Week 20: Why Falling for Health Reports Is a Bad Idea

Have you ever wondered if the editor behind a headline announcing ice cream’s healthy virtues has your best interests in mind? It’s time to do a quick fact check about which health reports to believe and which ones to just…let…slip…away. Today we’re talking about all those wonderful health studies and reports that you keep reading about in the news.

Not heard The BigLoser India Podcast #020? Check it out here.

Everyone loves a good health news story and that’s exactly why the news dishes them out so liberally. I’m taling about reports that say crazy things like “pizza cures depression” or “eating a banana first thing in the morning helps you lose weight.” This is where we figure out what to believe, what to throw and when you need to stop that newspaper subscripion altogether.

Does the story match the headline? If the story says that eating a banana helps you lose weight as long as you are eating right and working out regularly, then the headline is not exactly accurate, is it? You’d probably be able to get the same story done with an apple or a glass of milk.

Then comes the simple point of how big was the study, who conducted it and how long did it take? A study conducted on 50,000 people over 20 years, conducted by, say, the University of Michigan or the WHO is going to be more credible that the one conducted on 20 people over 2 months by a lesser known college. Studies and reports about lifestyle altering products or medicines have to come from a 20 year story – a lifetime, not a quick 2 months study.

Most studies suddenly won’t be anything more than repeated articles once you apply these rules. Remember, everyone loves a single one-point solution to weight loss problems – which is why they don’t work, because nothing comes from a simple, one-point solution. So the next time you wonder why you’re not losing weight even though you’ve been eating a banana every morning, you’ll know to read the report more closely.

Keep the following points in mind everytime you pick up the paper:

  • Has the story quoted a credible source or is does the news article simply say a ‘recent research says’.
  • How many people were observed, over how long a period of time, and from which universities.
  • Where is the concluding paragraph, and has it come from the researchers or summarised by an unqualified rookie reporter? This matters, since most health studies do not conclude any report without several disclaimers and all-else-being-equal clauses.
  • Therefore is there a direct conclusion, or is the bottom-line just a spin on an eye-grabbing headline?
  • Is your daily routine compatible with that followed by the study’s participants. For ex: If chocolate milk is declared a great post-workout snack, then are you working out as much as the study participants, who were cycling at a moderate to rigorous pace for at least 60-90 minutes each day for 3 months?
Be the clever critic and decipher these points before deciding whether a health news report is worth following or not.

The BigLoser of the Week #20: DrVinzzz

Being overweight has forever been an issue in my life, right from my school days. I remember being teased and called names by my not so healthy friends, relatives, neighbors etc, which was always very disturbing. As I grew up, I started accepting the fact that my body type is not the same as most of my friends, and will have to live with this awful fact forever. I often contemplated joining the gym, but would chicken out at the last minute. I ate what I felt like, without bothering about the consequences. My weight would fluctuate and I would not care about it. I did not make a single attempt to lose weight!

Twitter has been my stress buster for a long time, and I enjoy interacting with a lot of people here. This year has been very taxing for me, and I found myself very low on stamina. I would at all times lack energy and could not complete my to-do list for the day! I slowly started realizing the cause behind it. The reason was not living a healthy life style. All the extra junk food, alcohol and lack of exercise were together doing some serious harm to my health. I realized I needed to work on this and do some damage control. Gym was no longer an option for me because my physiotherapist strictly advised me not to as it would worsen my medical condition. I needed to find another way to get my daily dose of motivation and exercise.

