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Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

How I ended up eating like a cavewoman

August 8, 2010 5 comments

By that I mean an adoptee of the Paleo Diet.

Well, to answer that question, I came to it purely by accident. As I blogged before, I have been struggling with insulin resistance for some time. I read up on the subject and altered my diet to a Low GI diet. Although the symptoms diminished somewhat under a low GI diet, I still had problems like fatigue, stomach cramps and an inability to lose weight.

I was in a Catch-22 situation. To get healthier and evade diabetes, I have to lose weight, but I simply couldn’t no matter what I did. After reading about the Paleo Diet I realise that this is because most of the vegetables I was taking was of the starchy variety – french beans, long beans, endamame — and that I was still consuming grains such as white rice, rye and quinoa. And oh yes, I was drinking a lot of Diet Coke. Thanks to my high starch diet, my energy levels would dip around 3pm, and to perk myeslf up I’d reach for a can of Diet Coke, thinking: “Oh, at least it has zero calories”.

Well, my inability to lose weight made me go a little crazy, and I gave up adhering strictly to the Low GI diet. I went overboard, indulged my cravings for bread (I do miss it still, honestly) and sweets (chocolates, ahoy!). Weekends would be an “all you can eat” party. I would stock up with chips, a big bucket of ice-cream and proceed to sit on my ass all day watching TV while consuming the junk. That was “relaxation” for me; a reward after a hard week’s work.

At the start of this year, my insulin resistance worsened to such an extent that I’d crash in the middle of the day, unable to do anything else but sleep. Desperate, and realising that diabetes was knocking at my door, I saw a doctor. He put me on some medications and on a strict diet which was actually quite Paleo, although he allowed minimal amounts of grains.

I continued eating the way he prescribed, lost a tonne of weight quickly – about 10kg worth in the first two months – and found out about Loren Cordain and the Paleo Diet. Everything he taught echoed my own beliefs about my own diet. Adopting it – or rather, ‘continuing’ it – was just natural. The only thing I modified about the doctor’s diet was to add more protein, eliminate starchy vegetables and grains (though I allow myself an occasional three spoonfuls per day), and lots more vegetables.

I lost an additional 8-9kg on my own and I can tell you that it has been effortless. I didn’t even do much exercise (as compared to my previous efforts), and I later realised that that was exactly what I should do – not exhaust yourself with too much cardio.

Afternoon crashes are a thing of the past, though my energy levels do dip somewhat if I ate too much for lunch. I have so much energy I’m sure I’m pretty irritating around the office, bouncing around with a big ass smile on my face. Sometimes I’d work till midnight and still feel like I can chug on some more. I feel ridiculously wonderful.

And this is really thanks to the Paleo Lifestyle.

So, if you want to lose weight and regain your energy, I’d encourage you to adopt it too. However, I believe that 20% of human beings on the planet are fortunate enough to process grains and do thrive on a high carb diet. Still, that leaves 80% of the human race who still have good old Paleolithic genes, and if you’re one of the 80%, you need to eat like your great (1000x) grandma.

6 ways to fit exercise into your daily routine

February 3, 2009 1 comment

cathy

1. Exercise at a time you prefer
I know with absolute certainty that I’m not a night exerciser. Which is why I’m sitting here typing this instead of being in RPM class like I originally (and very foolhardedly) planned. The reason? The traffic snarl in front of my office, which would most assuredly make me late for 7.30pm class.

Luckily, I kicked and punched for 20 minutes with a kickboxing DVD this morning. It wasn’t as long as I’d like, but at least I have “done my dues” for the day.

Examine your daily lifestyle. What’s the best time for working out for you? It’s often best to exercise before daily distractions come in, whenever they may be.

Thanks to my job (which has unpredictable hours and lots of travelling to do), morning exercise sessions is the best way to excuse-proof my workouts. What’s your best time?

2. Exercise while watching TV
The best investment I’ve ever made was on a stationery bike, which I’ve placed in front of the TV. It’s the best thing ever to watch The Mentalist and huff and puff on the bike at the same time. I love multitasking, don’t you?

3. Take the stairs, not the lift!
I’m such a hypocrite since 9 out of 10 times I do the opposite but this is good advice nevertheless. (One day I shall brave those steps, carrying my laptop, bag of books and handbag five flights up the stairs!) It’s not just the stairs, however. Take every opportunity to move your body. Walk to the grocery store instead of driving there. Park your car further away from the mall and walk. Every step counts.

4. Choose a gym nearby
Join a gym that is near your home or your workplace. That way, it won’t be such a big hassle trying to get there.

5. Exercise at home
Heck, to be honest, you don’t even really need a gym!

Exercising at home is the best method for me by far. When I have a home gym at my bachelor pad, my iinner whiner cannot say, “The gym is too far away-lah!”

Over the years, I’ve built quite a nice home gym for myself. My apartment is so well-equipped that my friend, who is an avid exerciser, could do her weight training and cardio without worry! But I don’t have many expensive equipment. I have a step box for step aerobics, a couple of good aerobics DVDs, and hand weights. The most expensive equipment I have is my stationery bike (RM1000 which I bought during a sale). Oh yes, my apartment pool is kinda nice too!

6. The 20 minute rule
I tell myself to exercise 20 minutes every morning despite how I feel. And a lot of times, I exercise up to 30 minutes or more. A little exercise is better than NO exercise at all.

The fat comments of Chinese New Year

February 2, 2009 2 comments

Wow. I survived Chinese New Year, which meant that I survived my relatives!

I hated CNY for as long as I remember. Not only for the “when are you getting married, why are you still single” pesky queries, but for my relatives’ creative ways of telling me that I’m fat.

Now, being fat and Asian is like a double sentence.

Guys treat you like you’re invisible because they’re so many skinny, petite Asian girls around and worse, they don’t have the Western restraint of not commenting on someone’s weight.Some of the verbal gems I’ve gotten from the opposite sex in my three decades of existence:

“Why is your arm so fat?”

“I didn’t think a girl so fat can be so smart!”

“Wow, you’re heavy!”

You’re definitely not spared during CNY either, for relatives feel entitled to point out your burgeoning weight “for your own good”:

“Wow, looking prosperous this year!” said an uncle as his eyes ran up and down my girth.

“Oh dear! I thought you were your mother! You’re as big as her, aren’t you?”

“Here, this will help you lose weight!” An aunt said as she proceeded to lift my blouse and strap on some waist contraption on me – in front of my other relatives.

So, yeah. I hate CNY for a very good reason.

But this year, it was different. Since last month, I’ve lost 4kg and my relatives have noticed.

“Wow! You’ve lost so much weight! You just need to lose a little bit more!”

“Last time you don’t have shape, now you have shape!”

And so on and so forth.

My more philosophical side wanted to say, “Guys, why are you so obsessed about how much a person weighs anyway? It is the inside that counts, not the outside!”

But what the hell, I found myself grinning with pleasure. Shallow me. My mother must have heaved a sigh of relief because I promised her that if any of my relatives dare to mention how fat I am this year, I’m gonna give it to them good.

So, welcome year of the Ox! May I lose 10 more kg to get better compliments next year!

The Insulin Resistance Diet

January 24, 2009 6 comments

insulin resistance dietThis book changed my life.

I’ve always found it notoriously difficult to lose weight. I blamed in on my lack of will power for not eating clean enough and not exercising enough to shed the pounds off. (Enough, meaning, working out 7 hours a week, high intensity all the way.) I didn’t realise that I was fighting a sugar addiction, and that body chemistry is difficult to beat with will power alone, and that exercise is tough when you feel like crap. I was really hard on my body – I just wasn’t listening to it.

Before eating the IR Diet way, I felt ill most of the time. I rolled out of bed each morning tired to the bones, despite having had eight hours of sleep (or more). I had headaches, and by noon, was so tired I could barely get through the day. I also had a host of stomach problems: I had the runs at least 3 times a week, and was always bloated.

This wasn’t the way to live, so I decided to research to find out what’s wrong with me. And one day, I found out about something called “insulin resistance“. It was a eureka moment – I realised that I had almost all the classic symptoms of IR (from the Wikipedia article – my symptoms are in bold):

1. Fatigue.

2. Brain fogginess and inability to focus. Sometimes the fatigue is physical, but often it is mental.

3. High blood sugar.

4. Intestinal bloating. Most intestinal gas is produced from carbohydrates in the diet. Insulin resistance sufferers who eat carbohydrates sometimes suffer from gas.

5. Sleepiness. Many people with insulin resistance get sleepy immediately after eating a meal containing more than 20% or 30% carbohydrates.

