Shifting from feasting to fitness

It is possible: A combo picture of Jia Ling (left) before and after losing 50kg for her role in the upcoming movie, Yolo. — pic from her Instagram

PETALING JAYA: A hot topic during many Chinese New Year feasts is how China-born actress Jia Ling lost 50kg for her role as a boxer in the new movie Yolo.

Her year-long weight loss journey had set discussions abuzz on healthy living.

While sustaining a healthy lifestyle in a food paradise like Malaysia can be difficult, especially with festive seasons all year round, experts say jump-starting a healthy routine can be as simple as having portion control and walking as many steps as possible daily.

Consultant dietitian Ng Kar Foo said setbacks during festive periods were not uncommon but what mattered most was a desire to be healthy instead of succumbing to unhealthy habits.

Among the ways to return to healthier eating habits include having regular meal times, which helps prevent intense hunger that can lead to poor food choices, said Ng.

He advocated for the concept of quarter-quarter-half, which refers to portions on vegetables, protein and grains, in that order.

“When dining out, choose low-calorie beverages or bring bottled water. This can save both calories and money.

“Stay hydrated. Sometimes the brain confuses thirst with hunger. When you have the urge to eat outside of meal time, consider drinking water first.

“Taking time to enjoy meals allows the brain to register satisfaction. Remaining focused on the eating experience can lead to a realisation that less food is needed to feel full,” he said.

Ng said it is acceptable to have festive favourites in moderation.

He recommended that celebrants savour two to three pieces slowly to allow time to appreciate the flavours first.

“As we transition from festive gluttony to a healthier routine, these insights serve as a guide to regain control and foster a renewed commitment to overall well-being,” he added.

He cited research findings which stated that forming new habits would take an average 66 days for a behaviour to become automatic.

As such, he encouraged people to take control of their choices instead of dwelling on guilt.

Ng advised against viewing lapses as failures but rather as opportunities for growth.

Nutrition Society of Malaysia president Dr Tee E Siong said after indulging in food that is greasy, sweet and high in carbohydrates, along with excessive sauces and salt during Chinese New Year, it is crucial to shift focus to nutrient-rich foods.

“These include items high in vitamins, minerals, protein and complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, various bean products, vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, and whole grains like oats,” he said.

Dr Tee recommended practising portion control and moderation, saying that by consuming smaller amounts of calorie-dense foods less frequently, individuals can enjoy festive treats while maintaining a healthy diet.

Discipline in food choices and portion sizes is also key to managing post-celebration weight gain, he said.

“Regular physical activity is a vital aspect of overall health,” said Dr Tee, who suggested reintegrating daily physical activities into the post-holidays routines to counteract the sedentary habits that often accompany festive periods.

“By being mindful of food choices, practise moderation, and prioritise physical activity.

“You can navigate the post-Chinese New Year period with a focus on health and well-being,” he said.

Public health expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said it is possible to reach a normal body weight just by using existing resources and eating foods that are within one’s budget without buying expensive imported ingredients.

“Switch to healthier food within our means, eat local fruits or local vegetables rather than buying Mediterranean ingredients that are costlier.

“As much as possible, eat wisely and avoid fast food, salty, oily food. Know your daily requirements and reduce intake to lose weight,” she said.

As for exercising, she recommended starting small such as walking 10,000 steps a day or as many steps near the target, if the body permits.

“You can also find a hobby that you and your partner, friend, or family enjoy that entails exercising and keeping your heart rate up. Stick to that regimen,” she said.

She said that obesity and being overweight exposes one to many health-related diseases and complications such as heart disease, fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, stroke, various types of cancers, gout, arthritis, high blood and diabetes.

Public health medicine specialist Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said weight reduction should be done gradually and as naturally as possible unless medically indicated.

He recommended taking natural foods including local produce such as fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits which are beneficial if taken in moderation.

“Get proper knowledge and advice through a health professional.

“Have a strong willpower and determination, and continuously do self-monitoring,” he said.

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