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5 Ways To Lose Weight Without Having To Give Up Dessert
Did an early Lunar New Year mess up your 2020 weight goals? Lee Ching, certified health coach and weight loss specialist, tells us how to manage your sugar intake and lose weight healthily.
It’s normal to have a sweet tooth. And in a food paradise like Singapore, we have many dessert choices ranging from local favourites like ice kacang to western-style pastries. Desserts are magical and they make people happy, but the cruel fact is that they are usually low in nutrients. Most desserts are made up of predominantly sugar and fat, even though some desserts do incorporate healthier ingredients such as fruits, spices and tea.
So, how bad can a dessert be? Let’s talk about sugar and fats.
Regardless of whether they are refined sugar, brown sugar, palm sugar, honey or maple syrup, they all can spike our blood sugar levels to different degrees, and that encourages our body to convert the excess sugar and store it as fats in our body. Excess fat storage can lead to hypertrophy and hyperplasia. Hypertrophy refers to the process whereby our fat cells grow in size, and hyperplasia refers to the multiplication of fat cells in our body. We don’t want either to happen because these will lead to weight gain and an increase in body fat percentage.
Chronic high blood sugar levels can also lead to insulin resistance, which may result in a pre-diabetic condition or, even worse, type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to both brain and metabolic dysfunction, and is also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Let’s move on to fats. Fats are not all bad. We require essential levels of fats for normal functioning of our hormones and to transport fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. More importantly, our cell membranes are made up of some fats. However, excessive fats in our diet can lead to chronic inflammation in our body.
Inflammation is good because it triggers immune functions and helps with healing and repair. But chronic inflammation (i.e. long term condition) is not good. In general, too much fats in our diet can cause chronic inflammation which can lead to further accumulation of fats. Many studies have found that chronic inflammation is the cause of many modern-day diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, not just weight issues.Image by Alex Loup on Unsplash
How then can we have our cake and eat it too? I will share five useful tips with you.
Before I start, please note that I am not a physician, although I am certified in health coaching and nutrition. As such, my tips should not be taken as medical advice. Please talk to a licensed medical professional about any chronic disease or health conditions related to high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
I also want to stress that sugar is not toxic or totally bad. In fact, sugar is a key source of energy for our muscles and brains. We need sugar for our daily physical and bodily activities. Sugar only becomes an issue when it is consumed excessively. I do practice what I am going to share with you on a daily or weekly basis, so these are actually good habits to cultivate.
Tip #1: Eat your dessert as part of your meal
A balanced meal should have a good mix of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. When these three macronutrients are in good balance, there is a lesser chance of blood sugar spikes. We know that dessert is mostly sugar (carbs) and fats. So you should cut down on other carbs and fats for your meal. For example, if you’re going to order dessert at the end of the meal, do not order rice, noodles, pasta or bread in that same meal, and reduce the fried and oily options.
Instead, focus on a good lean protein like chicken or seafood. When you have a good protein combined with a dessert, you can have a balanced meal and lower blood sugar spikes, as opposed to simply eating a dessert on its own, which is mainly carbs and fats.Image by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash
Tip #2: Include some bitters and spices in your meals or desserts
Bitters and spices have been found to reduce insulin resistance and the glycemic index (GI) of sugary foods such as fruits, rice, noodles, and of course, desserts. When the glycemic index of a food is reduced, it tends to have a less spiking effect on blood sugar. Examples of bitters and spices include pink grapefruit, bitter gourd, lemon, lime, apple cider vinegar, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Tip #3: Train your body to release and burn more fat for energy.
One way you can do this is to do an easy walk or short HIIT (high intensity interval training) before breakfast (i.e. fasted state). A six-week study by Belgium scientists found that the participants in their study who exercised before breakfast gained nearly no weight and showed zero signs of insulin resistance. In addition, their metabolic rate changed in such a way that they also burned the fat they were taking in far more efficiently than groups that had breakfast before exercising.
Another study found that high intensity interval exercise for total exercise time of only 40 mins a week (that is 8 mins a day if you work out five days a week) improves blood sugar balance. When it comes to blood sugar control, there’s no need to hop on the treadmill or run for a full hour and half. You can simply do brief, high intensity interval exercise.Image by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash
Tip #4: Make it a habit to exercise before a meal
This is contrary to what most people do. They exercise after a huge feast, thinking it will burn off the calories they had just consumed. That is actually not as effective. Let me explain.
When our blood sugar rises, the hormone insulin is released into our blood stream to try to lower the sugar level in our blood. Insulin causes fat cells and muscle cells to soak up the sugar. If your muscle cells are already “full”, then most of the sugar winds up getting driven into fat cells and will be stored as fat. When we exercise before a feast, we are “emptying” our muscles and preparing them to soak up more of the sugar in our blood, thus reducing the amount that is being stored as fat in our fat cells. Also contrary to popular belief, a simple easy weight training session of 20 mins is much more effective than a long duration cardio session on the treadmill.
Tip #5: Do a good detox every quarter.
In the world we live in today, we are exposed to more and more toxins. They can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the personal care products that we use, and even in the food packaging. Our body will try to get rid of them through our skin (i.e. perspiration), urine, and other body waste. However, if it can’t do it effectively or fast enough, these toxins will be stored in our fat cells. So the more toxins we store, the more fat cells we have and the larger they get. This then leads to weight gain and an increase in body fat percentage.
Regular detoxification is required to flush the toxins out of our body, thereby reducing the number and size of our fat cells, which is beneficial and crucial for weight management. I normally do a good detox program every quarter, whenever there is a period of festive feasting or after a holiday. It unclogs the various systems in our bodies, plus it keep us within a healthy weight range.
So there you go. You can still have your dessert and eat it if you know how to reduce its effects on your weight. Keep using these five tips I shared above throughout the year and make it a lifestyle change, and you can maintain a healthy weight and body composition while enjoying your favourite desserts. Remember, sugar and fats are not totally toxic or to be avoided at all cost. They are important macronutrients for our bodies and they serve many purposes. They only become bad when we consume them excessively.
If you feel that you have been dieting, following a clean diet and exercising much but not seeing results, there could be underlying issues such as hormonal imbalance, insulin resistance, high levels of cortisol that needs to be addressed, so do visit your doctor if you have concerns. If you’d like to find out more about eating healthily, get in contact with me and I’ll be happy to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle.
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Lee Ching is a certified health coach and weight loss specialist, working with clients to improve their body confidence and health. She looks forward to helping couples reach their dream body for their wedding, Contact her at +65 9625 6679 or email [email protected] for a chat.
Feature image by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.