How to Lose Weight!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Most people want to lose weight, and as a registered dietitian and personal trainer, people often ask me how to do just that. In short, diet and exercise are key components to your weight loss endeavors. Sorry, I’m not privy to any magic pills and potions and I don’t buy into fad diets and gimmicks, so let’s go over the ins and out of weight gain and weight loss. If we eat too much food, we gain weight. If we eat less food than we need, we lose weight.
One pound of pure body fat holds about 3,500 calories. There’s a generally accepted theory that in order to lose one pound per week, we should have a deficit of 500 calories a day. 7 days in a week times 500 = 3,500 calories, or again, about one pound of body fat. There are individual differences, however, and metabolic adaptations will vary because every body is different. The amount of energy (calories) one burns also varies, and the ranges can be significant, anywhere from about 75-500 calories a day beyond what’s necessary for weight loss. So, some people naturally burn more calories than others and can therefore lose weight at a faster pace and vice versa.
As weight loss is achieved, the amount of calories we burn changes. Body mass decreases and there are some metabolic adaptations that take place. A lower body mass will naturally burn fewer calories and people with a higher body mass will burn more rapidly. As we lose weight, we need to make changes to our initial calorie goals. Our metabolic hormones partially determine whether the food we eat will be utilized by the muscles, converted to fat, or burned as energy and the hypothalamus and pituitary gland work together in an effort to maintain a constant body weight. They control hunger levels and the body’s metabolic rate, the rate at which we burn calories for energy to perform not only daily activities and physical exercise, but normal life processes such as breathing, digestion, and reproduction.
When it comes to weight loss, a goal should be to maintain lean body mass while losing body fat. When we try to lose weight too quickly by having a high calorie deficit, more weight is lost from our lean body mass which can lead to a decrease in both strength and testosterone. When paired with the right diet, lean body mass can be increased, meaning we can lose body fat while we increase muscle mass. And when looking at things long term, gradual weight loss is better for holding on to that lean mass and we can keep the weight off longer.
What’s a good weight loss goal, you ask? It’s actually small, but that’s good, because small goals are achievable for the short term, and maintainable for the long haul. According to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, You should initially aim to lose 0.5-1% of your body weight each week. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose 1-2 pounds per week. That may not be “enough” for some people, but if you stick to it, you could lose over 50 pounds in a year, significantly reducing your risk factors for developing chronic, preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
As body fat decreases, we do increase our chances of losing some lean body mass, but again, gradual weight loss and adequate protein intake can help prevent this. Athletes may require additional protein to support both their physical activity and growth of additional lean body mass- muscles! I’ve talked about protein needs in other blogs, but in case you forgot, current recommendations are set at .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for maintenance. There are benefits to higher intakes though, and 1.0-1.2 grams/kg of body weight has shown to yield positive results and for serious strength athletes, some recommend up to 2.2 grams of protein/kg of body weight. This amount is good for training adaptations, and resistance training and cardiovascular exercise increase needs.
Remember, slow and steady weight loss is key. If we restrict our intake too much, our basal metabolic rate will slow and conserve energy for basic life functions. Lean mass will be used as a source of energy for the body and inadequate calories will also slow the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Thyroid metabolism is affected and metabolism further slows. When there’s less T3 and T4, the body breaks down less fat, which is why it may become difficult for some to to lose fat. Rapid weight loss puts us at a higher risk for yo-yo dieting, making the weight harder to lose each time. Like I always say, set short term, achievable goals, aim for a .5-1% reduction in body weight each week, and ensure you get adequate protein throughout the day. Weight loss is possible and beneficial. Give it time and develop healthy, sustainable habits that can last a lifetime.

Food and Physical Fun in Kuala Lumpur

It has been my goal to not only keep up my blog posts, but to also focus on food and fitness while I travel. Today, I’m going to try to do just that while I share my day spent in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Every time I go somewhere new, it takes a bit to adjust. You have get accustomed to a new currency, new language, new customs, and new foods. That last one is always a struggle, the curious foodie in me wants to try everything, but the RD and injured Fitness minded person tries to hold off. I was in Thailand for over four months, so the desire to try everything lessened and I often cooked my own food or had my go-to decent meals and snacks. So far, I’m learning what I like here in Malaysia, as well. Thankfully, there are plenty of options and I can choose meals without rice and noodles. I’ve also seen a variety of juice and smoothie shops, and one even offered a whey protein add in. Cool drinks on hot days are quite refreshing, so happy they are an option.
It rained this morning and I was beyond disappointed. I don’t like rain. It just depresses me and has since I’ve been traveling. I ate breakfast in Chinatown and ordered grilled chicken with a side of sautéed cabbage and a fried egg.

Chinese food for breakfast!

I sat and mulled over how I’d plan my day considering the rain. Everything I wanted to see required me to mostly be outside. I had my iPad and notebook, so off to McDonald’s I went. They always have a reliable bathroom, cheap coffee, and I had to catch up on some work. I spent two hours (over one coffee) there and luckily, when I was ready to go, the rain stopped.
I’d wanted to hit up a gym while here, but the one that gives a free pass is quite far and may have cost me in transportation so I decided to add my own physical activity to the day and paid a visit to Bantu Caves. I saw them on the map and a google search proved they’d be quite an adventure, and a workout, with over 300 steps to reach the top. And as it turned out, there was another cave in the vicinity, so I did quite a bit of stairs.

The stairs go all the way to the top.

Thankfully, I fueled up with a banana smoothie made with plain yogurt and “chocolate powder” before I set off on the 11 km train ride out of the city.

Yep, I did all of that and more!

I felt so accomplished when I finished, not only did I make it up and down all the stairs, but I avoided the Indian sweet snacks and did my best to stay fully hydrated during the day. It’s hot here and humidity is a whopping 85%. I was feeling pretty ripe on that train ride back, but at least the AC was on!

You have no idea how much I love this stuff, but I had to pass! Gulab jamun!

When I got back to the city, the rain hadn’t started back up and I really wanted to go to the Petronas Towers. I scoped out the area and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll go up to the top and walk through the park.

This is my new pose- it shows I can now stand on one leg again!

By the time I left, my knee was getting sore so I sat and had some grilled chicken for a snack and made my way back to the hostel. It’s time to do some PT, but I’m tired of sweating! I did a lot today, walked over 6 miles, climbed a load of stairs, and managed to get some decent food in me.
I’ve found delicious chicken is available most places and chicken satay is a common meal, complete with a fairly decent sized serving of spicy peanut sauce. Cashew chicken was my go to in Thailand and here, it’s going to be chicken with peanut sauce. ?

Indonesian style dinner: Chicken, veggies, spicy peanut sauce, and a piece of delicious tempeh!

Knowing your healthy options is important. I tell this to my clients in the states as well. If you do not have time to prepare meals, or can’t, like me now because I’m bouncing around Asia and don’t have a kitchen available, it’s good to have some “go-to” meals that won’t break your calorie bank for the day. Although I’m a budget traveler, there are times I’ll spend an extra bit of money for a healthy meal. In Bangkok, I’d spend upwards of $6.00 for a salad at Gourmet Market. Having healthy meals actually makes me happy, so that’s one area where I’ll sometimes spend the money.
So, what about you? Do you want to try everything when you travel? What are your go-to meals and snacks and how do you incorporate physical activity on the road?