Category Archives: Fitness and Health

Why is it so Difficult to Lose Weight

I would be lying if I say losing weight is like a walk in the park. All of us know full well the it is like putting on a battle gear and facing off a formidable giant. However, like David and the Goliath, you just need to find the achilles heel.

I have been trying to lose weight for the past several years. I am by no means overweight but I need to maintain my diet due to my overall health condition. I can tell you that it u is not easy. There are too many temptations and too many convenient food around us.

My wife is a fitness instructor for the seniors and sometimes it seems she is also fighting a losing battle. In the past year she actually gained weight instead of losing it even though she teaches virtual fitness classes. On the other hand I was able to maintain my weight even though I sit at my desk working virtually. Why?

After giving much thought I believe there are a few reasons and all of them are due to motivation and personal drives.

Sacrifice

My wife’s weakness is her love of chicken wings and snacks. Given the opportunity she could eat a few of each. On the other hand I consciously avoid eating these food because of high saturated fat and low healthy contents. While I don’t deny that I like certain foods fall in these categories I vehemently avoid them at all cost.

Activities that Pay

Once every two days I would use the elliptical machine and focus on working out my arms and abs. My wife is an instructor who mainly focus on aerobic exercises which is good for the heart and breathing. She is not strong on arms or abs. To effectively loose weight we need to have both aerobic and strength exercises.

Be Conscious of Self

Knowing that you are overweight is really the main driver in losing weight. Looking and the mirror and realizing there is a problem will help with the motivation. Some people who knows they are overweight make conscious decisions not to have mirrors in the house. I personally would use the mirror and tend to focus on getting the six pack and I realize that the journey is far from over.

We’ve been thought that we should never fight a losing battle. However, if we equip ourselves with the right tools and with the right mindset nothing is impossible. The real question how driven are we in losing the weight.

When You Eat Matters!

Trying to lose the extra pounds? Or maybe thinking of getting ready for the summer? What you eat is important. When is you eat is also important.

Sometimes when we so focused on our food we tend to have a narrow view. We always count calories and constantly trying to figure out what to eat. Because of that we tend to overlook important success factor when it comes to losing weight: when to eat.

When my kids were growing up, we built their habits by reinforcing certain rules. One of the rules was keeping a set daily schedule. My wife and I followed a strict regimen when our kids were young. For example, we would woke them up at a certain time; we would prepare meal at the same time and we would getting them ready for bed around the same time. The reason is we as human are habitual beings; we tend to thrive if we follow certain rules.

That is the same for our bodies. Our bodies are more efficient if they follow certain rules and know what to expect. Over the years we conditioned our bodies to metabolize the food at the same rate; our bodies would become well oiled machines. However, if we introduce certain food at different time, our bodies would need to adjust to the new regimen and the efficiencies that we spend years building would need to be rebuild.

Why does this matter? Simply put, our bodies would metabolize the food intake at different rate. Any food that is no longer needed would be converted into fat and stored in body cells. That is when we start putting in more weight. Let’s take one great example from Covid-19 pandemic. Majority of us are staying at home when the pandemic hit. Our daily activities ceased to happen and most of us would eat at different times as there is no longer a need for us to follow the set schedule. Compounding with the extra food that we eat, the weight starts to add up.

Another major reason that we gain weight is eating after the last meal of the day. Dinner is considered the last meal that anyone should consume before they go to sleep. Experts agree that prior to eating, we should refrain from further eating at least 3-4 hours before resting. This would allow our bodies to properly digest the food within limited activities during the night. During this period our bodies will continue to require energy and in turn continue to burn the excess calories. However, if we go to sleep immediately after eating our bodies would continue metabolize the food but instead of converting the food into energy, all the food would become fat.

Next time if you are wondering why you are not losing weight, consider the time when you eat. Keeping a strict schedule is as important as what you consume.

Why Calories Counting is Not Effective in Losing Weight

One of the most given advice when one wants to lose weight is to count how many calories he or she is consuming in a day. However, it becomes one of the most misused unit of measurement in the past several decades. Calories counting became the fad and became the de facto if you want to lose weight. The question is: does calories counting actually works?