6. Weight gain, fat storage, difficulty losing weight. For most people, too much weight is too much fat. The fat in IR is generally stored in and around abdominal organs in both males and females. It is currently suspected that hormonal effects from such fat are a precipitating cause of insulin resistance.

7. Increased blood triglyceride levels.

8. Increased blood pressure. Many people with hypertension are either diabetic or pre-diabetic and have elevated insulin levels due to insulin resistance. One of insulin’s effects is on arterial walls throughout the body. <– my doctors always said that although my BP was within normal range, it was ‘high for my age’

9. Depression. Because of the deranged metabolism resulting from insulin resistance, psychological effects are not uncommon. Depression is said to be the prevalent psychological symptom.

Eventually, I found The Insulin Resistance Diet, and the authors explained why people with IR has such difficulty losing weight:

People with this condition overreact to carbohydrates with higher-than-normal insulin spikes, so fat stores occurs faster for them.

I wanted to cry. You mean it’s not my fault?

The authors explain that IR sufferers have wonky body chemistry and explain why it’s so difficult for them to lose weight. The great thing is that the authors offer a solution. They call it “linking”, where you basically pair a certain amount of carbs with protein so that it doesn’t spike your insulin too much.

I began the IR diet during a holiday. It wasn’t the most ideal way, especially in the town of Ipoh where wonderful food is everywhere, but the diet was so doable and simple that I could do it anyway.

I listened to my body a lot during this period. I noted my reaction to certain foods and discovered that I have an adverse reaction to flour, sugar and rice – any high GI food, for that matter. Each time I consumed a high GI food, I’d feel like crap. IR symptoms would assail me – brain fog, headaches, and most noticeably with flour, I’d bloat and get, um, gassy. (I really believe I’m sensitive/allergic to flour now.)

Although the authors of The Insulin Resistance Diet say you can eat almost any kind of carbs as long as you link it with protein, I realised that I needed to be stricter with myself. I decided to only eat low glycemic index carbs instead and absolutely no flour.

Giving up sugar and flour was not as difficult as I thought, because I felt so good after giving up those things that going back to them was like knowingly eating poison. Plus, my body reacted so strongly to sugar or flour – headaches galore! – that I am reluctant to even indulge!

I am more conscious of what I eat now, and if I do eat some sugary stuff, I’d work out or exert myself soon after that to lessen the symptoms. (The sugar needs to be spent instead of being turned into fat.)

It’s been almost 1.5 months since I started eating the IR Diet way and I’ve already lost 3kg. I am astounded because I have never lost weight so fast before – not even when I was working out 5 times a week, an hour each session! It takes me weeks of that to even lose 1kg! I have not been exercising much either, so imagine if I actually did that?

Losing weight is a really good side benefit of the IR Diet. But what it gave me was my life back. I can function again. I’m more alert and happier. And finally, I have hope. All these long years, I wondered why my weight refused to budge from the 88-87kg range. Now I know.

I think I’m on the way to being healthy at last!

You want a better career? Lose weight!

May 28, 2008 1 comment

Apparently, if you look like this, you may not pass that job interview. More so if you\'re a woman. Today, someone told me straight to my face: I need to lose weight to really succeed in my career.

At first I wasn’t sure how to take her advice. Should I be seriously offended? Upset? Nod in total agreement?

After all, the advice wasn’t unsolicited. I did ask her what to do with my current state of career restlessness. She was someone I looked up to, and she has a tendency to be all “no holds barred” when it comes to giving anyone advice. It’ll sting, but it’s most often than naught the truth.

She went on to point out that I’m still dressing like a schoolgirl (ouch. And I thought the lacy white blouse and jeans was a nice combo), I don’t take good care of my skin, my hairstyle is crap and my teeth has coffee stains (wilts).

“You want to be taken seriously? Then you have to look it. It’s a man’s world, my dear,” she said.

Years ago, I would’ve gone home, hid in the toilet and sobbed my eyes out after hearing someone say that to my face. But I’ve gone past that point, meaning, I’ve come to accept responsibility in my current state of fatness. I eat too much, I exercise too little. It was my choices that got me in this shape, so it has to be my choice again to get me out of it.

If you’re reading this and you’re horrified, let me say just this: I know, it’s upsetting. But reality stinks.

An article in Forbes says:

“This is not just something on the margins,” says Mark Roehling, Michigan State University associate professor of human resources management and author of an upcoming meta-analysis of 30 studies examining weight-based discrimination in controlled employment settings. “At the obesity level and higher, we have every reason to believe [discrimination] is having a very significant impact on people.”

The bias appears to be most prominent during the hiring process, when an employer knows a potential employee the least and therefore is most likely to be influenced by stereotypes (such as fat people are lazy), says Cort Rudolph, a Wayne State University researcher. Rudolph presented his meta-analysis of 25 studies on the topic at a conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in April.

The bulk of research has also shown that the bias tends to be felt most by overweight white women, who are battling both the glass ceiling and the stigma of being heavy. A 2004 study by Cornell University Associate Professor John Cawley found that when the average white woman puts on an additional 64 pounds, her wages drop 9%. (Some studies have shown that overweight white women are evaluated more harshly than overweight African American women and that African Americans tend to be more accepting of large body types, according to Roehling.)

In 2004, Charles Baum, of Middle Tennessee State University, also reported in the journal Health Economics that obesity could lower a woman’s annual earnings by as much as 6.2% and a man’s by as much as 2.3%. – Is Your Weight Affecting Your Career?

Here’s the thing: In Asia, this is terribly common. They don’t even bother to hide it.

I had an … acquaintance who told me airily that there’s someone in her department who’s jealous of her.

“She believes that I get the promotions because of the way I look. What can I do? It’s just the way things work. I look good – can I be blamed for being promoted because my boss likes how I look?” she shrugged.

It took me every ounce of will not to wrap my fingers around her neck, but she’s got a point.

See, how should I react to the reality of our unfair world – a world which discriminates overweight people? Should I sue the pants of somebody? Should I stamp my feet and cry, “No fair!” like some people are doing in this MSNBC forum? (Though the nasty posts about overweight people does get my goat. Hello, assholes!)

Well, I agreed with my advisor. To a point. I don’t believe that looks is primarily what a woman needs to get ahead but I believe I should take better care of myself, and I actually appreciate the fact that she said that all I had to do now – since I am actually very good at what I do – is to take better care of myself: work less hours, take more walks, go for facials, enjoy being a woman, exercise more, improve my health. I’m glad she didn’t tell me to run on the rat race threadmill longer and faster.

I also believe that yes, although I tend to look young (people still think I’m in college, and I suppose my dressing doesn’t help) it’s time to look my age. (All of 30+).

Strangely, her advice to make myself the priority in improving my career is only reinforcing what thoughts that have been floating around in my head lately.

I need to get off the rat race threadmill and by golly, start being nicer to my body.

Salad girl

February 28, 2008 1 comment

spinach.jpgMy word – I made myself a delicious salad for lunch today.

See, if you know me, the words “delicious” and “made by me” shouldn’t go together, but I’ve been braver lately, using myself as a guinea pig as I tested various salads.

I never thought that I’ll be the gal who wolfs down a big heap of salad for lunch. I was a rice, fried food, pasta kinda gal.But after suffering sleepy afternoons thanks to my carbo-rich lunches (and breakfasts) and suffering diarrohea and (cough) gas problems immediately after eating white bread, I ditched white rice and white bread and began eating salads – reluctantly – for lunch.

In the beggining, my salads were made from a handful of leaves from the RM7 bag of “ready-to-eat” salad greens from the supermarket. The only thing I did to “spice it up” was to add pumpkin seeds. Ha.

Well, lately I’ve been experimenting with different ingredients and tried my hand at creating healthy dressings, something which I’ve not bothered with before.

Here’s the salad that got me so happy:

Spinach-asparagus ginger salad

Spinach leaves, diced
cashew nuts, grounded
onion, sliced finely
asparagus, stir-fried (with water)

The dressing, which is awesome (I got this recipe from a cookbook):

Ginger dressing

5cm ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of sugar

I’m not really good at cooking the protein part of the salad yet (though I’m improving), but I discovered that this salad goes super with sweet sour chicken or sweet chilli chicken. Um.

I thought the spinach leaves will be really bitter, but with the dressing, the spinach was crunchy and surprisingly flavourful. I think the salad will do really well ith a handful of black grapes too.

And the surprising thing about it (or maybe unsurprising) is how full I feel after the meal.

My next experiment will be Asian Seaweed Salad. Stay tuned!