I have heard countless girls and women, Asian, Indian, or otherwise, talk about their plans for dieting before a trip, a wedding, or even a date. What’s dieting? It covers a range of behaviors, including following fad diet programs (i.e. Weight Watchers, South Beach), skipping meals to lose weight, fasting, smoking for weight loss, vomiting- you name it. Statistics show that 91% of women surveyed on college campuses have attempted to control their weight through dieting (National Eating Disorders Association). 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.
In college I believe the most common form of dieting involves switching out normal lunches and dinners with boring salads and chowing through them with a “brave melancholy”, as Bridget Jones would say, only to revert back to regular after a few unsustainable, hunger-laden days. We’ve all heard the statistics about the yo-yo effect: despite spending $40 billion on dieting and diet related products every year, 66% of American adults are overweight or obese. The results of diets often do not last, and weight comes roaring back because the habits or costs were not maintainable.
You CAN prevent the “freshman 15“, the weight gain that comes during and after college, the unsightly bulges and embarrassing rolls- ALL without crash dieting, fad dieting, fasting, and even strict salad munching. Growing up does NOT have to mean getting fatter.
Why should you believe me? I’m now a college graduate and I still have the 23-inch waist I had as a freshman in high school 8 years ago. I’ve never “dieted” a day in my life. I’m not trying to boast or make you feel inadequate; I am trying to impress upon you the effectiveness of my lifestyle choices for maintaining a trim, fit figure: eating healthily and in moderation, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol intake. Believe me, it works!
1. Eating healthily and in moderation
This may sound like you’ve heard it before- and for good reason. Eating healthily means getting a fruit or two in a day (try an apple and a cup of berries), plentiful servings of vegetables, protein (try lean chicken, eggs, fish, or fruit protein shakes), calcium in the form of yogurt, milk, or milk substitutes, and sustenance through healthy grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread).
Whenever possible, avoid eating out and cook your own meals. You’ll know exactly how much oil, butter and salt was added, you have more control over portion-size and nutrient content, and home-cooked food always tastes better.
A brief note about salads: yes, they are a great way to get in your servings of vegetables. Eat a salad every day with dinner, not as dinner. Try a delicious salad with fresh baby spinach, chopped carrots, chopped bell peppers, grapes, raw sunflower seeds, and a very light drizzling of salad dressing. A healthy salad is NOT made of lettuce and croutons and drowning in cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, and egg yolks.
Do not eat a ton of anything. The rule of LIFE is everything in moderation. This also means eating smaller portions if your desire is to lose weight. Calories in should be less than calories out (calories burned). Even if you are getting smaller portions, though, you should never restrict yourself to the point of starvation. Ease yourself in.
A big part of eating healthily is NOT eating unhealthily. This means limiting your intake of fat from rich foods like pizza and macaroni and cheese, sugars from sweets like brownies, ice cream, bubble tea, and even coffee, as well as snacks like chips and cookies. In fact, I recommend not snacking at all. Eat three healthy meals a day and drink water throughout the day between meals. Snacking almost always leads to over-eating. Many celebrities follow the grazing method of eating several small meals a day, but unless you have a personal dietician, don’t try this- you will most likely end up overeating. So: do not snack, and minimize fat and sugar intake.
2. Exercising regularly
This one’s not hard to explain. Exercise every day, for at least 45 minutes. Jog on the treadmill, walk outside, go for a swim, lift some weights, try an exercise DVD, take a dance or martial arts class, join a gym, practice yoga. Just do it regularly. Exercising will tauten your muscles to achieve a firm, fit look, as well as burn calories from the food you’ve been eating. It also releases endorphins that make you feel happy and well, bringing a glow to your skin. It’s a win-win.
3. Limiting alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol causes weight gain and damages your skin. Whether you drink beer or mixed drinks with shots, the negative effects remain the same.
Apart from providing loads of unhealthy, nutrient-devoid calories and sugar, alcohol (yes, even vodka) harmfully impacts your metabolism itself, causing it to slow way down in later years leading to hard-to-fight weight gain. You don’t want that!
What’s more, alcohol in any form dehydrates your system, leading to premature wrinkling and blemishes. So next time you are out partying, remember: everything in moderation! Drinking alcohol can be a fun part of your night out on the town, but think of it as a treat, like chocolate cake, you should be feeding to your body only rarely.
If you prefer to abstain from drinking to preserve your good looks, you won’t be alone. Bollywood beauties Kareena Kapoor, Malaika Arora Khan and Amrita Rao have all publicly professed to be teetotalers, meaning they do not drink alcohol, choosing beauty over booze.
That’s all it takes, ladies! As your friend, I hope you consider giving my advice a try the next time you decide you want to either lose weight, get in better shape, or simply lead a healthier, more satisfied life. And the best part is, it doesn’t involve starving yourself over dismal salads.
For information about First Lady Michelle Obama’s recommendations for eating and living healthily, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov.