From The Straits Times    |

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There are no shortcuts

Health is important to every one of us, both at home and at the workplace. Personally, I want to stay healthy so that I can keep up with my kids at the park, am able to stay energetic for the household chores, and have enough physical and mental strength to finish a project deadline at work.

Sure, average life expectancy is on the up, but are you free of sickness, pain, and stress? As someone who successfully did a lifestyle change in 2015, here are my tips to you for the new year.


1. First, know your risks

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While there’s no definite answer to what exactly is the ‘best’ weight for a person, knowing your BMI is one way to get to a ballpark figure.

Short for Body Mass Index, this is a weight-to-height index calculated using your weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). If you get anywhere between 18.5 and 25, you’re mostly golden. Watch your weight if you’re between 25 and 30; and if you’ve crossed 30, it’s good to shed some pounds to reduce the chances of obesity-related health conditions, particularly heart diseases. You can find  easy-to-digest articles on weight management, among other health topics on The Singapore Health Promotion Board.

Also, if you haven’t been doing regular health check-ups, I suggest that you do. Regular health exams can identify problems before they start or get worse. Do it even if you think you’re in the pink of health. I know of people who’ve diabetes and they aren’t even close to being overweight. They could have turned it around if they knew about their condition at the pre-diabetic stage.




2. Eat right, not don’t eat

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A major cause of poor health conditions is our unhealthy lifestyles, in which the diet plays a crucial role. Needless to say, what we eat and how much we eat directly affect our body weight.

My advice on losing weight is simple: Watch what you eat. Staying in the ideal weight range is a life-long effort; can you starve yourself forever? Not to mention the side effects of starving, like dizziness and lack of energy. When the measures are too drastic, we tend to give up more easily. If you’re unsure whether you’re getting the right amounts of carbs, fats, and proteins daily, you can try calorie counting and diet tracking apps like Lose It!MyFitnessPal, and Lifesum for a start.

Cutting back on sugared drinks work wonders for me, and is one that I think will work for most people trying to lose weight. I seriously can’t remember when was the last time I bought Coke from a vending machine. Instead of sugared drinks, I now drink (mostly) water. WaterMinder has an iOS app that can help you track your water intake; you can also create custom reminders.


3. Get that butt off that chair

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Like a diet, when it comes to exercise, the keyword here is ‘proper’. In short, don’t go sign up for a half marathon if you’ve never ran regularly. For a start, simply aim to move more: walk home from the interchange instead of taking the bus; climb the stairs instead of taking the lift; or just chase after your kids in the park instead of relaxing in one corner to check Facebook.

If you need motivation from inanimate objects, try fitness trackers like those from Fitbit and Jawbone; or the Apple Watch if you also need a stylish timepiece – whichever rocks your boat.

Here’s a guide to burning off excess calories that the Men’s Health team have curated to specifically shed off those fats.

If you’re so busy at work and have no time to even go for walks, much less hit the gym, you can try short but high intensity ‘7-minute workouts’. Consisting of a list of 12 exercises that use only your body weight, a chair, and a wall, a single workout only takes seven minutes. Personally, I use this iOS app called ‘7 Minute Workout Challenge’. 




4. Get a weighting scale

In addition to weight, BMI, fat mass, and heart rate, the rather expensive Withings WS-50 also checks indoor air quality. Photo: Axtro Sports

So, you went on a diet and signed up for a gym program. But are these measures effective in helping you lose weight? Perhaps you think you’ve slimmed down, based on what you saw in the mirror this morning. But can you be sure?

Nothing beats a bathroom scale in reaffirming the efforts you’ve put in. Versus a traditional scale, a smart digital scale like the Fitbit Aria or the Withings Smart Body Analyzer (note: Nokia bought Withings in early 2016) usually has the added benefits of syncing with compatible apps or services for easier progress tracking and support for multiple users.

That said, don’t live by the scale. It’s all too easy to pat yourself on the back and indulge in some fried chicken after you saw that you’ve lost a bit of weight, or start to skip more meals at the detriment of your health when the numbers went up. In fact, my recommendation is to use the scale to help you get to the healthy weight range, and then toss it out. Then get a pair of jeans that fits you just right. For when the jeans get tighter, you’ll intuitively know what’s wrong.


5.  It’s all on you

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Anyone can lose weight. Setting a realistic target and sticking to the plan is important. No fancy calorie tracking app, smartwatch, weighing scale, or gym instructor can help you if you are unwilling to make a lifestyle change or raise the white flag the instance the going gets tough. Not willing to give up that weekly buffet habit even though you notice you can’t walk for five minutes without panting? It’s time to take stock of your priorities.

Recognize too that staying fit and healthy is for your own good. Not because I said so, or because you want to look good in other people’s eyes. If anything, it should be for the people you love; such as being able to live long and healthy to see your kids grow up.

Finally, there are no shortcuts to losing weight. Eat and exercise properly (and consistently) is the only method. And unless you’ve an underlying medical condition, it’s also the only sure-fire method.


This article was first published on Hardware Zone.