November 12, 2019

How to lose fat and be healthy; notes from a designer

I've been unfit for most of my life. I always believed that I could eat anything and steer clear of the consequences, especially because I was young. What could possibly go wrong?

I love eating fast food. Jollibee and McDo preferred.

To illustrate, that's a two-piece chicken with rice, peach mango pie, cheeseburger, and large coke while watching anime in the wee hours of night. Sometimes with large fries.

Just a few months ago, I would order Macao milk tea every day. Health authorities recommend drinking boba once a week. Sometimes I drank it twice a day.

That should give you an idea of my appetite and extremely unhygienic eating habits.

My lifestyle sucks. I'm always glued to the computer, probably because of my job. But then I have over 3,400 hours logged in DoTA too.

Up until a year ago, there was no real reason to exercise. My PE classes in Ateneo ended a long time ago. I'm a taekwondo black belt, but I never continued practicing when I got my 1st dan.

Taking control

In the past year, I wanted to take control of my health. It started with finding an exercise habit I could stick to.

To me, that was badminton. It was a cherished sport in my childhood. I got a coach and trained consistently for a year. I joined queueing matches thrice a week. Things got more intense.

Despite making strides in my aerobic conditioning for the sport, I noticed I wasn't getting any thinner.

Apparently, even if you do tons of exercise but drink milk tea every day, you're inevitably going to reverse all of the good stuff you're doing.

I still had tons of visceral fat (the stuff on your belly you can't get rid of) and trying fad diets just didn't seem to work.

But when I armed myself with more knowledge, things started to change.

I shed 20lbs of fat. In terms of BMI, I literally went from being overweight to normal. I think I've never been in a normal BMI for my whole life.

Taking care of the mindset first

I read a few books on health and wellness on Blinkist. I got a grasp on how diabetes happens, what popular diets are out there, why you should shift to a plant-based diet, and how complicated things can get when you do eat a lot of carbohydrates.

I individually googled the benefits of the each of the healthy food suggested. By knowing the nutritional value of each food, that helped me understand why we should be picky about what we eat.

I read an actual book on bodybuilding, and learned how the metabolism and hormonal processes in our body works.

Here are 6 takeaways to lose fat for real.

1. JUST counting calories don’t work.

Being in a caloric deficit means you eat less calories than the total energy you need to sustain your bodily functions.

You can be on a caloric deficit and lose fat, but it's going to be unsustainable.

What I found is that focusing solely on calories and not on the quality of the food you eat can really mess up your hormonal system.

Likewise, even if you do eat less to meet the caloric deficit, you can still eat food that has literally no nutritional value.

And doing that opens you up to a world of disease.

2. Insulin is everything.

Everything I read seems to point to insulin.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. — from Wikipedia

Eating sugar or any kind of carbohydrate spikes up insulin levels, hence promoting fat and glucose storage.

So that means you have to say bye or at least regulate your eating habits when it comes to white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars. Plus all sorts of processed food.

If uncontrolled, insulin will stop doing its job and you'll develop insulin resistance— and suddenly, the road to type-2 diabetes becomes real.

This happens when there's too much glucose in your blood. That means more insulin is produced by the pancreas to regulate it.

This could lead to type-2 diabetes by decreased sensitivity to insulin and impaired insulin production because your pancreas will grow tired.

Basically, cells are less capable of absorbing and using blood sugar for energy.

What can we do? High intensity exercise is the most efficient way to improve your insulin sensitivity. Add that on top of a carb-restricted diet and we're good to go!

3. Treat your body like a sports car. Make sure you're putting the right fuel.

Get the most out of your food by staying away from empty calories.

  • Sugar: cake, cookies, sweets, candy, soft drinks, fruit-flavored sweet beverages and other foods containing mostly added sugars
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, hard spirits and other alcoholic beverages.

Filipinos love their milk tea, but it's just not going to work if you want to lose weight.

Skip refined food for more filling and fibrous food.

Here are some examples:

  • Brown grains instead of white grains
  • Brown rice instead of white rice
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Popcorn

Eating these will help regulate your glucose levels too. It takes more time and resources to process the food in your gut as well, so you're actually burning calories while you digest it.

If you really want to lose weight, you can try a plant-based diet.

Eat food rich in Omega-3.

  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Chia seeds

Eat chicken instead of pork or beef. Preferably not fried.

On snacking:

  • Almonds
  • Dried berries
  • Bananas
  • Peanut butter
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content the better)

4. Build muscle tissue to burn more calories.

The real sustainable way to burn more calories is to develop more muscle tissue. It's "metabolically expensive," and you need 50 and 100 calories a day just to keep it alive.

If you lose 5 pounds of muscle, the amount of calories you burn in a twenty-four-hour period decreases by around 250 calories.

The only way to gain muscle tissue is to hit the gym, lift heavy weights, and make sure you recover by eating right and sleeping well.

I recommend doing compound exercises that hit most major muscle groups once a week. Personally, I'm doing the program prescribed in this book.

5. Find a sport you can commit to.

I increasingly believe that doing sports should be part of my lifestyle.

Ideally something fun, represents a level of challenge that stimulates you, and encourages social interaction.

Personally, it's more exciting to do sports when you can notice your own progression.

It can be dance, martial arts, badminton, cycling, volleyball, or whatever floats your boat.

6. Anchor to a purpose

There are villages in the world never introduced to the concept of refined or processed food where most people live to 100 years old.

They eat real organic food grown from highly nutritious soil.

They have zero counts of cancer.

Taking charge is extremely important if we want to decrease our chances of dying prematurely. If we anchor our health efforts to a higher order purpose, it will definitely help in motivation.

Finally—every person is unique, and what worked for me might not necessarily work for you.

But I do hope that his helps nudge you to become a healthier, fitter, and leaner human. Cheers!


Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week

Other Ramblings