Nowadays calories count appear in all kinds of food labels to help consumers in making informed decision. Not only it appears in nutritional label, it also shows up in restaurants menu. However, I’m here to tell you that calorie counting does not help in losing weight. Calorie counting should only be used as a guide and you should not follow it to the letter.

According to Wikipedia, the calorie is a unit of energy defined as the amount of heat needed to raise a quantity of water by one degree of temperature. It was invented in the early 1800s to help measure unit of energy and became widely used by chemists during that century. Fast forwarding to the 20th century it was adopted in the 50s to help identifying the unit of energy as part of food consumption. When the calorie was invented, it was not intended to help with losing weight.

Last year I tried to track my food intake and to find out if it helps me in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. After tracking my diet for 2 months, I noticed that it was totally useless. Using one of the most popular app, MyFitnessPal, I found out that I was deficit by at least a thousand calories based on my body build. I thought it was great but over the two months I did not feel any hungrier than before and I did not lose the weight I was hoping for.

After some thoughts I realized that there are several problems with using calories as the tool for losing weight. While I do agree that using calorie counting has some use, it is by no mean accurate.

Everyone is Different

How one metabolizes food is different from one over the other. It has to do with a lot with lifestyle and if the person has adapted to the environment. A person who lives in Norway who eats fishes all his life can metabolize seafood better than someone who lives in a desert. Alternatively Japanese can consume raw meat and not get any fatter while someone who eats an ounce of meat would feel bloated. Eating the same portion of food with the same amount of calories may have different effect on everyone.

Calories is Manmade

The calorie was coined by chemist to allow easier calculation of energy unit. It was not meant to help the 20th Century citizens to help them lose weight. The calorie has been widely used today that it loses its purpose. If you ask 100 persons on the street today about the definition of calorie, 95 of them will tell you that it helps you lose weight. Another problem is total calories for each food category are pulled out of thin air with no real scientific method used to calculate them. As an example, the calorie count of one bowl of teriyaki chicken varies widely between one app over the other.

Misconception of Bad Calorie

Some food supposedly store more calorie than another and hence the use of calorie to determine the value of the food varies widely. As an example, an avocado has good fat calorie while a slide of steak may have the same amount of calorie but it contains bad fat. Both food are metabolizes differently when consumed and the amount of nutrition they provide differ too.

False Sense of Security

Calorie counting gives us a “good feeling” that we consume less calorie. However, it does not address the underlying problem, which is burning the fat and lose weight. One person may eat less but that does not mean that he is losing weight. Losing weight has to do with change of lifestyle and the food we consume. Eating half of the portion while sitting down on the sofa whole day will not likely to lose any weight. Our body is smart enough to store the food we eat as fat as our body does not need the energy to be active.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight. There is no pill or any special food that will help burn the fat away. Calorie counting is not the magic bullet either. It may help in the process but should not be used to determine what is right or wrong. To lose weight the right way is simply change in lifestyle (includes exercise) and make the right choice when it comes to the type of food we eat.

Real Reasons for Overweight

Too much choices

We all have challenges when it comes to keeping our weight in check. And usually when we fail to lose the weight, we tend to find excuses to rationalize our weight gain or we find reasons or someone to blame. For example, it is not uncommon for us to gain a few pounds after the holidays. And there are others who would blame their weight on heredity.

I’ve never been overweight. However, I have dealt with certain health issues that made me reassess what I did wrong. I dig further to find out what I could do better. As I consider some of the problems, I realized that weight gain usually fall into several categories. Hopefully after you reading them you could understand them and find tactical solutions to help you in losing weight.

Mindset

One of the major reasons that one is overweight is “Denial”. My family came from Malaysia and it is not common to have wellness check up. Most Malaysians (even today) would only visit doctors only when they are sick. Getting a wellness check up is unheard off. One reason is they don’t want to hear the bad news; they don’t want doctors to tell them they have high cholesterol or they have high blood pressure. They know that the bad news means they need to change their lifestyle.

