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This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.

reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and
particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical

Introduction .................................................................................. 4
Living In A Food Paradise ............................................................ 10
All It Takes To Lose Is To Count ................................................... 13
Some Learnings Along The Way .................................................. 23
Dispel The Myths ......................................................................... 30
You Are What You Drink ............................................................. 35
The Final Word ............................................................................ 41
Epilogue: The Art Of Weight Maintenance ................................. 42
About The Author........................................................................ 51

Do you like being overweight?
If you are like most other normal human beings on the planet,
your answer would be:
Of course not, silly.
Yet many of us weigh more than we should, but we dont do
much about it.
It could be a few kilograms, or many. As we go through life with
its ups and downs, we have come to accept conventional wisdom
that with age comes the inevitable weight gain and spare tire
around the waist.
Then there are standard excuses we give ourselves and others: I
have no time to exercise. I dont do crash diets. I live to eat,
not eat to live. Life is too short to eat bland, boring food.
The list goes on.
It is as if we are wired to defend our current waistline and
Ironically, we are bombarded daily with an endless barrage of
marketing messages to get slim and beautiful. Thats because the
weight-loss industry is a huge one, worth billions of dollars
around the world.
Slimming centers, weight-loss pills and beverages, home exercise
machines, fitness trainers, books (that cost much more than this
modest effort), DVDs and so on.
Being slim does not necessarily equate to being beautiful, but
being overweight definitely means you could be healthier.
As an ex-journalist, I was trained to be skeptical about
And when I got serious about losing weight, I studied the weight
loss methods out there for several weeks, weighing all the
perspectives and remembering my own experiences as a school
I realized that there is so much information (true and false) out
there, equaled by the same degree of ignorance or
bewilderment from the audience being preached to.
From zero carbohydrate diets to eat-all-the-fat-you-want diets,
they can sound ridiculous or too good to be true to any of us.
And youre right. Our common sense knows better.
There are many short-cuts to losing weight, but they often come
attached with a dismal price to pay.
For many people who go on fad diets, the consequence may be
as mild as an immediate rebound to their original weight, to
developing life-threatening conditions such as anorexia. Youve
probably also read about how many people have gotten health-
scares or actually died from taking dubious slimming pills.
What struck me through my research and my conversations with
friends (and which is why Im writing this book despite the
immense collection of weight loss literature out there) is that
most people have not been properly educated in nutrition and
weight management!
Its amazing, that we can go through many years of formal
education, know all sorts of mathematical formulae, language
skills and scientific fact, and yet have little to no idea about
how to maintain our bodies and the impact of every meal we
This short book is written to share the tried-and-test basics of
weight management, without any prescription to the hundreds
of different low-carb, low-fat, low-whatever methods out there,
and delivered in a clear concise manner that you may not have
read before.
You already know about the food pyramid, the types of food
groups, and the benefits of exercise. What you probably dont
know is how all these come together in a simple way so you can
master your body and become healthier than youve ever
We are constantly preached to by schools, health ministries and
gurus to get healthier, but I believe there has been a massive
breakdown in communication in getting the correct message
As I wrote this short book, I constantly reminded myself that I am
not an expert nutritionist, sports scientist or physiologist.
What I am is a communications professional who wants to step
aside from all the noise out there and show you some simple
truths so you can get started.
Much of what you read here, you can find on the Internet or at
the local library, but often only after sifting through layers of
marketing pitches, misinformation, hubris or excess detail.
Ive done much of my research on government health sites
they are honest and accurate, but they tend to be weighed down
with too many dry and boring details.
Ive distilled the right information down to a few chapters, so
you can probably read this entire book within 30 minutes and get
started right away.
Let me assure you that losing weight does not need to cost big
bucks, dangerous pills, take a long time, nor does it require that
you starve yourself throughout the day.
What you need is just a little determination (OK, make that a lot
of determination!), patience, simple math, and the assurance
that you can still enjoy delicious food while bringing your
waistline down for good.
You think this is not possible because youve tried losing weight
so many times but the results never lasted for long.
The real reason is that you didnt know better about the right
way to manage your weight, and youre not alone.
I dare say 90 percent of the people around you are not in the
know either.
With the right attitude, nutrition information, and some simple
math, I assure you that excluding any pre-existing health issues
(illness, pregnancies, medical exceptions), just about anyone can
lose a significant chunk of the excess weight on their bodies.
However I do not promise that you can look like a supermodel
after youve lost weight.
All of us have a healthy and ideal weight range that we should be
in, but our different body shapes will also determine the
outcome of any weight management program.
Being overweight, even just by a few kilograms, is a clear sign
that we arent in control of our health and our lifestyle.
Being underweight is unhealthy too, because your body needs
enough food and nutrients to function well.
The secret to effective weight management, as I shall freely
share with you, lies in first understanding the reality we live in
today, and then grasping the power of nutritional knowledge.
Soshall we get started?
(Note: This book was written for fellow Singaporeans in mind,
because there is an embarrassment of food riches here. However,
the learnings in this book will apply to anyone living in any
From the time I started work at 21 till I was 35 in 2011, my
weight of 63kg gradually crept up and hit 73.5kg. My waistline
kept expanding over the years, slowly but surely from 29 inches
to 33.5 inches.
I was going through what many people living in developed
societies experience a sedentary lifestyle of deskbound work (I
was a journalist and later, a marketing guy) while enjoying good
food all the time.
With a busy work schedule, I did not exercise regularly, and often
rewarded my hard work in the office with rich meals full of fried
dishes and tasty snacks.
And my way of coping was merely to shrug it off and buy larger
pants and shirts. After all, we cant stop the process of aging and
putting on the pounds right?
To make matters worse in a First World sort of way, I am based
in Singapore, located in the heart of Southeast-Asia and it is
world-renowned food paradise.
Singapore, just 50km across in land area, is a veritable melting
pot of the different Chinese, Indian, Malay and other native races
in the region.
Where India is famous for its Karmasutra, Singaporeans regularly
buy the Makansutra, a local food guidebook that is updated
annually with rankings of the best local food stalls. (Makan
means to eat in the Malay language). Food blogs are popular in
Singapore too.
Hunting for good food is thus a national pastime, and locals
express pride when they can rattle off the top eating haunts like
a badge of honor.
Even tourists will quickly learn that the best food stalls are those
with long snaking queues at all times of the day.

