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May 11, 2011

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Get the diet right and fat will fall

WITH summer approaching, people are beginning to shed the layers of clothing and show off their figures. More show up at the gym to shape up, and others pay closer attention to their diet.

We all know the golden rules for losing weight: Take in fewer calories than you burn. Do this by eating less overall, eat fewer fats, carbohydrates and sweets - but eat a nutritious diet. And exercise regularly.

Women are especially concerned about having a nice figure and many are obsessed with body image. Many women who are not fat think that they are obese. Many healthy women with a normal BMI (body mass index) want to get rid of fat.

"All ladies hate fat arms, fat around their waist, a fat backside and 'elephant legs,' even though their BMI is in the normal range," says Sarah Shen, a beauty counselor at the Shanghai branch of a Hong Kong company offering slimming services.

Fat around the middle and bottom are especially common among women office workers who spend most of their time sitting and get little exercise, she says. The female body naturally has more fat in the belly to protect the uterus and support pregnancy.

Stress and irregular eating habits can aggravate the problem. Skipping meals leaves people hungry so they often overeat at the next meal.

"Not eating and then eating a big meal is the most terrible thing for your figure," says Shen.

Eat less and exercise more is the golden rule for weight loss.

"People gain fat because they have taken in more nutrition than they can burn, and the excess is stored as fat," says Shen. "They should eat less and exercise more to burn existing fat."

There are many misconceptions about how best to lose weight. Many women think they should not eat protein, so they don't eat any meat; some say rice and flour are the arch fat-gain criminals; some eliminate almost everything but some fruits. Some hardly eat at all, starving their bodies. None of this is correct.

Protein, carbohydrates (which are mainly sugars and starches), fats, vitamins and microelements are all necessary. The body burns carbohydrates and fats for energy.

Carbohydrates help accelerate metabolism. Protein is necessary for good muscle (that doesn't mean bulging) and muscle cells burn more calories than other tissue. Muscle weighs more than fat, so it's possible to lose fat and look much better, but also build some muscle for a better shape. This can mean a net weight gain, though fat is lost.

Protein is necessary for good skin and to keep skin from sagging a lot after significant weight loss.

Yet to achieve the trimming goal, it is advised to reduce the amount of each category but still have a balanced diet with all elements.

Shen suggests an oil-free breakfast mainly consisting of carbohydrates and protein, and lunch and dinner with a little oil, including carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.

It's all right to eat a late supper but you should not eat within three hours of going to sleep.

Eating healthy foods such as tomatoes, cucumber, pearl barley and turnips can help in weight loss.

Moderate to intense aerobic exercise (cardio, huffing and puffing) is better than anaerobic exercise (weights, sprinting) for losing fat, says Shen.

Sustained swimming, using a treadmill, jogging, quick walking and hot yoga are effective aerobic exercise. Shen advises at least 30 to 40 minutes a session as frequently as possible to lose fat. More frequent exercise results in greater fat burning and weight loss.

It's important to stay hydrated when exercising; drink one to two cups of warm water before and after exercising and sip water during a workout.

And of course, other assisting therapies such as acupuncture therapy in TCM, and passive partial exercises by machines in trim salons may all help during the process.


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