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Put on weight since going overseas? You’re not the only one.

Meld Magazine

Thu May 19 2011


JOWEE TEE’S top tip for staying skinny:

Wake up late for class, skip breakfast, then almost kill yourself by running all the way to lectures. For extra endurance training- carry laptop. Repeat routine 3-4 days a week.

Okay, so that’s obviously not the best way to keep the weight off.

We all know the best way to live a healthy life is to eat well and exercise regularly, but that’s easier said than done.

For most of us, moving to a new country and living by ourselves for the first time is a harrowing experience and a healthy diet often falls by the wayside when we’ve got other things to worry about.

We skip meals and turn to fast food because it’s easier than preparing our own meals.

But accredited practising dietician Denise Griffith says poor eating habits like missing breakfast and eating too much fast food are the reasons why most students gain weight soon after leaving home.

“Generally students are eating foods that are high in fat, high in sugar and low in fibre, and they’re not eating enough vegetables and fruit,” she says.

Photo: Karen Poh

Sometimes food. Eating too much saturated fat and sugar can not only lead to weight gain, but can also increase your chances of type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and heart disease. Photo: Karen Poh

The Better Health Channel website shows eating too much saturated fat and sugar can not only lead to weight gain, but can also increase your chances of type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and heart disease.

Whereas a diet full of fruits and vegetables can help keep away everything from the common cold to some types of cancer.

So if you’re worried about gaining weight or just want to eat better and live healthier while you’re studying, here are some handy hints:

1. Less partying and heavy drinking

Sure, it might seem like something your mum would say, but alcohol is packed with calories and extremely expensive. With our student budget, it’s the equivalent of spending our hard earned cash making ourselves fat.

A typical night out usually involves at least two or three drinks, going on a ‘Maccas Run’ afterwards and staying awake all night thanks to the caffeine in some alcohol mixes.

Unfortunately, all those kilojoules can and do inadvertently lead to bulging guts, pimples and a throbbing headache the next morning.

If you’re planning a big night out, Ms Griffith recommends sticking to low-grade alcoholic drinks like mixers and keeping yourself properly hydrated.

And never drink more than two or three drinks in one night. Not only will you wake up feeling sick, you could also seriously damage your liver and brain.

Keep the weigh off by going for healthy food options. Photo: Aun Ngo

Keep the weigh off by going for healthy food options. Photo: Aun Ngo

2. Be in control of your eating habits and understand the facts

“It’s very important that people read the labels on the products, but they also need to understand what they mean,” says Ms Griffith. “It’s also important to consider how much sugar and how much total energy or kilojoules it’s got in it as well.”

Don’t just get the 99 per cent fat free stuff just because it’s 99 per cent fat free. You might just end up with milk-flavored water that has been stripped of all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy.

The best thing about being overseas all by yourself is that you can control your eating habits.

Opting for green tea instead of hot chocolate with full cream milk might not sound as yummy, but your thighs will thank you later.

And while there’s no one to force you to eat your vegetables, you can force yourself to finish your own vegetables because you paid for it.

So, be smart and swap processed foods for fruits, vegetables and meals you’ve prepared yourself at home. There’s not better way to know what’s in your food than to prepare it yourself!

Keep fit by organising a game of soccer with friends. Photo: Aun Ngo

3. Challenging your housemates to a sit-up competition

Or challenge your housemates to a duel, like Joseph Wong, 20, did.

“I bought styrofoam swords for about $2 and gave one of them to my housemate,” he says.

“Then whenever I got stressed from studying too much I would walk coolly to my housemate’s room and smack him on the head. Naturally a fight would follow and we’d look quite gallant, swinging styrofoam swords at each other, jabbing and lunging.”

We’re not suggesting everyone needs to attack their housemates with toy swords, but the key to exercise is to be creative.

There are an infinite number of ways to work out and any form of physical activity is better than none. Running around for a good half hour playing with swords can burn about 400 calories, depending on how hard you run.

If you’re friends and housemates want to lose weight too, drag them out of their rooms and make time for a work out session.

Group exercising is better motivation than doing it alone. Things like dancing to your favorite guilty pleasures, be it the Spice Girls or Dizzie Rascal, for a half hour can burn about 461 calories.

4. Join a sport, any sport

Get moving. Activities are fun and many sporting clubs offer free first tries, so make use of them and experience of playing a whole wide range of sports.

An half an hour game of soccer can burn up to 898 calories, while a game of squash burns 945 calories and a game of tennis burns 737.

Not to mention, you might just discover a new passion along the way too.

5. Mind over matter

It’s easy to become discouraged when you’re on the path to weight loss, so knowing yourself and what motivates you is the best way to stay on track.

For example, stepping on the scales after a heavy meal versus stepping on it when you haven’t eaten anything in the morning or after you’ve been to the toilet can make a world of difference to your weight and, as a result, your self-esteem.

Once I tweeted something along the lines of, “I think if I stepped on the scales today, I would become an emo.”

So don’t be too hard on yourself, don’t do the things that you know will make you give up or lose hope and stay positive no matter how much weight you lose..

6. But don’t forget: Live life to the fullest

We worry too much about things like our finances, studies, future careers, social lives, and now, weight gain, but the best way to stay healthy is to think smart and be sensible.

If you keep my hints in mind and stress less, you’ll find you might just lose the weight without even realising it.

For a complete chart on calorie burning activities, check out

Photo: Aun Ngo

Photo: Aun Ngo

Did you know?

  • For every gram of alcohol, there are seven calories. This makes it twice as fattening as carbohydrates or protein (each containing four calories per gram). One margarita (200ml) for example, contains about 453 calories.
  • To put this into context, a plate of pasta (230 grams) contains 480 calories.
  • A McDonald’s large chocolate milkshake contains about 505 calories with 13 grams of fat.
  • This is a little less than a Quarter Pounder with cheese, which has 549 calories and 28 grams of fat.
  • The types of fats you should also avoid are saturated fat, trans fat or hydrogenated fats. These are the ones that raises cholesterol levels and are usually found in junk food.
  • But dieting doesn’t mean cutting all fats from our system. Our bodies needs fatty acids for growth, healthy skin and to keep our metabolism up. That’s why we feel satisfied after junk food, but it quickly becomes lethargy.
  • What we do want is unsaturated fats like the ones found in olives, olive oil, nuts, peanuts oil and avocados. They’re good for our bodies and can even help with weight loss!