November 15

How to become fitter and healthier in Singapore

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I stared at the mirror, patting my tummy. I was frustrated.

Why hadn’t anything seemed to change, despite all my efforts?

Despite my best efforts, my weight was stuck here.
Despite my best efforts, my weight was stuck here.

I was working out everyday.

I was even paying for a gym trainer. And paying another $1890 for a course like the Advanced Certificate in Learning and Performance to understand just what was wrong with the way I was performing at fitness.

But still, my weight stayed stubbornly stuck.

I enjoyed my food, but was very overweight
I enjoyed my food, but was very overweight

Then COVID happened.

Not having anything else to do, I started exercising daily, without fail. Whether I was tired or not, I simply lifted the weights outside my home. And slowly, I began to see the weight drop.

Today, we are fed a myriad of bullshit about what being fit and healthy is. This article tries to change that.

Mate, it’s not about the sugar

Sometimes we wish it was as simple as just about the sugar
Sometimes we wish it was as simple as just about the sugar

One of the biggest myths we are told is that it’s about the sugar.

It’s not.

Gardner and his colleagues’ 2018 study of a low-fat vs a low-carb diet on a 12-month weight loss in overweight adults found no substantial difference in calorie intake.

In fact, Kevin Hall’s study in 2021 further showed that those on the high-carb diet ate an average of 700 less calories than those on the high-fat (or keto) diet.

And hear this.

It was those on the high-carb diet who actually reported a significant loss in body fat.

What’s happening?

We are tempted to think that it’s about the sugar because of all the marketing messages that are fed to us today about the 0-calorie Coke Zero, leading us to think that drinking all that Coke does no harm to our calorie intake.

Or when we see a food labeled as low-carbs, we grab it immediately, thinking that we are doing our health a service.

But it doesn’t, because the function of weight is not just sugar.

Think about it in terms of a math equation. If you plugged it into an equation, how we think about weight today might look like this.

f(weight) = carbs + fat + proteins

We think that if we lower the carb content in our foods, we would naturally lose weight.

But this thinking risks the misconception that food is simply the nutrients that we add together.

Nope.

Fernanda Rauber, told Chris van Tulleken, in his research for the book ‘Ultra Processed People’,

Most UPF is not food… it’s an industrially produced edible substances.

Food is more than the nutrients you combine together. The food industry has today learnt to substitute out the parts that add calories, for ultra-processed additives.

Look at that cereal box. What do you actually recognise from the ingredient list?
Look at that cereal box. What do you actually recognise from the ingredient list?

These are the additives that leave you wanting more, eating more, and weighing more.

Nicole Avena, an associate professor at Mount Sinai in New York, said,

Some ultra-processed foods may activate the brain reward system in a way that is similar to what happens when people use drugs like alcohol, or even nicotine or morphine.

Additives may activate food addictive behaviours.

Now now, isn’t that scary?

Look at what you eat

Try this.

For a week, when you go to the supermarket, look at the ingredient list of what you buy.

I’m not asking you to change how you buy, but just take a look at it. If you like what you see, buy it.

If you don’t, then stop.

Keep a food diary

Record down some of these things:

  1. What are you eating?
  2. When do you eat?
  3. How do you feel when you eat?

To keep this sustainable and not too much work, just do it at the end of the week. Observe if there were any days when you ate more than you used to.

Or perhaps you ate less. What was it about the week that helped?

Do you know those cereal bars may not be all that healthy?
Do you know those cereal bars may not be all that healthy?

Focus on the 80/20 in ultra processed foods

But now you might want the tidy how-tos and hacks that will leave you fitter and healthier. I want to give that to you.

But you need to first know that there’s an 80/20 in health.

It’s not just the food.

It’s the ultra-processed food.

Think about that juicy burger from McDonald’s that you just ate. Can you genuinely say that you know what went into it? This isn’t about fighting ‘Big Food’ corporations.

It’s about fighting for your life.

Seriously.

When doctor van Tulleken went on a 4-week experiment to eat mostly UPF and nothing else, he wrote,

I was never hungry, but I was never satisfied.

The food developed an uncanny aspect, like the doll that looks just the wrong degree of realistic and ends up seeming corpselike.

Your additives may keep you addicted
Your additives may keep you addicted

Do you find that happening to you?

You’re not hungry. But you find yourself going to the snack corner at the office and ripping open a packet of biscuits, out of habit, than really to fill you.

Or you find yourself waking up at night at 3am, going to the snack corner and then consuming packet after packet of cookies.

This is dangerous.

And you need to watch out.

Because this is what is costing your health. You want something, but you don’t like it.

I repeat, because this is a very important concept.

You want something, but you don’t like it.

And this is something we are going to need to fix.

Fast.

Stop eating the UPF

Find something as close to the source as possible
Find something as close to the source as possible

Nutritionist Kim Pearson outlines the three key criteria to look for when identifying a UPF.

  1. It comes in a packet
  2. Contains more than five ingredients
  3. Contains at least one item characteristic of the NOVA ultra processed food group. Either food substances never or rarely used in kitchens (such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or interesterified oils, and hydrolysed proteins), or classes of additives designed to make the final product palatable or more appealing (such as flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, sweeteners, thickeners, and anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling and glazing agents)

If you can eat, eat something that has as little additives as possible.

Then think about the habits around exercise

This is where the advice around exercise starts.

It sounds strange, but it’s a better way to start, after you’ve managed to cope with the food.

Make the exercise fun

One of the best things I did for myself was joining a salsa dance studio called Caliente. Rather than having more boring weight lifting sessions, this now became more fun, with the dance sessions.

It did provide a good mix to the exercise, and holding the ladies’ hand can be an impetus to exercising harder.

I’m kidding.

But you get the idea.

Just put on those shoes

One of the most difficult things to cope with around exercising is motivation. We often think that we need motivation before we start working out. And yes, maybe you’re tired of working.

But it doesn’t start that way.

It starts after you start working out.

That’s the most important thing.

If there’s one thing you take away, it’s probably this. Just put on the shoes to get out of your home, whether you like it or not.

It might be a much better way to get fitter and healthier.

You could also grow healthier with our meal prep plans. Get it now at 10% off!


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