I used to keep reading #bglsr tweets from @b50 and a lot others in my timeline, but never considered joining it. But this June I finally contemplated giving it a shot. I tweeted if I was too late to enroll for Bigloser and what I needed to do for the same. Immediately I got a reply from @chhavi who told me that I should find a sponsor and that I was not late to join the gang. Within a span of an hour, I had three sponsors @Saurangshuk , @_PWN and @R113 , all amazing people who keep encouraging me! Next step was to make changes in my eating habits and get into an exercise routine.
So here is what I did –
1. I started going for brisk walks for an hour, 4 times a week. The road on which I walk has a lot of slopes, so it helps to burn more calories.
2. I love swimming, so I included it in my exercise routine. I manage about 15 laps in an hour and I try to swim 3 times a week.
3. I regularly eat a good healthy breakfast as apposed to only a glass of milk.
4. I make sure I get 7-8 hrs of sleep and drink a lot of water during the day.
5. From eating out twice in a week, I have changed it to twice in a month.
6. I made small changes in my meals, which has proved beneficial. I no longer add sugar in my milk. If I have a craving for some junk food like pav bhaji, I cook it at home with minimal oil and eat it with multigrain bread in place of the regular buns. Instead of 2 chapatis, I now eat one without any ghee and substitute the second one with a bowl of daal, salad or some fruit. I snack on nutrichoice and marie light oat biscuits instead of chips and sugar loaded cookies.
7. I quit alcohol. Yes, I now occasionally drink a glass of wine.
8. If there is a short distance to travel, I walk it up instead of taking a cab. Also I get off the elevator on a floor earlier than mine and climb a few floors up daily.
9. Rains do play spoilsport for outdoor activities, hence I am going to enroll for dance classes since I love to dance and get myself an exercise bicycle.

All this has resulted in loss of 3 kgs in one and half months into bigloser. It’s a slow start but I see a positive change in me. My stamina levels have improved tremendously! Each time I tweet about my weight loss, I get so many encouraging messages, which feels great. Big loser has given me the head start, which I needed to initiate my journey to a healthy lifestyle. Thanks @b50 @chhavi @SashG for taking this great initiative. I know my journey will not end in February 2012 and I will continue to follow this routine for a very long time. For me the biggest challenge is to sustain this weight loss and never let it come back. My goal is to get fit and be healthy. I do not have a set number of kilos that I want to lose, the more the better without compromising on my health.

My advice to others would be not set impractical and unrealistic goals for weight loss. The disappointment that follows can be discouraging. Just remember it took so many years to gain that weight, hence it cannot disappear overnight! Just believe in yourself and work on it. Try to combine fun with exercise and see the amazing results that follow.
Now if an over concerned aunty questions me about my weight, I smile and proudly reply – “ I am a Big Loser” 😀


The BigLoser India Podcast #20 (decoding health news & studies)

Get your fitness on!
Episode 11 of the #bigloser podcast brings you a roundup of what went down in the last two week from @b50 – discussions about weightloss, laps swum, minutes walked and much more. @Sashg gives us the skinny on how to read and make sense of the sensational health news we see every day.
We also have our big loser of the week @DrVinzzz who wins a gift hamper of healthy snacking @nutrichoice biscuits, soy milk from @Staeta, an umbrella from @The Bombay Store and a 6-month subscription to The Ideal home & Garden Magazine @TIHGMag! All in under 10 minutes – hosted, as always, by chhavi and produced by Sonologue.

Week 19: Staying Fit on Vacation

Team BigLoser is taking a little break. As expected, our last meeting’s vacation conversations were full of discussions about how to continue the BigLoser routines well into our holiday trips. Coupled with a few queries from participants on the #bglsr Twitter timeline about how to stay fit on holidays, and we decided to make a podcast out of it. So here’s the 19th tip from the 50 Tips for BigLoser basket – staying fit vacation. How you can stay fit even when you’re on the road and escaping the daily grind…

Not heard The BigLoser India Podcast #019? Check it out here.

Holidays are times when you are running away from the boring parts of life – work, traffic, the boss. But it should never be about running away from being fit. Additionally, if you’re someone who enjoys your workouts and daily healthy meals – you’re less likely to go astray when on leave.

So how do you exercise when on holiday? How about modifying a 30 minute home workout routine into a quick vacation fitness session. Start with spot jogging or jacks for a 10 minute warm-up, then move on to squats, planks, sit ups and push-ups. End with a 5 minute stretching cool down. This will ensure that you’ve got some cardiovascular work in along with some core work. This is assuming that you don’t have a gym where you’re staying.

Of course, if you’re holidaying in a place that’s pretty then do walk around, play outdoor sports, hike, trek, cycle, jog…whatever you find enjoyable while being on the up and go.

