like I needed to have something healthier, I’d take the vegetarian version with spinach. What a no-no.
Microwave meals, especially those with layers of cheese, contain over 500 calories per portion and a whole load of salt. Also, two other big problems:
- Microwave meals are poor in nutrients. Relying on microwave meals means actually not taking in enough nutrients and thus actually starving your cells of vitamins and fibres they need to be healthy.
- Microwave meals don’t make me feel satiated. Only 20 minutes after a microwave meal, I will already be craving something else to eat. Then I’m at that dilemma of suffering through the hunger or just forgiving myself and having some more chips to eat. I don’t like facing this stupid dilemma. By turning down microwave meals and consuming more nutritious and substantial meals instead, I prevent this problem altogether – because healthier meals make me feel well satiated for a long time after my meal.
Aside from artificial colours and taste additives, the problem with sodas is that they contain no fibre and lots of sugars – so they cause blood sugar spikes which can eventually lead to the body developing diabetes type 2.
Our body, in order to be healthy, relies on the process of homeostasis, or – keeping things in balance. When you drink a soda, your blood sugar level peaks and the body works hard (for example, through releasing insulin) to lower the blood sugar again (because high blood sugar level is toxic to blood vessels). As soon as the body succeeds in this, you get a feeling of a sugar low and crave something else that will spike up your sugar levels. Soon enough this can become a vicious circle.
By avoiding sodas, you will be doing your blood sugar levels a huge favour, not to mention you will save yourself from a lot of calories.
4. ICE CREAM
Ice cream might be every girls’ best friend after a heavy break-up (who hasn’t been down that path before?), but other than that it is a pile of empty calories. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but if I would I would make only ice cream with organic (plant-based) milk, real vanilla and real fruits.
Pastries are a short-lived pleasure. Packed with butter and sugar, they give you a few minutes of pleasure on the lips for the so-called lifetime on the hips. For example, one croissant can contain up to 500 calories, while still by many being considered a part of a ‘healthy’ and ‘well-balanced’ breakfast. This is not the case, especially not if consuming pastries on a daily basis. As an occasional treat, pastries are lovely. But as a habit, they can sneak up on you and leave you with several kilograms of additional weight. Skip the (sweet) pastries, and replace with fresh fruits, an omelette or granola, and you will doing your health and your weight a favour.
What to eat to maintain a healthy weight / prevent obesity
1. HOME COOKED MEALS WITH LOTS OF VEGGIES
They provide you with nutrients and will give you a lasting feeling of satiety. Plus, vegetables tend to be super low in calories compared to other food groups. Find suitable recipes above in the recipes section!
2. FRESH FRUITS
Especially fruits that are low in calories and have a low glycemic index (so don’t make your blood sugar levels peak too high). These are mangoes, coconut, apples, pears, lychees, blueberries, raspberries, kiwis, oranges, nectarines, grapefruits. Eat these fruits on their own, in your own favorite mixed fruit salad, or check out some recipes here and get inspired. Variety is key – if you choose fruits that are in season, you will never go wrong!
3. DARK CHOCOLATE (min. 60% cocoa)
With chocolate, this is how I think of it. The higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar content. And less sugar is always good for a healthy, happy life. Pure chocolate might taste bitter at first, but your taste buds will readjust eventually! In about a 3-4 weeks time you should be finding yourself in love with pure chocolate, and not such a big fan of that silly, sugary milk chocolate anymore.
4. HERBAL TEA
THANKS FOR READING! Best of luck with your journey to a healthier you!