PHOTO Tanawat Pontchour 

Our experts
Clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants

Nutritional therapist at Body With Soul

You want to look fabulous for an upcoming shindig. Dieting is the first thing that comes to mind – after all, you only have a couple of weeks. So, you skip meals, subsist on salads or go on a gruelling juice cleanse.

You’re not the only one who’s tried occasion dieting. Some 69 per cent of women Simply Her polled admitted to taking drastic measures to lose weight fast for a special occasion.

Beatrice Wong, a 43-year-old advertising executive, often goes on crash diets in the lead-up to important family and work events, where she has to dress up and be photographed. “I just want to look and feel my best at these functions,” she explains. “I usually give myself two to three weeks, during which I eat just protein-rich foods, like eggs, for breakfast, homemade soups for lunch, and a big salad with protein for dinner. I can lose about 5kg in just over a fortnight, especially if I exercise as well.”

Leanne Chong, a 38-year-old events planner, takes a more extreme approach. In just two weeks, she can drop two dress sizes by eating just salad and fruit, and drinking fresh juices. “I only do this once a year, around the festive season,” she says. “I get invited to a lot of parties so I do this detox to fit into nice outfits and also to prevent myself from overindulging at the buffet table.”

There is nothing wrong with wanting to drop a few kilos to fit into a dress or look and feel better for an important event. Just make sure you go about it the proper way. Here are a few guidelines for executing an occasion diet healthily and safely.

Practise calorie restriction, not starvation
To lose a substantial amount of weight in a short time, practise calorie restriction. “Calorie restriction does not mean ‘the fewer calories the better’ or starving yourself,” says Jaclyn Reutens, a clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.

“Healthy weight loss means losing 2-4kg a month. By cutting out 500 calories a day from your diet, you will be able to achieve that healthy weight loss. If you want to hasten it, throw in some exercise,” she adds.

Forget diet trends – just cut out the bad stuff
Ditch the fads and just eat sensibly, Jaclyn advises. Eliminate “bad foods” like fried treats, sweets and desserts, and unhealthy beverages, such as carbonated soft drinks, milk teas, bubble teas and yogurt drinks.

“Most of these are laden with added sugar and/or fat,” she says. “Eliminating them completely until D-day will be difficult, especially for someone who is addicted to sugar but doesn’t realise it. “The withdrawal effects are real and you will need to press on and fight the urge. If you can’t stand the cravings, snack on a piece of fruit. Drinking plenty of water helps, too,” she advises.

Have breakfast
Don’t be tempted to skip the first meal of the day to cut your calorie intake, says Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist at Body With Soul. This will only leave you hungry and cause you to binge at the end of the day. Choose your breakfast foods wisely. Go for nutrient-dense, high-quality and preferably whole foods, like Greek yogurt, avocado, poached eggs, a berry smoothie or porridge made from rolled oats.

Eat well-balanced meals and skip the snacks
Don’t snack between meals – having a biscuit at teatime is considered a snack. Jaclyn says each meal should contain a small amount of carbohydrates (such as rice, noodles, pasta, bread or potatoes) and a protein-rich food (like chicken, fish or tofu, and vegetables). A small piece of fruit after a meal will help fill you up and stave off the munchies.

Watch your portion size
“Reduce your portion size if you feel like you have been overeating,” Jaclyn advises. “If you are used to finishing an entire plate of noodles or rice, leave at least a quarter behind. The regular serving size is way too large, especially if your lifestyle is sedentary.”

Use meal replacements correctly
While meal replacements can help with weight loss, they should be prescribed by a doctor or dietitian, who can ensure that they are used correctly. Otherwise, your weight will rebound once the meal replacements stop, Jaclyn points out.

Be careful with juice cleanses
If you drink mostly fruit-based juices, you will be consuming excessive amounts of sugar and not getting sufficient dietary fibre, says Susie. Green juicing is fine for a quick fix, but you should transition into it slowly to avoid “shocking” your system. Go for juices made with high-quality and organic vegetables like kale, lettuce and cucumber, flavoured with some lemon, mint or green apple.

Also, remember that once you stop juicing and return to eating solid foods, you will almost certainly gain back the weight you lost.

Eat sensibly to keep the kilos off
If you’ve managed to lose weight the healthy way, keep it off by sticking to a sensible eating plan. “If you resume your previous eating habits of constant snacking, drinking sugary beverages, eating fatty meats and regular desserts, and devouring plates of food, your weight will slowly pile back on,” says Jaclyn.

“So, don’t sabotage your previous efforts. Weight rebound has emotional repercussions and is a vicious cycle. Eating healthily need not equate to tasteless food and suffering – it simply means having a healthier attitude towards food.”

This article was originally published in Simply Her December 2015.