For more ideas on how to workout in your hotel room while on vacation, check out this excellent post by strength and conditioning coach Arnav Sarkar on Holiday Workout Routines.

How can you maintain a healthy diet while on vacation? We’ve established that eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat bland, flavourless food. This works on holidays as well. If you stick with the basics of lean meat or plant-based protein sources, fruits, vegetables and whole grains while staying away from excess oil, deep fried and excess salt, the only balance that will be wrong when you get back will be your bank balance. Add portion control to the mix and you’ve got yourself a great healthy eating plan while on holiday. Remember to budget your meals. So if you eat a heavy lunch, then balance it with a light dinner, and no mid-evening snacks.

And that leaves alcohol. Empty calories will pile up – there’s no two ways about it. It comes down to the amounts and the frequency. Avoid sugar-heavy mixers as well as binge drinking on beer. You can get away with a few days of daily moderate drinking, but guzzling down many beers will give you two things – a great time on vacation. And a big gut once you’re back to regular life. The choice is yours.

It comes down to one simple rule: Don’t let your holiday be about running away from your healthy lifestyle. The idea of living right was not about punishing yourself. Don’t avoid the pleasures but don’t look to make up for everything you missed in the last 4 months either.

The BigLoser Podcast #019 (vacation fitness)

Get your fitness on!
Episode 19 of the #bigloser podcast brings you the weekly roundup of what went down with #bglsr. @b50 takes us through the exercising, weight reduction, and more! After that, @sashg gives us the skinny on staying fit and not falling off the wagon during a vacay.
This episode is a mini podcast because the team behind #Bglsr is going on vacation. We’ll be back with a full episode on July 25. Stay strong and if you’re going on vacation, you definitely need to listen up 😉
All in under 10 minutes – hosted, as always, by chhavi and produced by Sonologue.

Week 18: Why Regular Meal Times Matter

Visit any nutritionist or consult any healthcare professional regarding weight management issues, and meal times will be at the top of the ‘this is a problem’ list. Not maintaining regular meal times is a red flag that translates into higher fat storage and depleted energy supplies. Today we’re taking a look at the argument behind why you must maintain regular meal times, and how this affects your weight loss plans on BigLoser.

Not heard The BigLoser India Podcast #018? Check it out here.

Where most healthy routines go wrong is when you don’t plan for your meals. “I’ll figure out what to do about lunch” is an incorrect approach to your daily nutrition, because the easiest option for lunch usually ends up being the unhealthiest option.

Why are regular meal times important? In layman’s terms, regular meals ensure that your body is accustomed to a steady supply of nutrients for its energy output. The lesser and more infrequently you eat, the more your body goes into fat storage mode. And before you know it, you’re 10 kilos overweight with no idea about how it happened despite a low calorie diet. Think of it as a furnace that needs routine injections of coal. With low energy resulting from infrequent meals, you invite issues like emotional eating, food cravings for strong flavoured foods like chocolates, ice creams and deep fried dishes.

6 mini meals versus 3 main meals

The oldest debate, this comparison has very little to do with whether you’ll lose weight permanently or sporadically. Whether you eat 6 mini meals in a day, or continue the Indian 3 meals a day staple diet, you will only benefit from how regular and nutritious your meal plan is. 

So if you haven’t already, you need to find out what your preference is. Some prefer the traditional 3 big meals a day and no snacks. Either way, you must know when you’re eating and know what you’re going to eat. This ensures that you daily nutrition is healthy and well balanced. And when you’re not hungry, you’re less likely to grab an extra snack or an extra helping.

The key points to note here are:

  • Start your day with a nutritious breakfast at least an hour after waking up.
  • Hydrate yourself in between meals, with plenty of water.
  • If you eat 3 mail meals, then ensure that you eat every 4-5 hours.
  • If you eat 6 mini meals, then ensure that you eat every 2-3 hours.
  • Be very clear about what constitutes a mini meal, and what makes up a main meal. Usually, the calorie content for a mini meals lies in the range of 200-300 calories. The calorie content for a main meal lies in the range of 400-500 calories.
  • Eat light and healthy snacks whenever your body needs extra help for its energy supplies.

