Fitness: New Year indulgences fine in moderation

It is back to the gym after the Chinese New Year festivities, but the road to losing all those extra calories would be easier if one has feasted in moderation.
It is back to the gym after the Chinese New Year festivities, but the road to losing all those extra calories would be easier if one has feasted in moderation.PHOTO: PURE FITNESS

Expert suggests healthier choices such as more vegetables while having adequate sleep and physical activity

As you tuck into that pineapple tart or slice of bak kwa over this holiday period, always remember: moderation is key. That is the message active health expert Christabelle Ho has for those enjoying the Chinese New Year festivities.

"One misconception people have about trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is that they should totally avoid certain foods," she said.

"If you have to cut everything out, it sounds daunting. And if you think you can't do it, you might get discouraged and not do it at all.

"So it's about setting realistic goals and being consistent in putting in the effort to achieve them."

Ho, 25, is one of five active health experts based at the two Active Health Labs at Our Tampines Hub and Bedok.

The Active Health Lab, which is still in its pilot phase, is part of the Active Health movement run by Sport Singapore with the aim of promoting ownership of one's health.

It aims to develop a personalised fitness regime for those who register at the Health Lab and offers themed classes and workshops.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Social support is important. For example, if a reader wants to adopt some of the tips in this article, they can share it with their friends or family members. When you try doing something alone, it is always harder.

CHRISTABELLE HO, one of five active health experts based at the two Active Health Labs at Our Tampines Hub and Bedok.

Ho says healthy choices can be made to inculcate good habits, starting from Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

"For steamboat dinners, one thing we can do is to portion food, instead of putting everything on the table," she said.

"If you see all the food in front of you, you'd want to finish it, then end up overeating."

She also suggested making a conscious effort to eat more vegetables "because the tendency is to eat more meat and fried food" during festive gatherings.

One square slice of the barbecued bak kwa (94g) contains 370 calories and three pineapple tarts (20g) add up to 246 calories.

Chewing slowly and more thoroughly can also prevent overeating - it takes 20 minutes for the brain to register that you are eating.

Another tip is eating healthy snacks, like fruits or nuts, and drinking a cup of water before eating the actual meal, so you feel fuller and eat less.

"Also, when we go visiting house to house, we often also drink sugary drinks, instead of water," she noted.

"Not drinking enough water can lead to mild dehydration, which makes you feel hungry."

Apart from nutrition, Ho also said other pillars of a healthy lifestyle such as physical activity, sleep and less screen time are important.

Using the stairs instead of the lift, or taking a 10-minute brisk walk after dinner, can go a long way.

Adequate sleep of seven to nine hours will also help you avoid being lethargic, she added, although keeping the occasional late night is fine.

And being focused on your smartphone or digital device, especially when you eat, can lead to overeating.

Echoing her point about moderation and balance, Ho added that trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle with those closest to you, is also a good move.

"Social support is important," she said. "For example, if a reader wants to adopt some of the tips in this article, they can share it with their friends or family members.

"When you try doing something alone, it is always harder. So it's good if you can do it together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'New year indulgences fine in moderation'. Print Edition | Subscribe