That goes to show the same mindset is in this country as well. Most overweight people do not like to look in the mirror because they are afraid to see what they look like. Even if they “glanced” themselves in the mirror, they rationalize that they are either not too bad or they will lose weight starting tomorrow.

Solution: We just need to reconsider what is important in life. Is it food or our health? If it is health we need really sit down go over our diet, our lifestyle and our goals. Set SMART goals and go through one by one.

Lifestyle

We’ve heard this time and time again every time we visit our doctors – we need exercise. The more active we are the better we will be in losing our weight. Obviously this is easier to say than actually doing it. Believe it or not, eating a muffin will need an hour of exercise to burn it off. This is not easy task consider that there is very limited time in a day. A lot of us fail in losing weight because of this – how do we balance our lifestyle when there are so many other things in life require us to focus on?

Personally, I have the same problem. Working remotely for the past year seem like a luxury but the truth is I sometimes can’t separate work and personal life because there is no commuting. Taking the train to and from work is the indication that tells me when to start and stop working. Working life starts to bleed into my personal life that I rarely have time to workout.

Solution: Consider come up with a plan on how to put several hours of workout in a week. Gradually add more and more time to the plan. One option is to reduce the amount of time watching tv or using the smartphone.

Unhealthy food

Our lives revolve around food and with limited time available in a day we tend to resort to fast food. I’m guilty of that too. Besides fast food, we tend to buy convenient food that we can easily put in the microwave. Unfortunately these options to not go well when we need to lose weight. We tend to overeat and many consume food that is tasty but not healthy. Combining with lack of time to exercise, the end result is we add more weight instead of losing it.

Solution: It is unavoidable if we don’t have time to cook healthy food when there are other important priorities. One solution is to limit certain food (i.e. fast food) only once a week. Other solution is to select food that are low in sodium, saturated fat and chemicals. I find that this is hardest to maintain because there are so many options of convenience food at supermarket. Finding the right mix is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Surplus of food

We gain weight during the holidays because we tend to overcook. The more food we cook the more merrier the event is. Instead of cooking for 5, we would cook for 20. Why? Because when we take photos, the food on the background “make” a memorable moment. Also, we would stuff ourselves as much as possible because we can. What we don’t realize is we also make ourselves overweight. Usually when we are unable to finish the food, we either divvied up the food or we put them in the freezer as leftovers. None of the options are healthy.

Solution: We need to break from “tradition.” This tradition is man-made and never existed prior to early 20th century. There is no reason for us to cook so much when there is only so much space in our stomach. We need to consider small portions and avoid having any leftovers. Healthy food is something that we eat on the same day. As we stored the leftovers, the nutritional values of the food deteriorate.

Lazyness

The “tomorrow” excuse is used quite often. We feel like getting up and exercise every time we sit down and notice extra bulge on our waist. However, that rarely happens because we starts to rationalize that you will work on in tomorrow. Why is this separate from the lifestyle I listed above? Because this is something that we can tackle today. When we have this feeling that we feel overweight, get up and pick up a pair of sneakers and walk around the neighborhood.

Solution: Don’t procrastinate. Place a pair of sneakers next to your sofa to remind you what is important. Every time you feel “heavy” after a big meal, look down at your sneakers. Either they make you guilty or make you move.

The reasons I listed are not new. It’s just that we rarely think about them when we have other distractions. However, none of us can avoid the fact that we’ve outgrown our clothes or we look different in the mirror. If you are on a quest to a better you, rethink your priorities and come up with a plan to make the quest a reality.

Dieting? Don’t skip breakfast!

Recently my wife received an advice from a friend on Facebook that she will start a dieting regime she learned from some “experts”. The first thing to do in the morning is to drink two full cups of water and skip breakfast altogether. The belief is that by filling your stomach with fluid instead of food, our body will start burning fat and calorie thus better chance of losing weight.

While I’m not a nutritional expert I can tell you that common sense says this is all wrong. There are multiple articles published on this subject showing the pros and cons. One article that debunked this idea was from Time that states it may not help with dieting but could potential cause more harm.

Everything we read on the internet should be read with caution. Not everyone of them can be cited or supported with studies, including what I am writing now. What I intend to do today is to give a few common sense arguments and hope you can make proper decision if skipping breakfast helps with dieting.

