Tag Archives: eat

5 Tips to Help You Through the Holiday Feasts

December is my favourite time of the year – holiday season! A time to rest, relax, reflect, spend time with loved ones and EAT!

Do you get anxious around the holiday feastings? Are you worried that it will ruin your fitness goals?

Read on for a few tips!

Before we dive into it, I just want to say that it is COMPLETELY ok to relax over this season. If keeping up with your goals is stressing you out, DROP IT! A few days off is not going to ruin your progress (unless days turn into weeks). Having said that, you should not adopt the ALL OR NOTHING approach, thinking that you should go all out till 2018 since you’ve “broken” the rules.

Here are a few things that you can do to have the best of both worlds!

  1. Avoid skipping meals – I know it can be tempting to skip meals because you want to save your calories for the main feast! But this trick can work AGAINST you! You might feel overly hungry and end up binging on ALL the FOOD! A tip is to eat when you’re hungry and focus on having foods that are higher in protein and fibre to help keep you fuller for longer. Also, remember to stay hydrated!
  2. Pick your treats and meals – Look at everything that is provided and be picky about what you want/feel like eating! That way, you can enjoy your meal AND dessert.
  3. Unstructured physical activity – You will probably be too busy running around, getting things done and spending time with your family to fit in a proper structured workout. IF you happen to find the time to do so without much stress, then by all means, GO AHEAD! But if you don’t, something is always better than nothing! Stay active and walk when you can. Running errands, shopping and cleaning up the house all counts! Killing two birds with one stone – WIN!
  4. Go easy on the liquid calories – It is SO easy to drink energy dense drinks that do not fill you up. And these drinks can really push you above and beyond your daily energy requirements. Drink water instead! If you HAVE to have a flavoured drink, opt for diet/light options. As for alcohol, go for high quality ones. Drink in moderation and responsibly!
  5. Focus on your loved ones – The holiday season is about spending time with your loved ones. Focus less on the food and more on creating unforgettable memories.

If ALL else fails, it is NOT the end of the world. You don’t have to fixate, stress or get overly obssessed with what to eat or have already eaten. One meal is not going to make a huge difference.

The next day is a new opportunity to make BETTER choices! Pick yourself up and don’t give up! It is a life long journey.

Happy holidays!


Do Calories Matter? – Part 2

Back for Part 2 of Do Calories Matter?

Here, we will discuss the calorie focused theory and how we gain weight.

Calories in calories out theory

Many of us tend to look at the calories in food when we are trying to achieve a certain weight (gain or loss).

Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintanence

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

From this perspective, it seems to say that we can eat whatever we want. Because only calories matter. It is saying that a calorie’s worth of beef, butter, ice cream, rice or beer have the same effects on the body (fatness and weight).

We also hear common terms like #IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).  As long as it fits within your macros (protein, carb, fat), you can eat it. For example: I can have burgers and fries twice a day because it fits within my calorie needs/macros.


But is 500 kcal of junk the same as 500 kcal of real food?

Are we gaining weight simply by EATING TOO MUCH?

Based on the calories in calories out theory, we gain weight by consuming more than we expend (which is true from a mechanic point of view).


Calories in > Calories out = WEIGHT GAIN

Sounds easy enough?


We are humans! We are not perfect machines where mathematical equations simply apply. There are MANY other factors that affect weight and metabolism. Counting calories disregards the quality of food and its effect on our metabolism – hunger, appetite, energy usage and storage, satiety etc.

Did you know that certain foods can “trigger” hunger?

This also goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy transfer is not 100% efficient. There will be losses. It means that what we eat does not necessarily become energy that we can use.

This is why people respond so differently towards food. We all have that one friend who can eat the world, not move a muscle and yet, not gain a kilo.

A different perspective


Obesity Model Flow Chart

The diagram is from a paper by Prof David Ludwig and Mark Friedman. They challenged the theory of gaining weight simply by consuming more calories.

They proposed the alternative model B, which shows how the quality of the diet can increase fat storage, drive hunger, decrease basal metabolism and the cost of energy to move muscles (muscles use less energy), ultimately leading to weight gain.


So, how do we gain weight (FAT)?

Let’s take a look at 2 hormones – insulin and leptin

Insulin is one of the hormones that play a major role in managing fuel concentration in the blood. It comes out to drive nutrients into STORAGE in the liver, muscle and fat cells.

brightly coloured breakfast cereal

According to the same research paper, poor quality rapidly absorbable carbohydrate rich foods (white rice, refined starches, sugars, high GI foods etc) can cause spikes in insulin levels (more so compared to proteins, unrefined carbs and fats).

Insulin is VERY efficient, so much so that it quickly stores the fuel (i.e. in fat cells around the waist). Since all of it is in storage, your blood circulating fuels suffer a sudden drop.

