A painless diet strategy for effective weight loss: A doctor’s guide

“I eat healthily and go on a diet. Why am I still not losing weight?!”

Does this sound familiar? Indeed, dieting is one of the steps to weight loss, but you might have been doing it wrong. This article by Dr. Terence Tan, Medical Director of Halley Medical Aesthetics, aims to help you find pain-free diet and ways to remove calories from your daily meals to achieve sustainable and optimal weight loss.

He also highlights other diet strategies like weight loss medications and the things to consider for before embarking on a weight loss programme.

Burn more calories than we consume

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The most important concept of weight loss is to understand what and how to achieve “caloric deficit”. This means you should take in less calories than you burn. So the very first step is to understand what your body needs.

Understanding what your body needs

halley medical aesthetics, dr. terence tan, weight loss, weight management, weight loss method, weight loss medication, exercises, coolsculpting, fat reduction, fat removal, hifu, lose weight, caloriesLet me put this in perspective using numbers.

If you are an average adult male, you will need around 2,100 kcal a day to maintain healthy body weight. An average adult female needs about 1,800 kcal a day. This daily requirement varies according to factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Activity level

If you have a desk bound job, you’ll need fewer calories than a salesman or waiter who is often on the move. Hence, if you’re a male and you eat more than 2,100 kcal a day, you’ll need to burn off the extra calories or you will gain weight.

Understand what you are really eating

diet, halley medical aesthetics, dr. terence tan, weight loss, weight management, weight loss method, weight loss medication, exercises, coolsculpting, fat reduction, fat removal, hifu, lose weight, caloriesYou may like to think that you are eating healthily, as per advertiser’s claims. However, the food we perceive as “healthy”, may be far from it.

Let’s take a look at Subway, the fast-food chain that is positioned as a healthier choice. Their set meal that comes with a sandwich, a drink, and two cookies is a popular choice amongst the office workers.

However, when you take a closer look at the calories these items provide, it actually adds up more than 1,000 calories! This makes up half of your required daily calorie intake. Bear in mind that this is only one meal.

Food item Energy (kcal)
Oven roasted chicken on multigrain bread with cheese & mayonnaise 437
Coke (300 ml) 139
Chocolate chip cookie 209
Peanut butter cookie 216
Total 1,001

 

How to cut down on your calorie intake?

I often advise my patients to change up their food choices.

Food item Energy (kcal)
Oven roasted chicken on multigrain bread with honey mustard 323
Coke Zero 0
Chocolate chip cookie 209
Total  532

This way, you’ve successfully cut down your calorie intake almost by half! By making simple changes to your food choices, you can save a lot of unwanted calories.

In this example, you are cutting out 469 kcal daily, which is equivalent to losing about 46g of fat.

At one glance, it might not seem significant. However, if you multiply that by a month, you can potentially lose 1.3 kg. In a year, you can lose more than 15 kg!

This method of eliminating high-calorie foods from your daily diet makes it easier to follow and at the same time, helps you lose weight without changing your daily meal plans drastically.

“Is there an easier way to lose weight?”

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The truth is, diets are an integral part of weight loss. However, what you can do to ease this seemingly arduous task is to make small changes in your daily diet. This will help you stay within your daily caloric requirement. More importantly, it will help you achieve sustainable weight loss.

Here is a chart to elaborate on the example I have given above to show how much calories you can remove just by making simple changes to your food choices.

Instead of: Replace with: You cut:
Subway Club sandwich with cheese 317 kcal Subway Club sandwich without cheese 278 kcal 39 kcal or 4 g of fat
1 tbsp mayonnaise 107 kcal 2 tsp mustard 7 kcal 100 kcal or 10 g of fat
16.9oz Coke 201 kcal 16.9oz Coke Zero 0 kcal 201 kcal or 20 g of fat
Starbucks Venti latte 300 kcal (of which 140 kcal comes from milk) Americano:

  • with no sugar 0 kcal
  • with 1 tsp sugar 16 kcal
 

  • 300 kcal or 30 g of fat
  • 284 kcal or 28 g of fat

While milk is healthy, it also contains a lot of fat. By removing milk and sugar from your coffee every day, you can potentially lose close to 1 kg a month or 12 kg in a year! These small changes amount to significant fat loss over time.

Giving up our favourite foods like fried chicken, creamy pasta, and ice cream is a big sacrifice! Here’s the good news: you don’t have to stop eating them completely.

You just have to cut down the total caloric intake by making small sacrifices on a regular basis. That way, you can still enjoy these high caloric foods occasionally. However, that doesn’t mean binge-eating! You still have to eat in moderation and maintain caloric deficit to achieve weight loss.

Medications for short-term weight loss

diet, halley medical aesthetics, dr. terence tan, weight loss, weight management, weight loss method, weight loss medication, exercises, coolsculpting, fat reduction, fat removal, hifu, lose weight, calories

Many a times, following a strict diet, is what makes losing weight impossible for some people.

From my experience, I believe short-term weight loss medications can help many people although the experts tell us that based on their studies, medications are only for people with a body mass index (BMI) of above 30.

Firstly, doctors in Singapore hardly see many patients with a BMI of above 30.

Secondly, results are based on big medical trials done by experts to prove pre-conceived theories. In this case, the studies are designed to compare the risk of taking medications to the complications associated with being overweight.

How about societal concerns of being overweight? Do they measure the risk of taking weight loss medications to achieve societal acceptance, to find a job, a girlfriend or a boyfriend if one is not overweight? No medical trial measures that stuff.

These studies have no means of measuring intangible things like that. If that is the case, are we still so sure that we should not be helping more people lose weight with medications?

When is the best time to introduce weight loss medications?

Phase 1: Ease initial weight loss pains with medications

The journey to achieving sustained weight loss is generally divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the active weight loss phase.

Many consider this as the most difficult and painful phase. This is when your diet is heavily restricted and you have to exercise far more than you used to. During this phase, I believe that it’s crucial to use weight loss medications.

It helps you to cope better with your hunger pangs. Furthermore, weight loss medications allow you to see rapid weight loss. Rapid weight loss is a great motivator. Motivation is the single most vital driving force in any weight loss journey!

 

Phase 2: Weight loss maintenance

By this stage, you would have achieved your ideal weight. The goal now is for you to maintain a caloric balance. If you’ve achieved your desired weight, you should stop or cut down on your medications.

Reason being, there’s no need to maintain an ultra-low calorie diet any more. This means you’re now able to eat more than what you could in phase one. It might sound like a relieve, but many people who have successfully lost the extra weight feels that they are losing ground.

You should be motivated by the fact that you have already lost all the weight you need to. You just need to maintain it.

Where to go for weight loss treatments?

Firstly, there are beauty salons who sell weight loss programmes. They provide a range of services such as machine treatments, meal replacements, and even counselling.

Secondly, there are some clinics that prescribe medications that curb appetite or ‘block’ fat.

Last but not least, there are aesthetic and plastic surgery clinics. They help you with weight loss through performing invasive or non-invasive fat reduction treatments.

While there are many reputable clinics and salons who have successfully help some patients slim down, I feel that not many offer a full suite of services that address all aspects of slimming.

Understanding your weight loss concerns

When I talk to my patients, there are a couple of concerns that I hear all the time. They want the process to be:

  1. Fast
  2. Easy
  3. Safe

Those who want it fast would go to beauty salons. Those who want it safe would go to GP clinics for medications and those who want it easy would go to aesthetic doctors or plastic surgeons. What about those who want all three? There are not many places that they can go.

What are the key principles that contribute to a successful weight loss programme?

To me, a successful programme is one where you’ve lost enough weight to be self-motivated to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life independently.

Weight loss treatment principle 1: Go big or go home

You should undergo a full body check up.

It should include a full-body examination, body fat analysis, BMI analysis, waist circumference measurement, and blood pressure measurement.

From there, your doctor will work with a nutritionist to customise a weight loss plan. They will be able to determine your optimal weight, optimal daily calorie intake, and craft a nutrition strategy.

You’ll also get insights on dieting, healthy eating, exercising, and lifestyle, as well as discuss common misconceptions on dieting and nutrition. This plan must be safe and promises realistic results.

Many of you need to see rapid weight loss at phase one to be motivated to continue the fight for weight loss.

This is why I often include weight loss medications at the start of my programmes. They can help suppress appetite and prevent fat from being digested by the body.

Weight loss treatment principle 2: Safety

Treatments all need to be scientific and safe. Even with well-studied, medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), side effects can and infrequently do occur.

Every now and then, we hear of complications resulting in people consuming off-the-counter slimming supplements and landing up in hospital. While some of these supplements might end up being effective, but don’t be the first one to test them out!

There are medications which are FDA-approved and clinically-tested for safety. The dosage and duration should be prescribed by the doctor, and your progress should be closely monitored.

How safe are weight loss programmes in Singapore?

Meal replacements like Optifast, and body contouring treatments like CoolSculpting® have been approved by the FDA. This is a stamp of approval that indicates that they are safe and effective.

  • Opifast

halley medical aesthetics, dr. terence tan, weight loss, weight management, weight loss method, weight loss medication, exercises, coolsculpting, fat reduction, fat removal, hifu, lose weight, caloriesThis is prescribed only by doctors for people who may not need weight loss medications but require a low-calorie diet. It’s also for people who prefer not to consume weight loss medications.

Nestlé’s Optifast®, for instance, is a meal replacement product dedicated to clinic-use. It needs to be consumed under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist or doctor.

Although individual results vary, based on studies, the typical patient on a full Optifast diet loses an average of 22 kg in 26 weeks. It is a clinically-proven meal replacement product to help overweight patients lose excess weight, improve health, and lower weight-related health risks.

  • CoolSculpting

halley medical aesthetics, dr. terence tan, weight loss, weight management, weight loss method, weight loss medication, exercises, coolsculpting, fat reduction, fat removal, hifu, lose weight, caloriesCoolSculpting is for body contouring, not weight loss. This no downtime, non-invasive fat reduction treatment is good for removing stubborn fat that still lingers on despite a lot exercise.

It uses a cooling temperature to remove fat in the double-chin, arms, armpit area, abdomen, love handles, thighs, back or bra fat, knee and other areas.

While not all weight loss patients require a CoolSculpting treatment, it will certainly help those who desire a more sculpted body shape. The results from CoolSculpting can be considered as more long-lasting. This treatment is cleared by the US FDA, and is safe.

Weight loss treatment principle 3: Sustainability

Weight loss treatments need to be sustainable. You need to be committed and keep going at it until you see results. Once you see great initial results, you’ll be hungry for more. Trust me, after this hurdle, your weight loss process will only get easier!

By the time you’re able to self-motivate, you wouldn’t need the help from a doctor anymore.

Weight loss treatment principle 4: Body contouring

Some of you can be too focused on just getting the numbers on the weighing scale down. In the midst of that pursuit, they forget about their body shape.

There are great machines to help you reduce fat over stubborn places in a non-invasive manner. Looking good is not just about being skinny.

For example, CoolSculpting is for meant for body contouring, not weight loss. This no downtime, non-invasive fat reduction treatment is used to remove stubborn fat that will not go away with exercise.

It uses a cooling temperature to remove fat in the double-chin, arms, armpit area, abdomen, love handles, thighs, back or bra fat, knee and other areas.

Conclusion

Weight loss is a lifelong journey and you need to make it sustainable for you and your body. Therefore, make small changes in your routine to achieve your desired goal. Weight loss is also not just for your beauty, but also for your health.

Always keep in mind that your weight loss journey needs to be safe, other than being effective. Don’t be afraid or shy to consult the doctor when necessary as doctors have the expertise and knowledge to help you get on the right track.

Start your journey to a healthier you today!

 

 

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