One of the most important things I learned while taking biology course in college is that human body is a well oiled machine. It learns to adapt to its environment and adjust its metabolism accordingly. Prior to the turn of the century before the invention of electricity, the world was dark and the citizens of those era had different meal cycle. Because of lack of lights, eating dinner at 6 or 7 PM was rarely practiced and eating breakfast was not something that is being done consistently. Fast forward to today, a lot of our habits were shaped by commercials we seen on the TV. “As part of the healthy breakfast” selling point could be heard on TV even today. The point I am trying to make is we can skip breakfast and be healthy but at present times our body has already adapted to current habit and changing it could take time and may not work for everyone.

Breakfast is a word coined in the 15th century which refers to first meal after rising from a night’s sleep. Essentially it means that we were fasting after yesterday meal and we break the fasting cycle by eating the first meal when we wake up. During the sleep cycle (between 8 to 10 hours depends on your age), our body went through a rest with minimal activity. The first meal is supposed to fill our body with enough nutrients that will help our body getting the energy to start the day.

Skipping breakfast means we exhaust our body the necessary energy. Our body is smart enough that it stores what we ate before in other cells in our body as energy cells (as fat cells). However, it takes time for our body to convert those energy into usable source of power. By not feeding our body with the essential fuel we could cause harm. Let’s take a car as an example. Could your car start if you pour water in the fuel tank in a cold winter morning?

Once our body is awake it would constantly need to have enough fuel to continue its activities. The same fuel is needed for the brain cells to function properly. Without the necessary nutrients, our brain becomes lethargic and becomes sleepy. If you are attending school you will have difficult time in concentrating. If you are driving to work it could have a disastrous consequences when your brain starts to feel drowsy.

Skipping breakfast does not necessary help with losing weight. I noted earlier that our body can adapt to the environment. That includes how much we eat. If we starve our body in the morning, it will automatically adjust itself to ingest the necessary nutrients to supplement the energy it lost. One of the ways for our body to do that is our brain will instruct our appetite to increase. Instead of feeling satisfied during lunch or dinner, one may feel the need to eat things that are sweet (sugar is the main source of energy).

One of the best ways to successfully diet is to light breakfast or eat small portion. Instead of skipping breakfast, I recommend that you eat something that has protein (an egg) is starchy (such as oatmeal) and sweet (such as a banana). These are the several ingredients that our body can metabolize easily and be turned into energy that is essential for our body to function.

Breakfast is sometimes considered the most important meal of the day. It can either make or “break” what lies ahead. If you want to diet successful, skipping breakfast is the last thing that you want to do.

Sweet Onion Tuna – a 5 minute dish anyone can make

The pandemic is going into second year and it forces our family to be creative when it comes to making meals. While working remotely has its benefits, it definitely put a twist on my schedule. Not only I have to make my own lunch, I have to prepare lunch for my kids too who are attending school remotely.

This dish is perfect if you feel that you don’t have time to make lunch. It is very simple to make and all it takes is 5 minutes. All you need is canned tuna and sweet onions.

The tuna that I use is the tuna that I bought from Korean store. This particular tuna is soaked in light oil and it is also lightly salted. The onions that I use are medium size orange onions. They are sweet and not too strong.

Prepare the onion by cutting across into strips.

Put the onion into the frying pan and cook it until soft.

Add the tuna and stir fry for about 2 minutes.

You can add any seasoning you prefer. For seasoning, I add some oyster sauce and sriracha.

Combine it with baked vegetable you have a light, healthy and fulfilling lunch for the family. You can eat it as is or with brown rice.

Quick and Healthy Recipe – Baked Vegetables in Less than 10 Minutes

This is a simple no nonsense vegetable dish that my family loves. Not only it is healthy, it is very easy to make. All it takes is 5 minutes.

Cut 3 florets of broccoli into bit size pieces. Add 2 zucchinis and cut them into pieces. Mix them up in a heat resistant container.

Add extra virgin olive oil and salt. My family prefers the pink salt because of the supposedly benefits. You can use regular salt if you prefer. I would also add some garlic powder if you have it around.

Mix everything real well with your hand.

Place the container in a toaster over. Instead of selecting the bake option, I use the toast option and use the highest setting. It usually takes about 5 minutes for the cycle to complete.

Remove it from the toaster oven and mix it again with a spoon. Put it back in the oven and toast it again for another cycle.

The vegetable should be done if you see some charred vegetables.

Serve the vegetable with tuna cooked with onion. Perfect light and healthy lunch for the family.

Let me know if you want to see more of these types of meal in the comments.

Do these 5 Things for a Healthier Diet!

It is a new year and like many of us you are probably resetting your goal and repeat the same resolution from last year – lose weight. The pandemic has such a profound impact on everyone’s life that following a strict diet is almost close to impossible. All of us are constantly worry about getting the virus or what to cook for the next meal.

If you are like most Americans who are trying to lose weight but just could not get on the right track, well let just say you are not alone. Before the pandemic there are a lot of temptations that seem to get the better of us. Knee deep in the pandemic, all we worry about is what not getting infected whenever we go out food shopping.

Here I highlight several things you can change right away without breaking the bank. If you do them correctly, you are one step closer to reaching your goal. These 5 things that you should do right away are not revolutionary; you are likely heard of them but just didn’t think they matter.

Remove all Sugary Drink

Yes, you read and heard of this multiple times. Sugar is an evil invention that has caused all kinds of chronic disease in the country. It is perhaps the number one killer in America. The most obvious disease is diabetes, which ultimately lead to obesity and heart disease. Some of the drinks include soda, iced tea, drinks in a cans and even the Starbuck’s Frappucino should be avoided at all cost. A can of 12 oz coke has 39 gram of sugar, which is the recommended daily sugar intake for an adult male.

Instead of drinking a can of coke or a iced tea, go for hot tea (without sweatener). Nowadays there are all kinds of tea that will fit all kinds of taste. If you are not into the traditional tea, then try out fruit tea. Tea is know to have antioxidant that may boost our immune system and even ward off cancer and heart disease.

Pick any tea as long as it is tea

Don’t Use Sweeteners! Use Honey Instead

On the same subject of sugar, if you are counting calories there are 16 of them in 1 teaspoon of sugar. Depends on individuals, we burn up to 2,000 calories in a day naturally. So a few teaspoons of sugar can be burned by end of day. However, sugar creates a problem for those who have are not able to metabolize glucose correctly. Many food companies cashed in on the diet craze and start to offer sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. Instead of using processed sugar cane, these food additives became a direct replacement for those who are calorie conscious. While there are no real studies to corelate sweeteners with risk on our health, you should avoid it at all cost. Instead of using artificial sweeteners use honey instead.

Reduce Red Meat, Eat Fish Instead

There are studies shown that meat is carcinogen, particularly those that are processed. Eating small portion occasionally should not have detrimental effect on our health. To meet your new year goal I suggest that you reducing red meat in your diet and eat more fish. Certain fish (particularly Mackerel) prevents heart disease and may lower diabetes. Salmon is known to contain good fat and tuna improves our immune system and encourage weight loss. If you are not into fishes, they replace red meat with white meat such as chicken.

Eat Colorful Vegetables

Eating just green leafy vegetable gets really boring quickly. By just limiting to greens, you are also limiting to certain vitamin. One option is to have a variety of different colorful vegetables such as carrots or sweet peppers. Colorful vegetables actually contains a lot of vitamin C and helps promote our immune system and also encourage weight loss. However, be mindful how you eat your vegetables. Eating salad is considered eating vegetables, but adding “heavy” dressing such as ceasar or thousand island defeat the purpose of keeping a healthy diet. Always select dressings that does not have cream, cheese or sugar. Consider dressings that are sour such as balsamic vinaigrette.

Skip the Desserts

I was born and raised in Asia. Eating sweets or desserts after meal was not common and my wife and I continue this way once we have our family. If you travel to South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand or even Japan you hardly see overweight people. After meal most Asians would just drink tea or anything warm. They do not eat cakes or desserts that are usually contains a lot of sugar. Most Americans tend to eat desserts after meal. After a fulfilling meal, eating cake or pies just add more calories that require our bodies to metabolize. To burn off the extra calories will require additional 2 hours of exercise. However, we usually opt to just sit on the sofa and watch TV for the next 2 hours.

