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Ask the Dietitian is not a substitute for a consultation with a professional who can inform you of all the facts of your particular situation. We answer questions in general terms only, to give you information that may used as a starting point.
TOPIC - Weight Loss
Question
Does eating after 8 pm cause weight gain?
Answer
It is not as critical what time you eat your food as to the total amount of calories you eat each day. If you overeat at any time of the day, you will gain weight. Having said that, it is best not to have the largest meal of your day after 8 pm at night. The reason being is you will not use all the calories you have just consumed, some or most of it will be stored as fat. It is better to eat earlier in the day where the calories will be used for activites during the day.
Question
Why do we have to toast bread when we are on a diet?
Answer
It is not neccessary to toast bread when you are on a diet. There is no significant difference between toasted and untoasted bread. The moisture content is a little lower in toasted bread, but the calorie content is not affected.
Question
How can I figure out how many calories I can eat and still lose weight?
Answer
You can use the free Weight Profile on the left side of the Home Page which will give you an estimate of the amount of calories you should have. You can also use the Calorie Calculator in the Nutrition Calculators section to figure how many calories you require for your current height & weight, then follow the guidelines given and reduce your calories accordingly for weight loss.
Keep in mind that these are estimation of your requirements, individual differences will mean that you may need more or less than the suggested amount. The best way to figure out how much to eat is cutting back slightly on your normal intake if you want to lose weight.
Question
How much should our calorie deficit be when going on a diet to maintain maximum weight loss without affecting our health?
Answer
The maximum weight loss recommended is about 1 kg (2 lbs) per week. To lose 1 kg, you theoretically have to cut back on 3850 calories per week or 550 calories per day. Instead of cutting back on calories alone, you can burn some calories by exercising (see Activity Calculators for calories burnt for each type of activity).

However, you should not consume less than 1200 calories per day if you are dieting for extended periods. Diets which are less than 1200 calories per day are not nutritionally adequate and over a period of time, you may not be getting enough of certain nutrients.
Question
My mother who is overweight consulted a doctor and he advised her to consume less carbohydrates and more proteins. However according to the Healthy Diet Pyramid, one should consume more carbohydrates instead. Kindly advise.
Answer
You are right in that the Healthy Diet Pyramid recommends a higher intake of the Rice & Alternatives group (5-7 servings) and compared to the Meat & Alternatives group (2 servings). Carbohydrates are not fattening by themselves ie. steamed rice, noodles in soup, bread or congee. They can be high in calories, however, if you add high fat ingredients to them, for example butter or kaya on bread, fried rice and noodles, or adding curry gravy, etc. Thus it is fine to have carbohydrates as long as you minimize the high fat accompaniments. Fruits & vegetables which are also high in carbohydrates are good items to fill up on as they are low in calories yet rich in vitamins & minerals.

Meats, on the other hand, can be very high in fat especially if you like the skin on chicken or fatty meats. That is why smaller portions of lean meat are recommended. Include more non-meat protein sources such as tofu, beans & lentils as they are lower in fat. In summary, follow the guidelines of the Healthy Diet Pyramid in terms of how much to eat from each food group and cut down on high fat foods. Also include 30 minutes of exercise three times per week for faster and more effective weight loss.
Question
May I know what is metabolism rate? Is it true that if it is high we can lose weight easily ?
Answer
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy or calories your body burns to maintain itself in its resting state. Metabolic rates vary from one person to another and are affected by a number of factors such as gender, age, amount of muscle you have compared to body fat and the amount of exercise you do on a regular basis. Male's rates are higher than females because of testosterone. Infants and growing children or teenagers have higher metabolic rates than adults because of growth hormones. It increases with fever, a hyperactive thyroid gland and other diseases, and decreases with age, fasting or starvation, malnutrition, and when you are resting or sleeping.

It is true that a higher metabolic rate will make it easier for you to lose weight, but the only safe way to increase it is to exercise (not use pills or potions). Exercise increases the body's metabolic rate up to 15 hours after exercising. The more muscle you have in relation to fat, the more calories you will burn. Thus, not only will aerobic exercise help by keeping your metabolic rate up, doing weight training to increase your muscle mass will be helpful as well.
Question
I walk regularly on my treadmill at speed 2-3.5 km/h for around 45 mins. daily. I started this last year end but I still haven't lost any weight. Any advice?
Answer
You need to combine exercise with diet to lose weight. If you did not change your diet, or ate more because you were exercising, that could be why you are not losing weight. To start, figure out how much fat you are eating in your diet, use the Rate Your Diet. If you are eating too much fat, then you should cut back. Do not skip meals but have smaller portions of food, and have more fruits and vegetables to fill up. If you would like more advice on your diet, consult a dietitian at your nearest hospital or polyclinic for a full assessment.

The other thing with the exercise is that you need to increase the intensity and distance of your workout as you get fitter. Your body gets fitter after a few weeks of exercising, so you need to set new goals in order to burn the same calories. In the end though it may sound simplistic, to lose weight your caloiries intake have to be less than your calories output. It is figuring out this calorie equation that will help you achieve your goal.
Question
I really want to lose weight but don't know how to start. Can you give me a diet plan or sometime like that pls. and is it possible to lose more than 15 kg in 2 mths?
Answer
I do not recommend weight loss of more than 1 kg per week for healthy weight loss. While it is possible to lose 15 kg in 2 months, you are better off losing only about 8-9 kg to place less stress on your body.

After having received many requests for online diet plans, I have developed an online diet site that will provide a comprehensive weight management program at a low monthly cost. Watch for the launch of Diets.com.sg in June!

Our online diet program will have the convenience of 24/7 access from the privacy of your home or office. Your diet plan will be available at your fingertips when you want it!

Diets.com.sg will feature....
  • Customized meal plans that are specially designed for you.
  • Choice of Chinese, Malay, Indian or Western meals.
  • Adjustable diet settings/goal at any time.
  • Exercise & weight monitoring and online journal.
Question
Hi, I am trying to lose weight and I know I need to eat a low fat meal. I've already start on my exercise regime. Could you please advise me on my nutrition needs so that I could lose weight? Thank you.
Answer
To lose weight you have to use up more energy than you are taking in. There are several ways to do that which includes increasing activity levels and decreasing caloric intake.

It sounds like you've increased your activity level by exercising. Also move more in your daily routine ie. walk more, use the stairs, play with your kids/pet, etc. All these help to burn up more calories.

As for your nutritional needs, cutting down on fat is a good way to reduce calories in your diet (plus it is good for your health). While you are doing that, you need to ensure you are still eating the right balance of rice & grains, fruits, vegetables, meat & alternatives and fluids. Use the Healthy Diet Pyramid as a guide for well-balanced, low-fat eating.

I have provided you with general guidelines. For more detailed information, I suggest that you see a dietitian who can design a weight loss meal plan that meets your specific nutrition needs. See your doctor for a referral.
Question
What are the main causes of obesity? How would you prevent obesity?
Answer
Causes of obesity are many and varied in origin and beyond the scope of this discussion to answer. There are many good reference books on this topic. I suggest that you check out a college/medical library.
Question
I'm trying to loss 15-20 pounds. What should my carbohydrate and calorie intake be?
Answer
Your calorie intake will depend on how active you are. It ranges from 1600-2300 calories for sedentary to moderately active (see the Calorie Calculator for definitions). Put in your current height, weight & age and it calculates the calories you require daily to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight, take off 250-500 calories per day. That should allow you to lose 1/2 to 1 lb per week.

The present recommendation for carbohydrate, protein and fat distribution is 50-55% for carbohydrate, 12-15% for protein and 30-35% for fat for healthy adults. That works out to 250- 275 grams of CHO, 60-75 grams of protein and 66-78 grams fat for a 2000 calorie diet. However, most people find it difficult to figure out how much food that is, so it is recommended that you follow the Healthy Diet Pyramid guidelines to find out how much of each food group you should be eating.
Question
My husband needs to lose weight. He does not eat breakfast at home because he does not have time to before he goes to work. At work, he may grab a curry puff or roti prata at the staff cafeteria, for lunch he usually has economy rice. I don't know what else he eats the rest of the day, but he has a big dinner when he comes home around 9 pm.
Answer
Two things is going to help your husband lose weight - good eating habits & exercise. If he does not have time for breakfast at home, he may want to choose items with less fat at the cafeteria like sandwiches, noodle soup, porridge, fruit, etc. Again choices for economy rice at lunch should include less fried or coconut-base items and more vegetables. If it is possible, it would be good if he can have a light snack around 4 - 6 pm, and then have a medium size dinner when he comes home at 9 pm. You did not say what type of work he does. If his job is sedentary, he also needs to include some activity into his schedule. It sounds like he has a long work day, so it will be easiest to include activity as part of daily life. For example, can he take a walk at lunch? How about getting off one stop earlier & walking the rest of the way? Can he take the stairs instead of using the elevator? Two to three times a week it would be good to do an aerobic activity like swim, jog, play racquet sports, ride a stationary bike for at least 30 minutes each time. This is just a start, if you are really concerned about his weight, he should see a doctor or a dietitian.
Question
I eat a lot of carbohydrates and fruits and in wide varieties. Most of the additional calories are from the fruits consumed. Will that lead to weight gain too? Will dieting or a change in eating habits result in irregularities in the menstrual cycle?
Answer
To answer your first question, you will gain weight if you consume too many calories. It does not matter where the calories come from. However, eating high-carbohydrates foods such as rice, bread, noodles & fruits is recommended since they fill you up yet only contain 4 calories per gram. You have to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet (not just carbohydrates & fruits) following the guidelines of the Healthy Diet Pyramid even when you are trying to lose weight, otherwise you will put your body out of balance. To lose weight gradually, have each food group in smaller portions and increase your activity level.

If you lose too much weight or body fat, you will experience menstrual irregularities. If that is happening, you should consult a doctor for an assessment. You may not need to lose any more weight. Your doctor can also refer you to a dietitian who can guide you to lose weight safely and appropriately if necessary.
Question
I am 1.65m and 53 kg and I want to lose 3 kg. Is replacing a proper lunch with 2 slices of plain bread a suitable diet alternative? I get plenty of fruits at dinner. Will the carbohydrates and starch hinder my success, even though bread is low in calories?
Answer
Your BMI is 19 at your current weight, so you do not need to lose weight.
If you are trying to reduce your caloric intake, my advice is still to eat a balanced meal. Instead of just plain bread, have some low-fat protein with it such as skinless chicken breast, lean ham or water-packed tuna. Also I recommend a high-fibre bread such as wholemeal, multigrain or rye as the fibre provides bulk and keeps you full for longer. Avoid using any margarine or mayonnaise with it; use mustard, pickles, or sliced tomatoes & cucumbers instead for additional toppings.

Having high-carbohydrate foods such as bread is not a problem, just avoid the high-fat items, such as butter & salad dressing, that you may add to it which adds extra calories and slows weight loss.
Question
I am 1.66 m at 48 kg. I would like to reduce my weight to around 45 kg but it don't seem to work for me. This plateau stage has last for more than 2 weeks. Why is that so as I still control my diet and do light workouts? Also my body does not seem to build muscle and I do eat nutritious meals - WHY?
Answer
Your BMI at 48 kg and 166 cm is 17 which is well below the recommended lower limit of a healthy weight. YOU SHOULD NOT LOSE ANY MORE WEIGHT, as you are already too thin and that is just as unhealthy as being overweight. A healthy weight for you is between 52-63 kg. You body has reached a point where any further weight loss is detrimental - that is a reason why you are unable to lose any more weight.

In order to build muscle, you have to be prepared to gain some weight as muscle weights quite a bit. You also have to do weight training in order for the muscle to build, eating nutritious meals alone is not enough. I recommend that you consult with a dietitian at a hospital or polyclinic convenient to you to get answers to your specific diet questions, and see an personal trainer for a weight training program.


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