As a health and nutrition coach, this question is the one I deal with every single day.
The answer can be boiled down to this, “Find the reason or reasons you are overweight and make a change for each reason.
These two steps are not always as simple as they sound. Firstly, there are many wrong ideas about what makes a person gain weight, not helped by the sheer volume of misinformation out there. Secondly, there is so much bad (or obsolete) science about our relationship with food, that there is a tendency to make incompatible changes or do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Thirdly, human beings are not machines, our physiological processes differ from individual to individual, what’s good for the goons is not always good for the granddad. (not to mention the goose and the gander)
Here is a list of common reasons that Nigerians get fat and suggested solutions for each one
I eat too much. Pretty straightforward; mountains of food, two, three, or even four times a day. Eating as much as possible at every opportunity. Solution; Eat less! Eat slowly, drink water as you eat, plan to eat again in a few hours instead of eating like it’s your last meal.
I drink too much. Well, what is too much? From a weight gain perspective, it depends on what else is going down. I know some skinny alcoholics. . . If you wash a ‘normal’ balanced meal down with a bottle of Nigerian lager or a large glass of wine you are upping the calorie count by 200-300 calories. Considering that the correct calorie intakes for men and women who are fit and not trying to lose or gain weight are roughly 2500 and 2000 respectively, drinking can easily tip a person into excess consumption. It’s not just the alcoholic drinks either, every cup of any sweet drink, be it ‘pure’ juice or fizzy soft-drink is another 100-150 calories. Your body is quick to convert all these extra and empty calories to fat. Solution; Drink water when thirsty. Have alcohol free days, switching from a daily drink to drinking only on the weekend can yield instant weight loss. If drinking with a meal, ditch the carbohydrate part of the meal. If you want a beer with your grilled fish and fried plantain, abandon the plantain.
I only eat once a day. This is another easy way to get fat, if you allow your body to go for long periods without fueling up, you are teaching it to store fat. There’s a detailed article about this, HERE. Solution; Spread your eating through the day, eat 3 meals and two snacks and don’t have long periods of hunger.
I’m not at all active. You get out of bed to sit in a car, to go sit in an office and then you sit in a car to go sit in front of a television. When you go out, you sit at a bar or a table in a beer parlour and . . . wait, movement, some weight-lifting, is that a dumbbell? No, no such luck, it’s a beer-glass. Meanwhile, you eat as much or even more than you did when you played football twice a week and walked for miles every day. . . Solution; Move more. Get some exercise. Read this ARTICLE for advice on exercise.
An article like this wouldn’t be complete without some ‘don’ts’. I often get clients who are frustrated by years of trying really hard to lose weight. These are disciplined people trying really hard, but doing the wrong things or the right things in the wrong ways or at the wrong times. Here is a short list of things that I have seen fail repeatedly. Avoid the following:
Low-fat or zero-fat diets – Apart from the benefits only available in fats like Omega fatty acids, trying to get your body to burn its own fat without stimulating ketogenesis with dietary fats is is like trying to dig a hole in the ground with a paper shovel in the rain.
Skipping meals – Makes your body create fat.
Skipping breakfast – Same as above but worse.
Fasting or other starvation diets. A short fast can actually be beneficial for resetting your body prior to a lifestyle or nutritional change but as a weight-loss mechanism, it is not sustainable for long term gains.
Wetin You Dey Chop?
Major Abs’ Takeaway
If you are trying to lose weight, one of the best tools you can use is a diary. Weigh yourself and record your weight every day or every week. Record everything you eat or drink and look for trends. If you can’t find the flaws in your diet and lifestyle by yourself, you can take or send your diary to a professional (like me) to analyse and tell you where you are going wrong. (and what you are doing right)