By Naazish Yarkhan
The South Beach diet. The Paleo diet. The Atkins diet. The Mediterranean diet. And then there is the “see food, eat food” diet that the rest of us are on. Jokes aside, if you’ve tried to lose weight, or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard about these diets. So when it comes to weight management, when is a good time to be concerned about your weight? Based on your height, you should be a certain weight and have a certain Body Mass Index (BMI). Certain weighing scales, trainers, and nutritionists can calculate BMI and guide you to your ideal weight.
“It isn’t ever about just exercise or just diet or just adequate sleep and drinking sufficient water. Weight management is impacted by all the above,” says trainer Patti Lawler, of Ackerman Sports and Fitness, Glen Ellyn. “Keep your diet natural as much as possible. Read labels. Lots of food have sugar hidden in them. Make sure you are drinking those eight glasses of water a day.”
If you aren’t in the market for a gym membership, a trainer, or a meal plan, you can always walk, lift weights, follow an exercise video, and even use your baby as natural weight while you do some ab work on a mat, at home. While that may be obvious, it is surprising how many of us cite “we don’t have time to go to the gym” as a reason to avoid exercising.
Those who’ve successfully kept their weight off reveal that exercise probably accounts for twenty percent of weight loss while the rest is all about diet, especially to initially lose the weight. However, you have to experiment with different diets to find what works for you. If you are looking to purchase a program or food plan, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, your research should tell you, “What percentage of people complete the program? What is the average weight loss among people who finish the program? What percentage of people have problems or side effects? What are they? Are there fees or costs for additional items, such as dietary supplements?”
Food Selection and Cost
When you think of dieting, you imagine your grocery bills will shrink. Well, they may when it comes to snacks, but, you will most likely buy more protein products, more fresh produce, and fish. If you are looking for halal-certified products, IFANCA certifies products like Cambridge Weight Plan and whey protein. So what will your weight management plan cost? The answer is it depends on your plan.
What’s Your Body Type?
According to livestrong.com, your body type and whether you are “endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph” should determine your exercise plan and your diet. Endomorphs tend to be shorter, heavier, and lose weight with much difficulty but gain weight very easily. They should “focus on non-starchy vegetables, lean meats, and nonfat dairy and stay away from fatty foods and refined carbohydrates.” Ectomorphs are taller, longer-limbed individuals and seem to eat all they want, without impacting their weight much. Like any human beings, that doesn’t mean they won’t be overweight if they don’t watch what’s on the menu. “Mesomorphs, those who fall between ectomorphs and endomorphs,” should follow a dietary plan that is nearly balanced between the three macronutrients—forty percent carbohydrates, thirty percent protein, and thirty percent fat.”
How many calories you eat each day impacts your weight. As nutritionist Shahana Khan explains, the calories you can eat to maintain your weight and those you consume when trying to lose weight are two very different numbers. Those numbers are influenced by your BMI, how much you want to lose, by when you want to shed those pounds, and your genetics.
So how do you maintain your weight? Yes, exercise is good but so is tracking how many calories you eat each day “Logging your food and tracking your calories is so important,” says Shahana. If you ask Google or use an app, it will tell you how many calories almost any food is, including fruits and veggies.
“If you are going on a diet, and you don’t do your research, you could be eating all the wrong quantities and calories accidentally. Nuts, for example, are good but you can’t eat them by the handful.” Lentils are good sources of protein but are also rich in calories. The same is true for protein-rich beans like kidney beans, navy beans, and chickpeas (read hummus, chole, chilli, bean salad). Clients of hers have taken to measuring their food in a cup or by the teaspoon (sugar, honey, peanut butter) and recording it to gain a true picture of the calories they are consuming each day.
Further, she says, “It is about portion control. Remember the Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) sunnah. One-third of your stomach is for air, water, and food, respectively. And we fast in Ramadan, so we know we can do it.”
For Aneesa Khan of Carol Stream, Illinois, weight management has been an ongoing quest since her youth. For her, counting and cutting calories alone wasn’t enough. Eliminating carbs was necessary. “Atkins is what worked for me as everyone’s body responds differently to different diets.” She gave up rice, pasta, and bread though she still struggles to forgo sugar entirely. She also gave up fruit for the initial two weeks on the diet. It took her a year to lose twenty pounds but, having given up carbs and with regular exercise, she has maintained her weight for the last four to five years. Though, as Aneesa admits, any diet is very hard to maintain long term because you have to say ‘no’ to things you love eating.
“There are days you are on it; there are days you are off it. Your weight goes up ten pounds and you go back on the diet. The only thing that was consistent for me was giving up the rice. I never liked rice a lot so that was easy.”
What has helped her stay the course? “When I had children, I made excuses for letting my weight slide but decided to prioritize my health when I hit thirty-five,” she says. “You become more cognizant, especially when you go to doctor’s well-visits and they ask you about any ailments you have and you see this long list of conditions that could potentially be you in a few years.”
Staying the Course
Oakbrook, Illinois resident, Zareena Khader has lost and kept off 120 pounds. “My whole life I’d been overweight. I was 268 pounds. I used to exercise every day but never dieted so [I] wasn’t able to lose weight.”
That changed in December 2011, following her sister’s engagement. “From then on, I never touched any oil, sugar, bread, rice, [or] fruit for two years. The only thing I’d eat was grilled meat with a piece of chapati or daal that I made with a non-stick oil spray. I was exercising three times a week. I lost about sixty-eight pounds in a year and a half and became a size sixteen.”
Zareena began the Ketogenics Ideal Protein diet after her third child when she found herself weighing 248 pounds. “You go to a doctor weekly and he takes your measurement and weight. You buy food from them,” she says. During the two years on the ideal protein diet, she didn’t work out per the program and, for prescribed intervals, skipped avocado, peas, tomato, and cooked onions. “Similar to the Keto diet, this diet was low on sugar and carbs and focuses more on lean proteins and vegetables.” She lost sixty pounds in eight months and has kept it off for three years. Besides exercise, today she even incorporates intermittent fasting. “This approach really works and isn’t hard. It is similar to our Ramadan.”
To maintain your weight once you’ve reached your goal, you have to cook healthy food. You can incorporate choices you’d given up while on a strict diet, but infrequently, and in very small portions. Finally, exercise remains critical.
Tried and Tested Hacks
Weight management is very much about using hacks to stay the course.
Preparation is key. Make sure you have everything you need, ahead of time. You can’t walk into your kitchen at dinner time and say “so what am I going to eat today?”
Plan and portion out even your bag of snacks ahead of time, so you know exactly what you will eat when you get hungry.
Have tea before dessert so it cuts the craving.
Replace dessert with fruit. Sugar, sweet foods, and sugar substitutes increase the appetite.
Fill yourself up with salad before the meal.
At restaurants, ask for a box as soon as you order your food and box three-fourths of your meal when it arrives.
Add variety to your healthy diet. For example, roast your veggies when you’re bored of eating them raw.
Naazish YarKhan is a college essay and writing consultant (www.writersstudio.us) and contributor to over 50 media outlets including Chicago Tribune, NPR, PRI and more. Her writing has been translated into French, Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, Bahasa, and Tagalog.
Reprinted from the Winter 2018 issue of Halal Consumer© magazine.