Losing weight is no piece o’ cake for most people. And that is why they turn to other people for effective methods to help—from dietitians to trainers to doctors and even reality show makers such as The Biggest Loser. We also know of many a beautiful people who triumphantly did it—Victoria Beckham and Christy Chung, who shed their pounds despite several counts of pregnancy pounds.
It goes without saying that the most well established method of weight loss is through a low-calorie, well-balanced diet combined with moderately intensive exercise. The golden rule is to decrease total calorie count, regardless of macronutrient content, and also expend them through a good workout.
It’s nothing revolutionary. Yet, we all know it is easier said than done. Some pointers on how to put this talk into action: go for a low fat, high complex carbohydrate, high fibre diet with special attention to limit empty calories and aim to accomplish 30 or more minutes of moderately intensive exercise each day, depending on your health status.
What are empty calories? Those found in high energy foods but lack accompanying nutrients e.g. highly processed food such as fast food, soda drinks and alcohol. Including some complex carbohydrates in your diet helps you feel fuller longer so you decrease your urge to snack between meals. However, if you do feel the need to snack, snack healthily on fruits, vegetables or muesli bars.
Aerobic exercise is particularly useful for weight loss and long term weight maintenance. Exercise also preserves lean body mass and prevents a decrease in metabolic rate that is seen with starvation.
This is the hard part—there is no shortcut to a healthy weight loss regime. A good aim for weight loss should be a 10% reduction from baseline body weight over 4 to 6 months, after which it should stabilize or slow.
There are several slimming pills available in the market that can be added to a weight loss regime—some are sold over-the-counter and others are prescription-only. Over-the-counter slimming pills are generally not yet rigorously tested in clinical trials and are not necessarily listed with HSA as medicinal products, so they could be made of anything—from herbal to homemade. In the light of Slim 10 causing liver failure, amongst other horror stories of untested slimming pills, the only sound advice is to observe judicious use of such unproven slimming therapies and the caveat emptor “buyers beware” applies.
Prescription drugs for weight loss range from appetite suppressants such as Duromine to satiety enhancers such as Reductil (which was recently withdrawn from the market due to concerns about its safety) to prevention of fat absorption such as Orlistat. Strictly speaking, these weight loss pills are recommended only as an aide to obese people or during unsuccessful regimes and are meant for short term use only—the key is still instituting dietary and lifestyle changes in the long run to achieve and maintain weight loss. They should never be taken like candies or on a regular, long term basis for maintenance of weight loss.
Now, you’ve worked hard to achieve your desired body weight and there remain stubborn areas of fat that persist no matter what you do to get rid of it. In men, it’s usually the tummy and flanks while in women, it’s usually the hips and thighs. These specific areas can be furthered toned with the help of medical or even, non-medical intervention. Some of such options offered in the market nowadays include liposuction, lipodissolve, mesotherapy and even fat burner machines.
Here’s the myth: people often think that these fat busting methods are a quick and easy way for weight loss, but that’s not entirely true. The truth is these methods are really for body contouring. They do not (and cannot) remove fat that is buried deep within the body— that takes sweat.
Fat busting procedures can be invasive or non-invasive techniques. Generally, the more invasive procedures are more effective, but they also have longer downtimes. Invasive procedures include tumescent liposuction by VASER or otherwise. Minimally invasive procedures include plasmalipolysis and mesotherapy. Non invasive procedures such as cryotherapy or radiofrequency massages are not yet scientifically proven and therefore are still not considered as medical procedures currently.
Liposuction involves surgical suctioning of superficial fat and is a well-practiced method of body contouring in the local medical cosmetics scene. Until the advent of tumescent liposuction, traditional liposuction used to be done solely by suctioning fat tissue out with a cannula under general anaesthesia. No doubt, hospitalization was always necessary and recovery took weeks to months. Nowadays, with advancement in medical technology and expertise, liposuction can be performed as day surgery, often with no hospitalization is required and downtime has also been consequently reduced. One of these newer techniques include Liposelection®, which uses an ultrasonic technology that is tissue-selective. The theory behind it is that energy generated by ultrasound targets unwanted fat while preserving surrounding tissues such as nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, thus requiring less time for healing.
Mesotherapy is a method of injecting a concocted mixture of pharmaceutical and homeopathic medications, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes into unwanted areas of fat so as to dissolve it and subsequently be absorbed by the body. It is a minimally invasive procedure and many consider it as an alternative to surgical fat removal. However, as of today, it is still not considered a proven or safe method of fat removal and is classified as a List B Aesthetic Procedure under the Aesthetic Practice Oversight Committee guidelines. Mesotherapy is not generally accepted or widely practiced in Singapore as yet.
Another minimally invasive method of lipodissolve is with Plasma Lipolysis (theoretically similar to Smart Lipo or Laser Lipo), where laser energy is transmitted through an optical fibre in a probe and emitted as plasma energy. This is then applied through tiny, needle sized points to the superficial fat in stubborn areas to melt it. The liquefied fat is subsequently absorbed into the lymphatic system and eliminated by the body. This method is a cross between mesotherapy and surgical liposuction. As compared to conventional liposuction, there is generally less pain, bruising, downtime and is shorter in duration.
The latest exciting advances in fat-busting technology include radiofrequency and cryotherapy machines which boast of being able to get rid of fat tissue without the need for needles or scalpels at all. These machines work by stimulating breakdown of fat tissue when applied over the trouble areas, either by emitting radiofrequency waves or by freezing at low temperatures. Thereafter, the fat breaks down and is drained away by the lymphatic system to be absorbed or eliminated by the body system, thereby losing those inches. This is still under much research and is not yet accepted in Singapore as scientifically proven techniques of fat removal until more clinical trials are done. However, if they ever eventually prove to be effective, we may well be able to do body contouring without needles or scalpels anymore—perhaps even squeeze in a session over lunch break.
In conclusion, weight loss is not exactly the easiest task to accomplish—the most important ingredient in any effective weight loss regime is good discipline with strict compliance. We can take heart at the fact that it isn’t impossible, especially after watching one or two seasons of the Biggest Loser. For improving areas of resistant fat, several methods exist, of which liposuction is one of the more tried and tested. Inherent risks are of course present in any method of weight loss, so it is important to consult your doctor early and make informed choices before trying any of the above methods. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to dump that flab and get on to a whole new image of a confident you!
You may also check out this article in July 2011’s issue of Ezyhealth & Beauty: