How to lose weight by eating right

It’s that time of the year again – the New Year! And we all do what we do best – making resolutions!

Why don’t we make a few about your health this year?

Standing by a pool deck on New Year’s Eve, I couldn’t help but see a number of beautiful women and handsome men who were hiding their pot bellies under T-shirts (I thought they were the infamous burkinis but men had them on too), and I kept wondering why. Well, the Christmas indulgence clearly had taken a toll on the merrymakers and they were not so keen to show off their guts as their new phones, jewelry or weaves.

Dreading a similar fate, I snuck into the changing room, stood in front of a full-size mirror and … shocker – the fitness freak Daktari was also ‘pregnant’… Resolution time!

Well, rewind to January 2016. I had made a similar discovery and went through the same resolutions but failed short of my expected targets. So, this year, I decide to approach it from a more scientific perspective.

There are two ways that we put on weight: first, we eat more than the body requires and second, we don’t exercise enough to burn the excess calories that we ingest.

We are all foodies in a way. And food makes the world go round. Personally, vanilla milkshake and apple pie with an extra scoop of ice cream and whipped cream – that’s what just makes it for me… I couldn’t care less about any other food (may the food god… Apolonia? I’m not sure, but he sounds like a chubby Greek, god bless Starbucks, Nowy Swiat Warsaw for that invention).

So how do we cut down our weight whilst still enjoying our food?

Easy peasy- watch what you eat and get moving. So, in this first article, we will focus on healthy eating.

A lot of my patients ask me what exactly is a healthy diet? My answer is anything as long as it’s taken in moderation. Before we get to that, grab a pen and paper and take careful notes, and drag your partner, if you have one, to read this as well.

The following are easy steps to determine whether your resolution will work or not:

Remember when you got your first kiss and you had to run to your room and write about it in your secret diary? Yes…you wanted to write all the details captured in that moment so that subsequently you could always compare your partners as good or lousy kissers; same with food. How do you know you’re eating healthy or not? Start with a food diary. Use a chart or a journal to write down everything you eat or drink every day. Write down the date, the time of day, and about how much of every food or beverage you ate and drank. Be complete and honest. Stick with the food diary. This is the most important thing you can do to make your eating habits better.

This is the hard part for most people…the scales. Yes, you will need them, scales never lie. Buy good digital scales (I have a couple of brands in mind but they don’t pay me endorsement fees). Ladies, please don’t step on with one leg, as many of you do, just get butt naked and weigh yourself. Try doing it on the same scales weekly or as often as you can without getting a bit OCD about it. (Pop a bottle of champagne at your first pound-loss -it’s called positive reinforcement).

Next, let’s get to the waist circumference. Measure at the right points at the centre of your navel going round with a decent tape measure. (Don’t hold your breath, suck it in or blow out your tummy). Keep track of your weight and your waistline, because improvements in weight or waist measurement can reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

Once you have all that information, let’s use it to formulate a plan and realistic goals that you can track. Many scientists agree a 10 per cent annual weight reduction is healthy; too fast and you risk many health complications, too slow and it’s pointless.

For example, let’s say I weigh 100kg (almost there in reality); then I should lose 10kg in 12 months, that’s like 300g per week. Easy, just like avoiding a weekly tub of ice-cream.

There are no set goals; just set individual, achievable goals!

What can I do to help me stick to my plan?

Poco a poco. Step by step. Pole pole. ..Most people give up on healthy living resolutions because they want overnight results. Remember how long it took you to put on that weight? Yes, it takes you almost twice the time to lose and maintain it so be patient and make adjustments along the way.

I also observe that people who involve their partners in this process get better results. There’s nothing as good as having a supportive spouse/partner and enjoying a healthy lifestyle together.

Don’t stop eating all of the foods you like; that isn’t a good plan for a long-term change. Eat smaller servings of the high-fat, high-calorie foods you love, or eat them less often, or try healthier substitutes.

Avoid too-large servings by measuring your food portions. If you do this every day at home, you will get a good idea what a half cup of mashed potatoes looks like. This will help you when you eat at restaurants.

Plan carefully before eating out. Plan ahead, be the first person to order and be assertive about getting just what you want. You might let the other people you are with know that you are trying to eat healthy foods and would appreciate their support.

Try to notice and change food and eating cues at home and work. Eat only in one room in your home. Pay attention to your food—don’t eat while you are watching TV or reading.

How do I keep from getting bored?

Try different foods. Check some cookbooks out of the library for new recipe ideas. Once in a while, let yourself have a week when your only goal is to maintain your weight. Some people change their calorie or fat limits over the week. For example, they might eat only 1,500 calories Monday through Saturday and let themselves have 2,000 calories on Sunday. Take an exotic cooking class with a friend to pick up interesting food ideas.

What happens if I slip?       

Everyone slips off their plan from time to time. Figure out what triggered your slip, and plan how to avoid that trigger the next time. Don’t just make excuses, though. Get back to your plan at the next meal.

And finally get a good family doctor near you to help you formulate a more detailed plan and do your recommended medical check up according to your age and gender.

Next week we’ll explore exercise and weight reduction

Written by Dr Alvin Mondoh. Alvin J. Mondoh is a physician, health advocate and lobbyist with a passion for health promotion and advocacy through promoting healthy living and educating the population on their rights and limitations on health matters. He is currently a practicing resident doctor in the department of Family medicine at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi. He writes a blog at