Dieting is difficult but with some determination (and exercise) getting rid some of the weight should not be difficult. So start small by taking these 5 steps now.

Poached Eggs in 2 Minutes

Have you ever tried to poach an egg using traditional “pot” and water method? You will know how difficult it is to get it right. In fact, you will probably fail 10 times before you get the perfect egg.

Here is one quick recipe that you will like and it only takes less than 2 minutes using microwave. This is an easy recipe for a healthy diet.

Use a bowl, preferably a medium size rice bowl and fill halfway with cold water.

Craft the eggs in the bowl. Don’t break the egg yolks. Make sure the water cover the eggs just enough.

Put the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute and 50 seconds. You may want to experiment with your microwave to get the ideal time. Don’t cook over the recommended time or the eggs will expand and explode.

Remove the bowl immediately. You know the eggs are cooked when the water turns cloudy white. Sometimes the eggs will float to the top.

Put it on a plate, add some salt and pepper to serve.

If you want runnier egg yolks, try reduce cooking time by 10 seconds.

Is Obesity a Heredity Problem?

Obesity is a major problem in the USA and trends suggest that this is not going away. Numerous studies were done and multiple programs to tackle obesity were undertaken by federal, state and city governments. However, most of them seem to be futile. As more and more people are aware of this problem, many seem to suggest that this could be a heredity problem. Or is it?

According to Wikipedia, Obesity is defined as a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to an extent that it may have a negative effect on health.  People are generally considered obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height. And according to CDC guideline, anyone who is 30% and above are considered obese.

Obesity carries a tremendous cost and risk. Not only the cost of healthcare to treat obesity has skyrocketed, it also creates cost when one could not work because of obesity. Obesity is linked to over 60 chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The Covid-19 also impacts people with underlying conditions more severe than healthy individuals.

According to one of the publication that states that as of July 2020, one-third of Americans are obese. And one in six of children are obese. And according to CDC, obesity rate for adults is on the rise. One of the most interesting fact of obesity, it appears to be more prevalent in the mid and Southern states where greasy and sweet food seems to be common diet.

One of the common arguments, particularly point out that obesity is mostly heredity. I’ve never been obese so I can’t say that is it true. However, I believe it is a problem of being responsible for oneself instead of blaming on heredity.

You are What You Eat

Food is the major contributor to the obesity crisis. The abundance of fast food, convenient food and processed food help create the the 30% plus obese Americans. If you go back to the 1970s obesity was not in the vocabulary. However, with renewed interest in the food and explosion of food industry there were more unhealthy and processed foods created. Nowadays you see fast food restaurant almost at every street corners of American cities. If you have the opportunity to travel to Asian countries you will notice that majority of the population are not overweight. However, current trends suggest that obesity is on the rise as more and more Asian countries begin to adopt American lifestyle.

One of the most interesting fact of the map that CDC put together clearly shows that states that have higher rate of obesity tend to concentrate on the Southern and Mid states where greasy food, such as “fried chicken” and BBQ, are normal diet. Another common diet is the amount of sweet desserts after meal.

Unhealthy Lifestyle

Smartphones, social network and media streaming have been a blessing and a curse. They provide us all types of entertainment and we feel content by just sitting on the sofa all day. Many would rather going through each post on Facebook or every videos that YouTube. On the flip side we are becoming less active. Getting the required exercise is no longer on the to-do list. To be able to successfully lose weight we need to exercise often and be consistent. Laziness is not a heredity trait.

I agree that losing weight takes a lot of effort and it is not easy. Blaming it on heredity is just and easy way out to avoid responsibility. It takes less than 5 minutes to eat a burger but takes 2 hours to burn off the calorie. If you have been following Rebel Wilson, you would know that nothing is impossible. Changing of diet and lifestyle is the only way to achieve your ideal body weight. And it has nothing to do with heredity.