As your body is running low on fuel (because it is stored away), you’d feel tired, lethargic, moody and HUNGRY. This is also known as the “SUGAR CRASH”! And as a result, you EAT…… again!


It becomes a vicious cycle and it all starts with eating insulin spiking foods.

High insulin levels promote fat storage AND prevents the breakdown of fat. It has been identified that insulin is the main culprit when it comes to overweight and obesity [1].

The scary thing is that all of this can be happening even when a person is eating in a calorie deficit! Studies have shown that when the number of calories remained the same, a diet with transfat promoted weight gain compared to a diet without transfat [1].


Leptin is a hormone that responds to the body’s fat cells. When fat stores are FULL, this hormone is released. It acts on several organs and glands (muscles, thyroid gland etc) to overall increase energy expenditure (move more) and decrease energy intake (eat less).

jabba-the-catThis is your body helping you to NOT store so much fat and to stop eating!

If something is “metabolically wrong” (i.e. insulin resistance) or if a person is obese, this signalling gets messed up. Instead of telling you to move more and eat less, it does the total opposite! [2].


High insulin levels can also cause the body to stop responding to leptin.

These are perfect examples of how the quality of food (type and concentration of carbohydrates) acts in a neurohormonal way to push you to MOVE LESS, STORE MORE and EAT MORE!

Tackling obesity becomes more than just behavioural change. It is not just about telling someone to eat less and move more. As we’ve seen, you can gain weight and be metabolically obese even if you are eating less.


It goes beyond that.

It is looking at the QUALITY of food.

Looks like we cannot “outrun” a bad diet. I always thought we could. You’d be pleased to know that my ice cream and cake intake are now very much under control.

So, what WOULD happen if we just ate less?

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss?

Stay tuned for Part 3!


Following from the previous post on plateaus, we know that our unique METABOLISM plays a big role.

Does your metabolism need a BOOST?Photo 24-04-2017, 11 43 23 am

Check out what you need to do (or not do):

1. Lean Up

A lean and mean MUSCLE machine that is. Yep, muscles NEED A LOT OF FOOD! Having more muscle mass means that your body is burning more calories… EVEN AT REST! How good is that?!IMG_3066

1 Kg of muscle burns about 10 kcal/day (1). So, if you gain 1 Kg of muscle, you burn an additional 3650 kcal/year.

2. Eat WHOLE foods

When it comes to eating, QUALITY matters! Besides eating a “well balanced” meal of protein, fat and carbs, pay attention to the QUALITY!Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Highly processed/packaged foods can really wreck your metabolism! Foods that have added refined sugar can send your insulin levels through the roof. Insulin is one of the hormones that signals your body to store fat, especially around the waist.

The safest option? STICK TO WHOLE FOODS! Fresh is BEST!

3. Eat ENOUGH for YOU

Your metabolism drops when you don’t eat enough! The resting energy expenditure (REE) is what your body burns at rest.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Your body is always looking out for you. When you’re not eating enough, it senses “danger” and tries to hold on to whatever reserves it has as your body does not know when is the next time that you will eat.

Under eating leads to energy imbalances and changes to hormone levels (leptin and tyroxine) (2). Essentially, when these hormones decrease, your body stores fat and REE decreases.


Any form of physical activity increases your daily energy expenditure. The more active you are, the more energy you burn!Photo 15-04-2017, 11 25 20 am


It is good to have 1-2 days of high intensity activity – the kind that leaves you huffing and puffing! This can also increase energy expenditure even after you’re done (3).Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Ticking all the right boxes with my Garmin FR 235!

6. Sleep

We all LOVE SLEEPING BUT most of the time we fail to prioritise it. We get caught up with social media/work/life and end up skimping on sleep.


sleep and weight


Your body NEEDS to rest. Your hormones go haywire when you don’t have enough sleep! In the long term, it could affect your metabolism and lead to weight gain.


sleep and weight gain



Also, you’re less likely to be physically active the next day when you’re tired! This means less daily energy expenditure!


We are ALL stressed out at some point in our lives. Work, school, sports, food, security, money, love, friendship… LIFE!Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

When you’re stress, the body thinks you’re in “danger“. The hormone cortisol comes out to play. When you’re constantly stressed, cortisol hangs around. Overtime, it can lead to insulin resistance and fat being stored around your waist (4). Again, it will mess with your metabolism!

What can we learn from this?Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

EAT right. Sleep well. MOVE. Chill

Make these simple steps a HABIT. That way, you wouldn’t even have to THINK about it. It becomes second nature.

If you feel stuck, GET HELP! A personal trainer, a dietitian, a friend, Google etc.


Time to BOOST your metabolism!

Contact me if you need any help.