“Fat loss is 99% diet” ~ Tim Ferriss
I wrote a few weeks ago about how Malaysia’s national obesity levels may have contributed to our sky-rocketing Covid19 fatalities and hospitalizations back in June-July-August. So boy was I glad to hear Ministry of Health Khairy Jamaluddin make no-holds-barred remarks regarding our country’s collective unhealthiness. It was also heartening to hear him take a jibe at himself by saying he’s also obese. Seriously, if Khairy — who looked pretty lean with his hoodie and jeans a few weeks ago — is ‘obese’ then what are the rest of us?
Malaysia is ranked #1 in the region on the fat scale, a problem which (according to a 2017 report) costs us between RM4–8 billion in healthcare costs.
Maybe it’s our kuih-muih-ing sugar-loving rice-gorging culture or whatever, but with almost half our population either overweight or obese, we’re producing happy-go-lucky ‘at-risk’ communities who won’t survive two flights of stairs down, let alone up.
In line with the spirit of Khairy’s remarks then, what follows are three dieting slash nutritional approaches I’ve seen many other Malaysians employ to some success. Obviously, do consult with your doctor or medical expert before attempting any of the below. But, if you’re new to weight-loss dieting regiments, perhaps the below can help cut the flab.
Option 1 — Drop the carbs. Period.
This diet has been around a while and many Malaysians are aware of this but, alas, most are still glib. Majority of folks still believe that eating meat will cause them to gain weight.
Long and short, this diet isn’t about cutting DOWN your carbs, it’s about cutting OUT your carbs.
Zip. Nada. Don’t take ‘only’ half a bowl of rice, skip rice entirely. Tell the ‘Mixed Rice’ uncle to give you an empty plate. Avoid pastry shops. Watch No Time To Die minus the popcorn. Tell the KFC fella to hold off the bun and mashed potatoes. Avoid McDonald’s or, if you can’t, then eat only the burger patties and skip the buns.
Try this for a week and I guarantee you’ll lose at least 5–10% pounds of excess flab by that time.
But what about calories? Right. This is the ‘Energy In / Energy Out’ principle, but only applicable if you eat carbs. Why? Because ‘energy in’ is only relevant if energy is stored as fat. If, however, fat is (somehow) not created, then all this don’t matter.
Google a bit, the logic goes something like this:
1) Carbohydrate digestion involves insulin
2) Insulin is about the ONLY thing which stores or ‘creates’ fat cells (sorry, my SPM Bio only A2); ergo, no insulin = no fat
3) Stop eating carbs (which includes sugar, because sugar is always turned to carbs) and you remove the insulin, thus removing the fat — voilà!
Also, it seems insulin has the power to make you hungry for more carbs, which makes you fatter and hungrier ad infinitum.
Option 2 — Eat either protein or carbs (not both)
Ok, say you find it damn hard to skip your rice and Maggi Mee. Fair enough. What else can you do?
Another method is to work on your food combinations. This approach has been pitched by management guru Tony Robbins (check out his book in the Further Reading list below) over twenty years ago who says that this ensures high-quality digestion and the absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream, thereby creating more energy, reducing the craving to eat more, etc.
I’m no biologist but the theory goes something like this: When you eat carbs the digestive enzyme is secreted from your mouth and is an alkaline, but when you take protein the enzymes are secreted in your stomach and it’s an acid. The problem of eating tons of proteins and carbs together is that the secretion of both alkaline and acid enzymes tends to neutralize each other thereby disrupting the digestion process.
This is why if you gasak a lot of nasi lemak sotong or chicken rice or whack everything in a buffet you’ll tend to get sleepy in no time because a) digestion is impaired so less energy is being produced and b) your body has to work harder to overcome the digestive impairment.
Voila, food coma (which, of course, gets worse if you pile on the carbs).
Now, the above may be inaccurate biological theory-wise but have you noticed that you will generally feel less lethargic if you eat either a) only meat and vegetables or b) only rice and veg? This means you either let the protein be digested fully or you let the carbs be digested fully, with vegetables helping to ease the process.
Give it a shot? Notice that it’s also 50% low-carb (when you eat only protein).
Option 3 — Skip breakfast and supper
This one is for those who want to lose weight but can’t let go of their beef ball noodles or spaghetti carbonara or whatever. Well, if the above two options don’t work for you, a final one is to try what’s called intermittent fasting or the 16:8 ratio of eating to not eating.
This means you eat only within an eight-hour window throughout the day and touch nothing but water (or maybe just light fruits) for the remaining sixteen.
Put simply, you eat only between noon and 8pm. Or, you skip breakfast and stop eating supper. That’s it. This approach won’t cause as much weight-loss as the first two options but, hey, I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices that practically all my Malay friends tend to look slimmer two or three weeks into puasa month, right? (smile)
Note that the pic below offers more alternatives for I.F.
Certainly, every attempt at weight loss would work better if you do more exercise. So if you haven’t been doing any on a regular basis, do follow Khairy’s advice and get those muscles pumping.
Still, as per Ferriss quote above, the main thing when it comes to fighting obesity remains — and will always remain — what you makan everyday.
Moore, Jimmy, and Jason Fung. The complete guide to fasting: heal your body through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting. Simon and Schuster, 2016.
Robbins, Tony. Unlimited power: The new science of personal achievement. Simon and Schuster, 2008 (there’s a chapter dedicated to diet and nutrition)
Taubes, Gary. The case against sugar. Anchor Books, 2017 (Taubes is a journalist and one of the best writers on the low-carb diet)