Like my fellow countrymen, I love the taste of local dishes like
Hainanese chicken rice, Malay nasi padang, Chinese Teochew
noodles and Indian roti prata.
I also have a hearty appreciation for Italian pasta, Western
burgers and French pastry. Any type of food you desire, you can
probably find it within a thirty minute drive in Singapore.
This is pretty much the same situation for anyone living in the
major cities of the world, be it New York, Hong Kong, Dubai,
Sydney or Rome.
Rich food is in abundance, and were constantly asking ourselves:
So where should we eat today? Whats good on the menu?
We have no idea that is many other parts of the world, people
are undernourished or starving, and we continue stuffing our
faces with every exotic or sumptuous dish we come across.
Singapore is filled with thousands of food courts and restaurants,
and each meal is often accompanied by soft drinks or alcohol.
In many restaurants, you are charged for ordering plain water
(even if it came from the tap), because the restaurant owners
want to encourage you to buy higher-margin beverages.
This is the norm, isnt it? you ask.
When you grow up in such a society, it is indeed the norm.
But it is a norm you have to recognize as being excessive when
you begin to learn the long-term impact on your body.
We may be living in a food paradise, but we dont know that
were like hapless sinners slowly descending into a hell of heart
disease and other health conditions.
Ok, that sounds too dramatic, but what better way to get your

My unexpected journey to cleaning up my diet and body started
in late 2012 when I got infected by a really bad case of athletes
foot (thats foot fungus if youre not an athlete).
It refused to heal despite me resorting to all sorts of medicine,
and I had to stop jogging for two months because it became too
painful to even walk.
(Tip: The most effective method of dealing with athletes foot or
any fungal infection on your legs is the ancient vinegar soak (50%
white vinegar, 50% water for 20min twice a day) and it will kill
the fungus with an unholy vengeance.)
The infection forced me to stop eating heavy foods and reduce
my snacking, because I knew I couldnt burn them off with
another long run.
This was especially miserable during the Christmas season when
people were supposed to be making merry and gobbling food.
But that didnt change my thinking on food, which was to live to
eat. Two years of running with the Nike+ pedometer/watch
system gave me more stamina, but I gained about 3kg rather
than losing weight.
Why, I love my pork lard, dry noodles and curry rice!
Then I purchased a digital weighing scale to replace the old
spring version which has been showing the wrong readouts for
The new scale came with a fat percentage analyzer, and to my
horror, my fat count was over 24% (healthy is 20% or under,
according to the weigh scale manual).
It didnt help that my BMI was borderline overweight at 25 (it
should be under 25, according to global standards).
Ive been mildly unhappy with the gradual disappearance of my
jawline over the past few years too, and the weighing machine
sparked the decision to change my eating habits for good.
As I got fed up with my weight issue, I did a lot of online research
and I established some key fundamentals in adjusting food
Most of the time, we make decisions without the right
information. Working in journalism and Microsoft has taught me
a healthy respect for collecting relevant data before acting.
One of the reasons why I never lost weight since my army days is
because I havent actually bothered to research what I was
How many calories was I actually eating a day? What is the
trajectory of my unstoppable weight gain?
I had been jogging on and off over the past six years to ensure I
dont fail the annual army fitness test.
But even when I jogged regularly, it was clear that constant
exercise was not helping me to keep the weight down
I quickly figured out that the culprit in weight gain was largely my
diet, and not so much my exercise regime.
So, I spent a day researching on calorie counting apps, and
remembered the Singapore Health Promotion Board folks telling
me about their iDAT (Interactive Diet and Activity Tracker) app.
I downloaded it and was astounded to find all sorts of local food
and their respective calorie figures in the database. It also came
with a basic GPS feature to track your various fitness activities.

The iDAT apps main screen, which shows you a quick summary of your calorie
intake versus requirements. The green bar shows your daily baseline
requirement and the yellow bar shows calories expended by exercise. The
orange bar refers to how much youve consumed so far in the day.
So I decided to do a simulation of my usual intake of delicious SG
food and it wasnt a good report card. Its scary how many
calories our local Singapore food contains.
We know the dishes arent healthy, but the numbers are
This was an average days worth of food I was having regularly:
o Bun with curry potato filling (214 kcal)
o Soya Bean Drink (138 kcal)
o Chicken rice (666 kcal)
o Soft drink (133 kcal)
o Rice with 2 vegetable dishes and one meat dish
(580 kcal)
o Ice Lemon Tea (87 kcal)
Snacks and Tea
o Ice Milo drink (175 kcal)
o Biscuit (150 kcal)
o Some crispy tapioca snacks (200 kcal)
TOTAL 2343 kcal!
Give or take, the average Singaporean male needs 1800-2000
kcal a day on average to keep going.
Of course, I dont eat such rich food at every meal but with an
excess of 343 kcal a day, one will gain 1kg in just 22 days if you
lead a sedentary lifestyle and dont exercise.
Calorie In must be balanced with Calorie Out to maintain
the same weight. When you take in less calories than you
expend, youll experience a calorie deficit which then leads to
weight loss. Vice versa too.
According to online wisdom, losing 1kg of body weight is
equivalent to burning 7700 kcal.
To burn off 1kg of weight, you need to have a calorie deficit each
day of 500 kcal over 15 days. The reverse is true overeat by 500
kcal per day and youll gain 1kg in 15 days. The advice is not to
have a deficit of more than 1000 kcal per day for healthy weight
The Singapore Health Promotion Board website has much more
info on local food and you should do your research there.
Now what puzzled me was why didnt I know all this facts on
weight management before?
Why was it nobody teaches this in school or provided such
advice when dishing out gems on healthy living?
My suspicion is that most people never bother to find out until
they meet a nutritionist or read a book like this.
Anyway, armed with this data, I reworked by daily diet to look
something like this:
o Gardenia Softmeal Bread 2 slices (137 kcal)
o Cheddar cheese spread (thin) (30 kcal)
o Kopi O Kosong (black coffee) (5 kcal)
o Apple Raw (96 kcal)
o Wanton noodle soup (290 kcal)
o Cordial Drink (88 kcal)
o Wheatmeal biscuit (110 kcal)
o Rice with 2 veg and 1 meat (580 kcal)
o Ice Lemon Tea (87 kcal)
o Nestum 3-in-1 drink (110 kcal)
TOTAL 1533 kcal
Overnight, I would have shaved off 800 kcal from my usual
unhealthy diet. Even with a baseline calorie requirement of 1800
kcal, I would have a deficit of 267 kcal.
This would theoretically lead to a loss of 1kg over 28 days. I
dont stop myself from eating my favorite dry mee pok
noodles or fried rice though, I just eat half a portion and
substitute the rest with colorful fruits to ensure I dont feel

Heres another days reduced diet mix.
Now all my friends know Im an impatient guy and I like to see
quick results, so when you add exercise to the mix, the calorie
deficit increases even more.
To cut the long story short, jogging about 6km at a moderate
pace (say within 35 min) will burn about 400 kcal, or roughly the
equivalent of a bowl of dry wanton noodles.
So if you choose to exercise at a moderate rate for 30 to 45
minutes every day, you can still stay slim even if you eat like
most Singaporeans do.
However I believe that exercising every day at that rate is
dangerous as your body doesnt get enough time to recover, so I
do it every alternate day. That means I have to continue
moderating my diet.
My original diet goal was to lose 3kg so my BMI would go down
to from 25 to about 23, and with the above focus on diet, data
and exercise, I lost about 1kg in the first week (which is deemed
the safe limit for healthy weight loss).
This was the first time in my life that Ive actually bothered to
lose weight seriously, and it was not as hard as I feared it would
be. My jawline quickly redefined itself and my jeans became
However, there was a day I cut back too much on food intake
(about 1200 kcal deficit) and I spent the whole day feeling a little
faint and sleepy.
So when you start changing your diet dont go to the extreme
and end up being anorexic or bulimic please.
In those few months after I started dieting, I annoyed my
Facebook friends by posting all sorts of calorie information on
various foods (do you know one cup of roasted salted peanuts
has 1000 calories?!?) but really, once you start getting into the
data, you cant stop.

After a few weeks of dieting, I switched from the HPB iDat app to
the MyFitnessPal app, which provides a much better food
database, nutrition breakdown, user interface and it syncs
properly across devices like smartphones, tablets and PCs. Its
available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and in your Internet
Still, the iDat app was a good start and I do thank the HPB for it!
While experimenting with food intake and exercise patterns, I
also learned some hard lessons, both with myself and other folks
whom I tried to influence with my weight-loss ideas.
Weve heard it all before Muscle weighs more than fat!,
Dont believe the BMI chart, doesnt apply to everyone, Its ok
to be bulkier when you age. Im sorry if this hurts you, but they
are all rubbish excuses. If you fall outside of the healthy BMI
range, you have to accept that no matter your body shape or
bone density.
Now our Health Promotion Board has pretty harsh BMI
benchmarks compared to the West. Where healthy is up to 24.9,
our SG standard is up to 22.9 (which means I have one more kg
to lose)

BMI (kg/m2) for Adults

27.5 and above - High Risk
23 27.4 - Moderate Risk
18.5 22.9 - Low Risk (healthy range)
Below 18.5 - Risk of nutritional deficiency diseases
and osteoporosis

Unless you are a bodybuilder, below 18, a senior
citizen, pregnant or suffering from illness, you cant run away
from this objective chart. The biggest hurdle in dieting, in my
opinion, is our perception of what our ideal weight should be.
You can have your cake (butter or carrot?) and eat it.
The only condition is that you need to moderate how much of
fatty, oily and rich food you are going to take in a day. It is plain
common sense, you know it, but the only way to know is to
count your calories religiously.
I still have regular treats of ice-cream, cakes, Twisties snacks and
some chocolate weekly, and I dont put on extra weight.
But my taste buds have changed. I walk into local food-courts
today and feel like a war refugee.
There are so many stalls that I dont wish to eat from, because
my palate has changed permanently.
Once your new dietary habits kick in after a few weeks, you dont
even need to avoid the rich foods you will have NO DESIRE to
eat them at all.
Switching to a healthy diet is like a baptism of fire, suddenly your
eyes are opened and you see the truth of our countrys
unhealthy living.
Its very simple, just think of the following key words - Soupy,
High Fibre, Less Fried, Low Gravy and try not to bust 500kcal per
For guys, dont bust a total of 1800 kcal a day (to maintain
weight) or look to have a deficit of 300kcal (ie. eat 1500 kcal a
day) to lose nearly 1kg in 25 days.
Remember, every kg of weight is worth 7700 kcal, so you can
calculate from there.
Be it wanton soup noodles (300-350 kcal), economy rice with
more vegetables and some meat (500 kcal), porridge (400 kcal),
fish soup noodles (300-400 kcal), its all ok. Now some of
you might think its boring and bland, but you dont have to eat
from lousy foodstalls.
Eat from good foodstalls and a simple plate of wanton noodles
always tastes terrific.
All this doesnt mean you cant eat slightly higher calorie food
like fried rice (600-700kcal) or dry minced meat noodles (400-
500 kcal) regularly.
You can have it once a day but make sure your other two meals
in the same day are healthier dishes. Once or twice a week, you
can treat yourself to fatty chicken rice (666 kcal and up) or roti
prata (200 kcal per prata).
One problem is the prevalence of carbohydrates. We need carbs
for energy, and you shouldnt go on a carb-free diet.
But if you want to lose weight fast and not feel hungry all the
time, shave off 1/3 or 1/2 your rice or noodles and replace
with fruits in the same meal.
Trust me, your weight disappears really fast this way, and you
wont faint at work.
There are some foods that are definite red flags and you need to
consider if you should eat them even once a week if you arent
exercising regularly. They contain too many calories per dish, and
some of them dont even make you feel full.
Char Kway Teow (ie. Super friend noodles that cost over
900 kcal)
Nasi Lemak with the works (ie. Aover 1000 kcal)
Any fast food burger with two or more meat patties
(easily over 1000 kcal)
Chocolate bars like Snickers (300 kcal per bar)
Nuts (Cashew nuts are 1000 kcal per cup!)
Duck Rice (Such fatty birds lah, over 700 kcal for roasted
Yeah, you can say How can we not enjoy good food in
Yes you can, but many of us have gone overboard on a daily basis
and its become the norm. Yet we are less active than our
forefathers and the food industry spends billions convincing us to
spend on unhealthy food.
The other killer in our diet are sweetened drinks (see chapter
You Are What You Drink). And Im not even referring to soft
drinks like Coke (150 kcal per can)
The only healthy coffee is plain coffee without sugar (5 kcal).
Any other combination of sugar and milk (evaporated,
condensed, less or more, whatever) adds unnecessary calories
immediately. Depending on how much milk and sugar are added,
a regular kopi can have the same amount or even more calories
than a bigger can of Coke!
I love Milo (150 kcal) but Ive stopped drinking it regularly too,
since Im no longer a sportsman and I dont need to win races
What I did was to buy several water bottles and place it at home,
at work, in the bag and just keep drinking good old zero-calorie
tap water, or succumb to Diet Coke/Coke Zero at work (0
calories, but may be carcinogenic according to some sources).
And where you can, reduce the amount of gravy they add to
your food be it chicken rice, duck rice, vegetable dishes etc.
They contain too much fat and MSG, which in turn makes you
thirsty and retain more water later.
I love my curry, so its a regular sin that I spread on my economy
rice dish but not too much!
I would say 60-70% of the weight loss comes from changing your
diet, and the remaining 30% comes from exercise. You can
always lose weight without exercise, but its going to take much
longer and you dont exactly become the toned looking person
you desire to become.
Rapid weight loss without exercise may just lead to saggy skin,
low energy levels and sallow circulation (thats my theory).
Exercise also clears up the complexion rapidly and removes
toxins from the body regularly (thats true).
Im used to exercising, since I used to be a dragonboater. But
thats not to say I enjoy running three or four times a week. I do
it purely out of habit, and its not fun in the hot and humid
Singapore weather.
One thing to note about exercise, whether you run, swim or
cycle its not just the intensity, but the actual duration.
You can run a 2.4km route at top speed and nearly burst your
heart, but its only going to burn 150 kcal, or the equivalent of a
can of soft drink.
Its better to take a slow jog over at least 35min and burn about
400 kcal, or the equivalent of one meal.
And make sure if you burn 400 kcal from exercise, eat another
400 kcal on top of your regular healthy meals to ensure you
arent under-eating.
We are who we eat, and unfortunately, as Singapore has gotten
more affluent over time, weve piled on the calories without
understanding that our bodies dont need the excess.
We go for high teas, regular restaurant meals and fast food, only
because we think its the middle/high class lifestyle we should
aspire to. We appreciate good tasting food, but we dont
measure their impact on our bodies.
Like I said, its ok, and its important to enjoy good food while we
are alive.
But moderate your eating habits and suddenly youll find
yourself looking and feeling much better.
As youll read in the next chapter, dieting doesnt mean starving,
or depriving yourself of good food.

After my weight loss became more apparent to others, more
friends began switching to a healthy diet too. Thats encouraging
and also indicative of how we are more conscious of our health
issues in our 30s.
Or maybe because Ive scared too many people with my constant
Facebook updates on diet and exercise.
There are some common issues though, which I hope to provide
my own perspective.
I say my own perspective because what works for me may not
work for everyone. I have been experimenting with my own body
and metabolism to disprove some of these issues, and you might
want to do so for yourself.
This is a popular practice because carbohydrates do make up a
good chunk of the calories we eat everyday.
One of the most well-known low-carb diets is the Atkins Diet and
there are other methods which tell people to stop eating carbs
altogether. Gwyneth Paltrow limits the amount of carbs her
children gets for medical reasons but others get the wrong idea
that its for everyone.
Lets get it straight people we all need carbohydrates, protein
and fat in our diet.
Proper eating has always been about balance. Eat too much of
anything and youre going to get fat. Carbs are important
because they are a key fuel source especially if you remember
that a healthy lifestyle equals an ACTIVE lifestyle.
What people dont realize is that carbohydrates are involved
when you discuss more healthy topics like dietary fibre.
Carbs are not just found in rice/noodles, milk and cakes, but also
vegetables and fruits. You may think you are cutting out carbs
from your diet but the reality is that you cant avoid it at all. This
is a pretty good read on carbohydrates which will change your
The rule on carbs is simply this eat more of the healthy food
types (fruits, vegetables), moderate your intake on the heavy
stuff like rice/noodles, and severely reduce intake of the
obviously unhealthy food like soft drinks and sweets.
Youve been hearing this for decades from your parents and
school teachers, and theyve been right all this while.
If you decide to cut out a major carb source, say rice, altogether,
sooner or later its going to come back and bite you. You either
get super sluggish due to a lack of energy or you get intense
cravings that only more rice is going to solve.
People ask me if Ive been starving myself to lose my weight.
Absolutely not I still eat full plates of economy rice (one bowl
of rice plus one serving of meat and two servings of vegetables)
and I eat oily dishes like Hokkien noodles several times a week.
Id go crazy if I dont get to eat good food in Singapore. The
secret is that I dont eat oily food every day.
As a teenager in junior college, I hit the gym three times a week
with my friends as part of our dragonboat training. We got all
muscular and very strong, but the catch is that maintenance of a
muscular body is extremely hard. The more important thing to
note is that we built up the muscles for a specific purpose for
competitive rowing.
Over the past few years, Ive had friends tell me that its
important to go to the gym to build muscle that will increase the
metabolic rate.
Well, I dont disagree on the science, but really, I have no need
for all those muscles in my sedentary work life. Its nice to look
beefy and such, but the fashion today is to wear slim-fit clothes
you know.
My focus these days is more on cardiovascular exercise, rather
than strength training. Im now running 7km about 3-4 times a
week, a good improvement from the 3km I used to max out at
three years ago.
While this might seem extreme to some people, I can tell you the
fitter you get, the longer you have to run just to burn enough
calories the body keeps adjusting and its not really that
tiring, just time consuming. I dont run marathons because I have
better things to do over 4 hours than try to kill myself.
In my opinion, cardio training has far more benefits over
strength training for the average person. The immediate effects
are a clearer complexion and a lowered resting heart rate (which
means a stronger heart and better circulation).
Coupled with a healthy diet, cardio is the fastest way to lose
weight and keep it down. Strength training is more likely to lead
to weight gain as you pile on the muscle without burning off the
fat fast enough.
Like any exercise, cardio training requires absolute discipline to
see results. Many people get all enthusiastic for the first few
runs, then interest/motivation drops off rapidly.
One useful trick is to use a pedometer or GPS watch, then
constantly upload your running data to share with friends. This
builds accountability and a desire to improve when others are
Some people cannot do intensive cardio because of weak joints
or other injuries. Theres still the option of swimming for them.
For me, I dont swim regularly because for some reason I cannot
seem to do two laps without feeling incredibly tired. Different
strokes for different folks!
Regular running can also lead to higher risk of injuries in the
knees or ankles, so it is really important to invest in good running
shoes and know when to cut back.
The minute your body starts hurting (not normal aching), you
NEED TO STOP and REMEDY. Recently, I had to stop using a new
pair of Asics shoes because it was just causing a huge strain on
my right ankle. I switched to a lightweight Saucony model and all
the pain disappeared.
As we progress in the working world, its only normal to increase
alcohol intake as we have more drinking sessions, parties, or
meals with clients.
However, you have to remember that each glass of beer contains
as much, if not more calories per milliliter as Coke. Just because
it isnt sweet doesnt mean that it isnt as fattening as a soft drink
Dont get me wrong, I like good beer and getting a little high. But
if youre serious about weight loss, its one of the first things to
cut back on.
There is one common thing that Ive frequently observed among
people who find it difficult to lose weight and those who wonder
why they dont seem to be able to save much money theyre
simply not very self-aware of their own habits, and they often
complain that its hard to lose weight or save money.
This chapter is more on our drinking habits, so I wont talk much
about how to save money because its different for everyone.
Some people have big necessary bills to pay, some have big
unnecessary bills, and some people find it tough to get a good
job. (What I do each month is to simply carve out my forced
savings the minute my pay cheque gets deposited into my bank
and transfer it into another account.)
Now to jump to my conclusion about healthy, economical
drinking just drink plain water all the time (duh).
People know that plain water is beneficial to the body, but you
need to look at the economics of commercialized water you
may not be aware of how much money you are literally pissing
into into the urinal and helping to fund the huge advertising
campaigns of beverage makers to get you to drink even more
sugared water.
I suspect that people are gaining more weight from the drinks
they consume than the food, because its become a regular habit
in the developed world to drink anything but plain water
Firstly, anything but plain water from the tap is grossly
overpriced today. On average, a can of soft drink or sugary drink
(eg. iced lemon tea) is about $1.60 SGD at time of writing, and
many adults today drink 2-3 cups of that daily.
That means in a month, youre spending about $96 SGD on
sugary drinks, and thats $1,152 SGD a year. It goes up higher if
you like to drink more expensive drinks from Starbucks or
McDonalds. If you drink Starbucks or some other premium drink
regularly, five days a week, add a $5 daily bill and the total
annual sum goes up to a whopping $2,352.
Some people dont even earn that amount each month.
I dont work in the beverage industry so I wouldnt know the
exact details, but Id wager at least 75% of that $1,152 is pure
profit for the drink companies and 100% pure loss for you
(because it just makes you fat).
What I can guarantee is that you dont need to spend 100% of
that $1,152 if you choose to. The simple solution which I employ
is just to bring a water bottle with me everywhere I go.
It doesnt mean that I dont spend anything on soft drinks or
premium coffee though, its just not a regular expenditure, more
like an occasional treat. And I wont refuse a free drink, of course
(but I wont finish the entire can if its fully loaded).
Some thoughts on some drinks I avoid consciously, and potential
annual savings on cash and calories if you are drinking them 3
times a week.
The assumption (as preached elsewhere in this book) is that
losing 1kg requires one to burn off an excess 7700 kcal (hence
the reverse of weight gain is true). The other assumption is that
if I speak in financial terms, the money-obsessed Singaporean is
more likely to remember this
Isotonic drinks or energy drinks are all hogwash if you think its
going to make you fitter or slimmer. You dont need to drink any
of this to replace the salt in your body or to give you more
endurance. Just eat enough of a balanced diet and drink lots of
plain water and you can still finish off that 2km or 10km run
without fainting.

They look beautiful with all the white cream or ice-cream floating
to the top, with a nice tinge of brown, white and black
throughout. Theyre also stuffed with more sugar than Coke.
A mocha frap with whipped cream can contain nearly 300 kcal in
a tall glass. Thats one-sixth of your days 1800 kcal requirement.
If youre going to hang out at Starbucks or Coffee Bean, try to
order just the plain stuff without milk or sugar, those are almost
calorie-free. Otherwise, try to share the fatty drinks with friends.

There was a big bubble tea craze in Singapore in the 1990s, and
while it has died down, lots of young people are still guzzling
them down. Lately, iced milk tea with scary amounts of sugar has
become popular too. I have a sweet tooth, and the one and only
time I decided to drink one of the 100% sugar level drinks, I
nearly developed diabetes on the spot.

In every food court, youll find the drinks stall selling freshly
squeezed fruit juices. Youd ask why is this unhealthy, since it
comes from fresh fruit itself.
Well, two respected nutritionists once told me that the body
cannot easily absorb the pulp/fibre of four or five fruits that it
takes to make a cup of juice, and thats a lot of sugar youre
guzzling down.
Next time you stand at the fruits drinks stall, just observe how
each drink is made at the blender and ask yourself if you can
swallow those four oranges at one go too? Its much better to
just munch on one apple or orange after each meal.
Needless to say, please avoid those packaged fresh juices at
the supermarket because theyre obviously not fresh and are full
of chemical additives.
Ive left out alcoholic beverages like beer because people dont
drink them regularly throughout the day, and if you do so, you
obviously have bigger problems than your weight. Just know that
a can of beer has about 150kcal or more, about the same as
Like I said, its ok to drink such sugary, expensive drinks on
occasion, be it weekly or every few days.
For those who are dieting, its also important to treat yourself to
a few sweet drinks weekly so you dont go crazy from sugar
But plain potable water from the tap is still the best
(By the way, if I forget to bring out my water bottle, I still refuse
to pay $2.00 for bottled water. Instead, I will walk to the nearest
toilet to drink from the tap as the Singapore public utilities offers
potable water everywhere.)
Its when you drink sweet drinks regularly that the danger piles
up for your health, while your bank account is fleeced
unnecessarily. Now, the impact of these drinks are not seen
overnight, but over a period of 5 or 10 years.
I used to drink a cup of full-sugar soya bean drink almost every
work-day in the past, I no longer do so for obvious reasons.
I still drink coffee regularly, but most of the time its kopi-o-
kosong (ie. long black or Americano coffee) with 5 kcal at the
most for the caffeine, and no more than one cup of coffee daily.
If Ive exercised that day, I may switch to a full 150 kcal milk
coffee BUT I avoid the iced version because they charge you
about 66% more just for ice. Hot kopi is $1.50 SGD while iced
kopi is $2.50.
Thats plain price gouging for a few cubes of ice.
When it comes down to it, there are just too many theories on
weight loss and people get confused. It doesnt have to be so
complex, because you just need to remember a few things
Count your calories. Eat less than you burn and youll definitely
lose weight.
Exercise regularly to accelerate weight loss, but remember to
eat enough to fuel the activities.
Cut down on all sweet, oily and alcoholic stuff but do treat
yourself to these stuff several times a week to satiate the
Never allow yourself to go hungry. Or you will lose heart and
give up. Eat fruits/oatmeal/high fibre foods if you need to
snack between meals.
Drink plain water all the time. Almost every other beverage is
unnecessary and fattening.
Its really that simple. Dont let other people tell you otherwise.
I also created a poster you can print out and stick on your wall
that summarizes the same points. Download it here.
All the best in your new food journey!
So what happens if youve applied the stuff youve learned in this
book and achieved your desired weight loss? This chapter deals
with the Aftermath.
Losing weight is a science, but maintaining your weight is an art.
I coined this phrase on Facebook some time back as I realized
that it was actually more challenging to keep one's weight
constant than to lose weight.
As written in earlier chapters, as long as you stick to some simple
calorie counting, you will lose a predictable amount of weight.
The science is rock-solid reliable as long as you don't give up.
But when you've finally reached your desired weight, it gets very
tiring to keep counting calories, and your body is telling you that
it deserves better than the minimal level of calories it has been
enduring for weeks or months.
The risk of lapsing back into one's old eating habits is extremely
At the same time, your weight can never remain absolutely
constant like a non-living object - your body fluids and mass are
constantly in flux daily as it goes through hormonal changes,
water retention, illness, reactions to weather conditions and so
That's why some diet plans advise you not to weigh yourself
daily, but perhaps once a week.
I believe maintaining weight is an art - it requires a lot of
flexibility and there is no hard and fast rule to follow.
There are some general guidelines to remember though.
I disagree with the notion of not weighing myself daily.
If I can, I weigh myself twice a day - once in the morning before
breakfast and once before dinner.
You'd be surprised, but often, my weight is lightest before dinner
as the body is burning calories at full steam then. As long as my
weight is within 1kg of my ideal weight of 63kg (ie. 63kg 1kg),
I'm happy.
If it constantly stays in the high range or low range, then my
alarm bells will go off as I either need to lose weight or put on
more weight.
Having a modern, newfangled WiFi-capable weighing machine
like the Fitbit Aria helps a lot with the weight tracking.

If you use the Fitbit Aria Wifi-enabled weighing machine, it will log your
measurements into a regular online log.
The answer depends on which ideal weight formula you use. This
interesting website churns out different calculations depending
on popular opinion, BMI or approaches like the Devine formula.
If based on a global BMI range of 19-25, I can be 56 to 73kg!
Obviously that is too broad a range.
I decided on 63kg because this is the weight where I can fit into a
Levi's 29-inch jeans, and I have enough fat on my body not to
feel cold all the time. It also gives me a BMI of 21.5, which is
safely at the midpoint of the Health Promotion Board's healthy
range of 19-23 BMI. Find out what your BMI is here.
Interestingly, if my weight drops to 62kg, it's very apparent as my
face becomes more gaunt and unhealthy-looking.
If it goes up to 64kg, my face becomes slightly puffier than I'd
So yeah, looks do matter in this case!
Personally, this is the fine line of facial variances that I've
discovered to help me monitor my weight just by looking in the
Even more interesting is that people keep remarking that I have
lost some more weight even though it has remained largely
constant for months. Those must have been the days when I was
1kg lower than the ideal weight.
To readers who have not done calorie counting before, you
might wonder here how is it that I make it sound so easy to
calibrate my weight...to lose or gain one kilogram at will.
Well, that's the beauty of calorie counting - it just takes me a
week to bring myself to my desired weight, and the time needed
is short because it's just a few hundred grams I need to gain or
This is not boasting or fiction, it works for hundreds of thousands
of people out there and is the foundation of all my blabbering in
this book.
After experimenting for several weeks, I decided that it's ok to
have daily meals in the following combos:
One moderately rich meal a day (eg. up to 800 kcal) as
long as you keep the other two meals healthy (400-500
Three healthy meals a day (500kcal each) and one sweet
drink (eg. milk coffee with sugar, 150-200kcal)
As you can see, both combos provide about 1800 kcal of energy
each day, which is what I consider the Asian male adult daily
requirement (I think the oft-recommended 2000 kcal is too
much, but this can vary for other folks, so just experiment to find
out your sweet spot).
I also don't believe in having 5 small meals, or just one meal a
day. But your eating habits will differ from mine, just keep the
overall calorie count the same.
Now an 800kcal meal is pretty liberal - you can eat unhealthy
food like char kway teow but you cannot touch full-blown nasi
lemak which is a 1000 kcal meal. Then you also need to ask
yourself if you should be eating such oily food to begin with.
If you've been dieting to lose weight by counting calories, you
will probably not want to eat char kway teow even though you
can - your palate would have already changed to avoid such
dishes unless you have no other choice of food.
At the same time, I eat about 100 kcal of snacks daily. It can be
a few small squares of chocolate, or a small fun-sized pack of
Cheezels cheese crackers. That's to keep my sweet tooth at bay
while not putting on the pounds.
Finally, I eat one or two apples/honey dew slices a day. They're
both relatively low in calories (under 100 kcal per apple or honey
dew slice) and provide important fibre for bowel movements.
Some people say that you should just live a happy life and not
feel guilty about the food you're eating, so just go out and eat as
much rich and delicious food as you can.
That's hogwash, my dear reader.
It's like saying you can and should do nasty things to yourself on
a daily basis because you need to live life to the fullest.
Let's say... if you see a big bowl of ice-cream, you can choose to
feel guilty about eating it, or feel self-entitled to enjoying
I say you deserve it to eat it if you've been exercising well and
that ice-cream falls within your day's 1800 kcal. If both
conditions are not met, it is only natural that you should feel
Remember, guilt is a natural part of your conscience, and you
should not ignore it.
The problem with most people who do not control their weight,
is that they choose to stop feeling guilty and shout down their
little voice of conscience in their head.
And if you are versed in calorie-counting, you will see that
imaginary calorie number floating above the beautiful ice-cream.
And your unpleasant guilt will be replaced by grim determination
and cold rationality.
The benefits of regular exercise need not be repeated here. But
many people give up exercising the minute they think they've hit
their weight-loss goals.
It's like how many guys only start jogging when they have to do
their annual IPPT army fitness test.
That's obviously the wrong mentality, because exercise is so
critical to overall well-being, it should be done regularly for the
rest of your life. The Health Promotion Board in Singapore
recommends at least 150 min of exercise per week.
Exercise doesn't just help you to burn off any excess calories
from over-eating, it brings a whole host of other benefits like
better skin, strong circulation, toned muscles and more.
I also spent some time researching Fitbit and other fitness
tracking tools that encouraged walking to keep fit. While they do
work to help burn calories, the reality is that walking 10,000
steps, or 8km a day, takes a lot of precious time.
It's much more efficient and better for work-life balance to just
jog instead of walk.
Another personal observation is that many people seem to need
the company of friends before they can exercise. Many folks
running around the downtown Marina Bay area seem to be
gossiping more than they are sweating it out.
Well what happens when your friends are not free to exercise
with you?
Learn how to exercise in isolation or in groups, as long as you
keep at it with personal vigor.
Don't depend on the encouragement of friends to keep egging
you on, sooner or later the running group will break up and you
have no incentive to go jogging.
I often look at old pictures of my 10kg-heavier self to keep myself
going. Friends tell me they didn't consider me fat in the past, but
I know better.
A 1.71m-tall guy should not have a waist of 34 inches.
If you're shy about looking at old photos of yourself, this other
trick should work for everyone - just make sure you never get
too big for your skinny jeans.
The minute it starts getting tight, it's not a sign to get a new,
bigger pair. It's time to relook if you've lapsed from your healthy
diet and exercise regime.
That's how most of us gain weight over the years. First we go up
one inch with our jeans and tell ourselves that it's ok. Then
before long, we've jumped 4 inches in waist size and we resign
ourselves to our fate or poor metabolism.
That's not fate or metabolism you are resigning yourself to. It's
you succumbing to the ways of the world that gorges itself on
food and convinces you thats what good living is all about.
It is important to eat good and tasty food, because life is short
and we should not deprive ourselves of culinary pleasures.
The question is when do we cross the line of over-eating, and
thats what we fail to ask ourselves every day.
Ian Tan lives and works in Singapore, and blogs occasionally on
his site Empty Vessel (www.iantan.org)
He has been a photojournalist, newspaper editor, and technology
correspondent in Singapore Press Holdings. Later, he moved to
Microsoft to become a public relations professional, marketing
guy, and became the business lead for several technology
products like Xbox 360 and Surface tablets.
He spends his free time trying to be a good husband and dad,
riding his motorcycles, and attempting to become a decent violin
And until he started counting calories, he never thought he would
ever wear a size 29 pair of jeans again.