Want to lose festive weight? Here's what to consider when picking a meal plan

Losing weight is the hardest thing you can do; it requires you to be mentally prepared. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common New Year resolutions is to lose weight after the excesses of the festive season.

From the Paleo diet to the metabolic balance programme, the Keto diet and intermittent fasting, the range of weight loss meal plan options can be overwhelming. 

Whichever option you prefer, nutritionists advise that it is essential to remember that although weight may drop on the scales, unhealthy approaches to weight loss can have long-term consequences.

Where to start

A healthy adult needs about 2,100 calories daily for energy. So, if you consume this amount daily, you will stay the same size. Conversely, if you consume less, you’ll gradually lose weight. The greater the deficit, the faster the weight loss.

Stephen Kihiuhi, a nutritionist, says what you put into your body directly affects your weight. You do not gain weight in one day, he points out, emphasising that you have to have a history of growth.

“We always start from the known to the unknown. Normal nutritional status is when you are in the range of your BMI (body mass index). If it is below, you are underweight; otherwise, it is normal. If it is above normal, it is overweight, and if it is above overweight, it is obese,” he says.

A dietary plan, he says, is determined by various factors such as age and gender. For example, “a teenage boy can have a simple meal, but for the girl, we have to include certain nutrients to take care of the blood loss every month through menstruation.”

Kepha Nyanumba, another nutritionist, agrees on the influence of age on a meal plan. “Metabolism rate decreases with age. Appropriate dietary adjustments are crucial as we age for successful weight loss.”

How to lose weight

There is no single diet plan that has been proven to be effective for weight loss. Mr Kihiuhi urges the need to maintain a balanced diet and portion control.

“Losing weight is the hardest thing you can do; it requires you to be mentally prepared. You have to avoid what the body demands,” he adds.

“As much as you eat a balanced diet of all food groups, you may also have an excess of certain foods. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the only foods we consider when it comes to the amounts you take and the frequency of intake because they determine how heavy you become,” he says.

Vitamins, minerals and hydration are equally important because they help build natural immunity.

The journey to weight loss begins by taking the first step to understand how you gained it. “When you get hungry, the body wants you to pay a bill for the energy it has used. How you pay it determines what you become,” says Mr Kihiuhi. 

Calories watch

While fats contribute the most calories, each gram of fat gives you 15 kilocalories. Alcohol comes second, with each millilitre you consume giving you seven kilocalories. Carbohydrates and proteins give you four calories per gram. 

“We don’t have a standard amount of carbohydrates that will make you lose weight,” says Mr Kihiuhi. 

Regulate your meal plan. For example, he continues, “Let’s say you are used to eating five chapatis; you can reduce it to two chapatis. You will continue to reduce over time as it becomes a habit and replace them with vegetables and fruits.”

These nutritionists stress the need to have three meals a day, with the heaviest meal being breakfast. 

“We can achieve sustainable weight loss without sacrificing meals. Just be mindful of portions and focus on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods,” advises Mr Nyanumba.

Is it healthy to cut out some foods completely? 

“It’s not that the body doesn’t adapt to the loss, it’s that it’s shocked and therefore struggles. The moment you start losing weight, the body frustrates you even more because of your normal withdrawal, which leads to things like cravings and relapse,” says Mr Kihiuhi

What about the so-called ‘super-nutritious’ fruits?

No one fruit is more important than another. “The only difference is that they have different nutrients. That’s why we insist that people should take a variety. Kiwi is not more important than mango,” Mr Kihiuhi laughs.

“Depending on the amount of work you do, if you are an office person, we don’t recommend taking too much of the carbohydrates and proteins at the end of the day. They will cause you to gain weight if your work doesn’t involve manual labour. For physically engaged people who need to maintain their energy level, we allow carbohydrates in their meals,” he adds.

Preparing for a healthy 50

Well, it is always said that life begins at 40, but Mr Nyanumba says it is possible to achieve a desirable weight at 50 if you consider a diet to increase metabolism and correct hormonal imbalances.

“At 50, muscle mass decreases. It is recommended to ensure adequate protein intake. Good sources of proteins include eggs, lean meat, poultry, lentils and dairy products,” he says.

He adds that a fibre-rich diet will help support digestive health and keep weight within the recommended range.

“They should increase your intake of calcium-rich foods, as bone density tends to decrease with age. Calcium-rich foods include milk, fish, yoghurt and other everyday foods. Drink at least two litres of water to stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid highly processed foods, sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks.”

Regular physical activity is also recommended to maintain overall health and support muscle function.

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