Aesthetically yours: Reasons why you're not losing weight despite slogging away with exercise.
Wanting to lose a couple of kilos is one of the main reasons people turn up at aesthetic clinics like mine. A good number of my clients claim they slog away at the gym but fail to lose any weight. Or worse still, gain a couple of pounds in the process. They seek my help to enlighten them on this great conundrum of life.
When they were younger, my clients could gobble up half a dozen Dunkin Donuts and not gain an ounce of weight. But nowadays, simply staring at a cupcake or two will add inches to their waistline, they swear.
What gives? Well, my friends, the simple answer is we are ageing. Gasp! Horror of horrors!
As we get older, our metabolism slows done, our muscles shrink, and we have a higher propensity to pile on adipose tissue. With the slowing of metabolism, we burn less calories at rest and during physical activities. The shrinkage of muscle fibres means that our basal metabolic rate slows down as we need less energy to sustain our muscle activities.
This explains why it is so much easier for us to lose weight by exercising and dieting during our younger days. But after we hit our mid-30s, the weight and belly rolls just seem too darn hard to shed off.
According to the World Health Organisation Non-Communicable Disease Profile in 2011, Malaysians are the most obese amongst all countries in South-East Asia. A staggering 44.2% of us are overweight or obese.
A contributing reason for this is that many of us avoid exercise like the plague. Whenever I tell my clients that they need to exercise at least five days a week for a minimum of half an hour each time, I can see their facial expressions change. Sometimes, their jaws will drop to the floor and they’ll give me that kind of look: “Doc, are you nuts? You want me to exercise? You might as well ask me to swim across the Straits of Malacca with my hands tied behind my back.”
Malaysians are averse to exercise simply because they think it’s tiring, time-consuming, inconvenient or just plain boring. They would rather plonk themselves in front of the idiot box, chat with their friends at the mamak stalls, or surf the Internet on their smartphones during their free time, than go for a jog or get all sweaty at the gym.
Talking about gyms, I’ve noticed time and again that there are members at my gym who read magazines, play games, or surf Facebook with their mobile phones while slowly pedalling on the stationary bikes or walking at turtle-speed on the treadmill. They hardly break a sweat as they are pedalling or walking too slowly and not focusing on their workouts.
Not only would the exercise be ineffective, it is also extremely dangerous as they could accidentally hurt themselves by falling off the machine.
I’ve also seen people who spends hours in the gym but hardly break a sweat. The shirts on their backs remain dry throughout the entire gym stay because they are busy chatting with their pals most of the time. The gym becomes their avenue to socialise, not working out. The workout intensity is simply not there as their hearts and minds are not on exercise.
Some members head straight to the gym sauna and steam room as they believe they can sweat away the pounds and melt off the fat. Yes, it’s true that you can lose some pounds quickly in the sauna room, but that weight is just water, which you will regain very quickly once you are well hydrated.
Whether you’re on the jogging track, tennis court, yoga room or weights section of the gym, the key to shedding fat is to increase your workout intensity or duration, or both. The faster you run, the higher you jump, the heavier the dumbbell you carry, the more calories you burn.
If you are unable to exercise as intensively due to injury or tiredness, consider spending more time exercising; and more times each week.
One good way to stay motivated during your exercise routine is to have workout buddies. Invite your family or friends to join you in your favourite exercise to make it more fun and appealing. But remember, you need to exercise and not just yak away for hours with them.
I’m not the most disciplined of people when it comes to exercise, especially when it comes to weight training. I dread the soreness and the dull routine (in my opinion) of pumping iron. That’s why I hire a personal trainer. Five days a week, my trainer makes sure I exercise in correct form and range of movement. When I feel like giving up, he pushes me to complete the last few repetitions to get the best of my weights workout.
An experienced personal trainer will work with you, deciding the best workout plan for you, whether you aim to shed pounds or gain muscle. They should motivate you in your weight loss journey and even give helpful advice on your dietary intake. If you can afford to hire a personal trainer, go for it!
> Dr Chen Tai Ho is an experienced aesthetic doctor who chills by the pool sipping espresso latte when he’s not attending to his beloved patients. For further information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.