Last week, Anant Ambani, the youngest son of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, surfaced in his new avatar, having lost 108kg. While the 19-year-old must have had the best in the fitness and health business working for him over the past 18 months, advising him on diet and exercise that included a 21km daily walk, followed by yoga, weight training, functional training and high-intensity cardio exercises, there is no doubt that this kind of Herculean effort requires great determination. So if you are inspired and want to lose weight, remember that a well-planned diet and a strict exercise regimen can make a difference.
Take it slow
First, keep the pace and expectations realistic. “Losing weight really fast is never a good idea medically. It leads to massive deficiencies (of vitamins and minerals) that can do long-term harm,” says B.S. Murthy, associate director and unit head of orthopaedic and joint replacement surgery at the Max Hospital in Patparganj, New Delhi. “Besides loss of vitamin D and calcium that is needed to offset the wear and tear of joints and muscles, long-term problems like early arthritis, back pain, joint pain, brittle bones, etc., are a possibility. So take it slow and easy. Anything between 2-4kg a month is doable,” he says.
Remember, those who carry a lot of excess weight tend to lose it at a quicker pace than those who have to lose, say, 5-10kg. “That’s because the number of calories you can burn by exercising is determined by your body weight—the more the weight, the more the calories you burn for the same amount of exercise,” adds Dr Murthy.
But you will have to take out time every single day, no matter what, and give your 100% each time. Take one step at a time; it might be a slow process, but it’s worth it.
According to a study published on 12 April in the Cell Metabolism journal, people with obesity who reduced their weight by 5% (time period not mentioned) showed improvements in the metabolic function in many parts of the body, including fat tissue, liver and muscle.
For some people, surgery can be an option, especially if they are morbidly obese, and have health complications like severe diabetes. According to Dr. Deep Goel, Senior Consultant and Director, Bariatric and Advanced Laparoscopy Surgery at the BLK Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, if you gain 25kg or more over what should be your normal weight, it becomes difficult to lose it naturally. “It is not impossible, but extremely difficult to do so. That is where bariatric surgery comes in,” he says.
Losing weight has to involve lifestyle changes - changes that you decide on and commit to for the rest of your life, because the chances of the weight creeping back are always there. A negative calorie diet (less than a person’s daily caloric requirement) needs to be planned and followed religiously, keeping in mind the requirements of essential nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals.
To break the monotony, regular breaks in diet are needed, so a varied diet that includes different types of food across the vegetable, fruit, grain and high-protein (dairy, meats, legumes) food categories needs to be followed.
While news reports suggest that Anant used to do a slow-pace, 21km walk every day, Mumbai-based health guru Mickey Mehta believes a combination of walking and running works better for most people. “A slow-pace walk is good for beginners who are not acclimatized to exercise at all. The process is a little slow but it works. Eventually, however, running delivers better results as we expend two-and-a-half times more energy while running compared to slow-pace walking,” he says.
Dr Murthy believes a brisk walk is better than a slow-pace one. “Do brisk walking for 45 minutes every day in a park, or on soft ground. Avoid high-speed running and treadmills as these might increase the wear and tear of cartilage caps,” he says. Mehta agrees that running can have downsides for those who are obese, for it puts more stress on the body and increases the risk of injuries like runner’s knee, hamstring strains and shin splits. “It is best to begin with walking and then slowly modify the exercise schedule depending on progress, health status, etc.,” he says.
On an average, if you walk at a pace of 6.5km per hour (an easy-to-do pace), you can burn roughly 400 calories per hour. But you don’t necessarily need to walk 6.5km a day. You can walk a shorter distance on some days and buffer it by being more active through the day.
What are the best workouts for an obese person? Mehta’s list includes walking, aqua jogging (a form of deep-water running that mimics the running movement, where the feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool), strength training and Tai chi (Chinese martial arts) (either in combination or just some of them).
Weight training is also important for weight loss because it increases muscle mass (lean body mass) and Epoc (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which will burn more calories at rest (and after a workout), Mehta says. The more muscle mass your body has, the more calories it will burn while exercising and at rest. But it is important to do weight training under expert guidance to avoid injuries. An obese person should start with light weights.
Yoga not only helps in reducing inches but also prevents the recurrence of weight gain. “Improving the liver’s metabolism is an important step in weight loss and control, and certain specific asanas, like the Standing Twisting asana, Intensive Twisting asana and Rhythmic Backward asana help improve liver metabolism. They even increase insulin secretion,” explains Rajashree Tupe, founder of the Shriyog Institute in Pune. “Asanas also help in toning sagging muscles and give the required flexibility to muscles which become stiff due to intense workouts. Shavasana techniques deliver required relaxation to fatigued muscles besides inducing positivity to the mind, and pranayama helps boost stamina and endurance and delivers a feeling of peace and stability,” she adds.
Finally, and perhaps even more important than exercising and eating right, is the state of the mind. Stay positive. “In clinical practice, we look out for body dysmorphic disorder, wherein people trying to lose weight are saddled with a negative body image. To cure this, we increase their motivation, which helps increase their willpower,” says Shweta Sharma, consultant psychologist at the Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurugram, adjoining Delhi. “Simple relaxation techniques, like breathing deeply, rhythmic exercises, mediation and music therapy, help a lot,” she adds.
In the end, it’s all about determination and persistence.