An extra point to this tip is to do with dinner meal times. Must eat carbs before 7pm to lose weight is a myth. Eating after it’s dark leads to weight gain, is a myth. Dinner times become relevant because ideally, you should give your body time to digest the food smoothly before sleeping, especially if you’ve got indigestion and acidity related problems. So try not to go straight to bed after dinner but don’t feel compelled to eat at 6pm and then wonder what to do when your tummy starts rumbling at 10pm.

The BigLoser of the Week #018: @himadri_dimri

My big loser journey!
Just like any other overweight person I have tried all most everything possible. Every weight loss diets, gym and exercise, you name it and I have done it! 😉 But as I was not regular with anything, nothing actually turned up that great. I was depressed and I wanted a change with things. Moreover, with wedding coming in 2012 I wanted to look a beautiful, healthy bride!
Since December 2010, I started my weight loss journey a bit seriously with regularity in mind. My aim this time was to be regular, just simple things one at a time. Started eating regular food (read no GM diets, no pills, no crash dieting or only fruits!) and joined gym. I loved to do weight training and realized that I am loosing weight too.
I always loved the tv serial, big loser and all. There was a secret wish of me, being into that because I am a kind of person who loses interest in things soon. So for me motivation was real hard. Just then I saw @b50 and @SashG talking about weight loss on twitter and that kind of interested me. Slowly I realized this is a great big loser and charity event that started in February 2011 and I had no clue about it x-(.
I found out @bglsr and @chhavi, and started my weight loss journey with #bglsr in May 2011. My sponsor is @AkshatRajesh. He is so happy about my success and he is my biggest support in all this. Sasha was always there to help me into nutrition queries, I still bug her up with my DM’s 😀 Since December I have lost 15kgs. Since bgslr, I have lost 4kgs and 4% fat. Now I can walk faster without getting tired, I can climb two stairs at a time without getting short of breath.
I still need to lose 19kgs by October end and I am pretty sure I will do it, you know once you start losing weight and getting healthy you feel energetic and positive about yourself. My fitness regimen is not so tough. I go to gym on Saturday and Sunday (I am aiming at going everyday). Rest of the days I do brisk walking and exercise whenever, wherever possible!
My biggest challenge was to take time out for exercising and avoiding food. I am an emotional eater too. Now, I get down at two stops before my actual bus stop and walk till there, I jump or do cardio whenever I can. When I feel I am about to binge I drink water and eat channa. 😀 That keeps me busy and makes my binging well.
I eat 3 normal meals and snack around twice in a day. I choose fruits, salads and channa for between-meal hunger pangs. I do eat my favorite ‘paneer’ once a week which is home made and I do take a bite of that yummy ice-cream once. The trick here is that follow something you can continue. I know some diets can give you a sudden weight loss but what is the point if you can’t maintain it.
There have been people who commented on my weight, made me look like an odd man out. I have been discouraged many times. This time I am sure things are going to fall in place because I am not aiming at the weight loss thing. For me it’s a journey to do something I could never do and stay healthy forever! Thank you bigloser ☺


himadri_dimri wins herself:

1. A gift hamper of soya milk from Staeta
2. A gift hamper of healthy snacking biscuits from Britannia NutriChoice
3. A six-month subscription to The Ideal Home and Garden magazine
4. A fantastic umbrella from The Bombay Store

The BigLoser India Podcast #018 (meal planning)

Get your fitness on!
Episode 18 of the #bigloser podcast brings you a roundup of what went down this week from @b50 exercising, weight reduction, and more! After that, @sashg takes off from emotional eating and asks, do you have a plan? Meal times are about planning so listen up.
We also have our big loser of the week @himadri_dimri who wins a gift hamper of healthy snacking @nutrichoice biscuits, soy milk from @Staeta, an umbrella from @the Bombay Store and a 6-month subscription to The Ideal home & garden @TIHGMag! All in under 10 minutes – hosted, as always, by chhavi and produced by Sonologue.