Category Archives: Weight Loss Tips

The tips you knew all this time are the most important ones

Regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight, have lost weight or need never lose weight, I can tell you this – the health tips that you already know, the ones that you hear and read about even without trying, the ones that every magazine publishes and republishes every year – they are true and often the most important ones.

OK, in this age of the internet, frankly, you will find that googling about some weight issue invariably gives you tons of information, and some of it is even contradictory. But there are some tips that are surefire truths. Here’s my attempt to create the Ten Commandments of Weight Loss/Healthy Living.

  1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  2. Multiple small meals is better than three big meals.
  3. Cut the carbs.
  4. Processed foods are bad for you. (refined sugar, refined carbs, savoury snacks, soft drinks, sausages, etc).
  5. Don’t eat late at night.
  6. Early to bed, early to rise.
  7. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. (But not before you go to bed)
  8. Eggs are good for you. (Just watch the yolk)
  9. You have to exercise, you really do.
  10. Being fit, healthy and slim is awesome (it really really is).

Did you not know any of the above? Guess what, they are all true, and you will know how much when you embrace them all (including the last one, that’s the reward!).

A low-carb diet does not mean a no-carb diet

Curious as to why I’m having a tough time maintaining muscle mass, I googled up this article by Chales Remington, “Exercise and Low-Carb Diets Make Poor Partners”, whose second page is entitled, “Keys to losing FAT without losing MUSCLE”. It seems to make sense and fits my own observations, as well as my trainer’s wisdom. Some key points:

  1. A low-carb diet does not mean a no-carb diet. Many people, when they first learn about the fattening effects of carbs, immediately adopt the idea that all carbs are poison and therefore attempt to eliminate all carbs from their diet (usually without success, but that’s another story). But this is simply not right – carbs are a natural and essential component of our food. OK, more so in the case for complex, natural carbs; less so for refined carbs. As Mr Remington puts it, “You need carbohydrate management, not carbohydrate elimination.” The problem is in over-eating, at the wrong time, and lack of exercise.

  2. A weight loss diet is not the same as a “body composition” diet. A lot of weight loss diets cause considerable muscle loss, rather than fat loss. Many weight watchers (including some who aren’t even watching) succeed, mysteriously, in losing weight. But the weight they lose is primarily from muscle, rather than fat. This is arguably the wrong weight to lose. The optimum goal is to achieve a good balance of muscle and fat, and not to eliminate weight indiscriminately. Look at some relatively slim people and you will realize that they are actually carrying more fat than at first glance.

  3. Under-eating carbs is very damaging. If you don’t consume enough fuel before exercise, your body will break down muscle in order to fuel itself.

  4. It’s vital to eat enough carbs before exercise, and you must eat after exercise for muscle recovery. In my own experience, eating a good (and often tasty) package of carbs, such as a bun filled with red bean/yam paste, or peanut butter, has little to no effect on my fat mass. And, as my trainer likes to put it when he sees me exhausted after 30 minutes into the gym sesion, “All gone already!” This charge-up meal before training is essential. Take it an hour or so before you hit the gym. And when you are done with gym, even if it seems very late for a dinner, you MUST eat. “It is important to never exercise without having at least one meal left in your day so that muscles can recuperate from exercise.” says Mr Remington. In fact – enjoy it! Have a good, enjoyable meal post-gym. It’s the best time to indulge in it, because you’ve earned the right. For me, I’ve been religiously having the grilled Cajun chicken breast steak from Botak Jones every Friday night after gym, with baked cheese potato and salad, and an extra fried egg. 

Mr Remington’s final thoughts:

Long term success managing weight starts with the right approach. If you are overweight, the real problem is that you have too much body fat for how much muscle you possess. A body composition solution is needed, not just a weight loss diet. Your goal should be to lose fat without losing muscle or sacrificing your health in the process. To maintain your results your eating habits must develop life long character. Low carbohydrate diets provide initial weight loss, but at the high cost of losing muscle and reducing metabolism. They are inadequate sources of fuel to support exercise activity, which is vital in maintaining good health. The risks to your health long term makes low carbohydrate diet’s poor solutions for life long weight management.

My trainer said to me that actually all this sort of information is common on the internet – everyone will say the same. I think though, that although we know it, trying to get and maintain a proper body composition is an intricate game of balance.

And we didn’t even discuss sleep.

Sleep, the third factor in weight loss

My weight at the gym was even lower this morning, 67.5kg. I lost some fat mass, but also a little muscle mass. My trainer was a little concerned. The first thing he asked me was how was my sleep. I half-heartedly suggested that the sneezing fit I had on Friday in-the-middle-of-the-night might be to blame. But actually I had no heart to tell him that I had stayed up late on Friday and Saturday night to watch TV. *Sheepish*

As I’ve mentioned before, that’s all it takes to lose muscle mass. Improper sleep, including insufficient or interrupted sleep. You can build all the muscle you want through training and eating right, but it only takes a night or two of improper sleep to lose it all.

I think ultimately we are built with very simple muscle systems. Use it or lose it. Sleep well or no swell (i.e. no swelling of biceps).

面 – Noodles. Chinese Noodles.

My trainer, responding to my remark that I was sick of fish soup, suggested that I consider having bee hoon (米粉, Mi Fen), also known outside Asia by the very unAsian name of “rice vermicelli”, in addition to my usual low-carb foods.

Is that really ok? I asked, immediately worried about the carbs from noodles. He explained that among the noodles in Chinese/Asian society, bee hoon is among the safest. 

Noodle Type

Calories per 100gm
Bee hoon 109
Mee sua 110
Mee kia, mee pok 130
Kway tiao 140
Thick yellow noodles 207

What about yellow noodles, thinking about the egg/protein content? No, he said, that’s very fattening. And going by the table above (from menshealth.com.sg), that would seem definitely so.

Noodles

From left to right:

(First name is in Mandarin, followed by Hokkien name)

1. 冬粉 (Dong Fen, dang hoon), literally “winter powder” – “cellophane” or glass noodles.

2. 伊面 (Yi Mian, yee mee), medium width egg noodles that, unfortunately, due to their high sodium content, is not very healthy. Naturally, that means it’s delicious.

3. 面线 (Mian Sian, mee sua), literaly “noodle string”. Thin noodles made from wheat flour.

4. 米粉 (Mi Fen, i.e. bee hoon), literally “rice powder” which is what it is made of. 

5. 面粉馃 (Mi Fen Gao, or bee hoon kway), “rice powder cake” – square versions of bee hoon. Rather like pasta.

6. 板面 (Ban Mian), “board noodles”, a reference to its flat shape.

7. 幼面 (You Mian), “slim noodles”.

There are other types of noodles not in this photo, such as the famous mee pok in Singapore, which I took while waiting for my fish soup….. YES, fish soup! I may be sick of it, but in between drafting this post and taking the photo for it, I’m back to eating it…. occasionally. Willpower to mee. But in fact, I am not having any noodles with my soup.