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Experts call for healthy lifestyle amid frenzy over weight loss

By Wang Xiaoyu| China Daily| Updated: February 28, 2024 L M S


A typical dish sought by health-conscious diners. Photo provided to China Daily

Health: Weight loss should be 'a long, gradual journey', expert says

Inspired by an actress who dropped 50 kilograms for the lead role in a recent box office hit, Liu Tiantian, a pastry chef in Beijing, decided to attempt fasting for one day — a diet method touted online as one that cleanses the body and jump-starts weight loss.

Later that day, she got acid reflux and had to quit.

"It was unwise of me to suddenly stop eating. I simply cannot carry on my life on an empty stomach," the 35-year-old said.

For lunch on Monday, Liu treated herself to a hearty bowl of stewed beef and potato, with rice and a side salad.

"I realized that we cannot follow celebrities' methods blindly, and the sustainable way for me to lose weight is to eat a balanced, low-fat diet," she said.

The film that has sparked a weight loss frenzy among the Chinese recently is YOLO, the highest-grossing movie of this year's Spring Festival holiday that portrays the struggle of a jobless woman who became a boxer. It is directed by and stars Jia Ling, who became known for her rotund figure and quick wit after her breakout roles in comedies.

Though Jia said the story is intended to highlight self-care and self-esteem, her startling physical transformation — she halved her weight in about a year — coupled with the inspirational film, has stirred a discussion on slimming and encouraged viewers to hit the gym or change their diets.

Another resident surnamed Liu in Beijing said that the movie has prompted her to reflect on weight management.

"I used to only do physical activities that I like, such as cardio workouts and high-intensity interval training that would increase my heart rate and release endorphins," said the 34-year-old. "Now, I also push myself to lift dumbbells to gain muscle."

As a foodie often frustrated by excess weight, Liu said that she understood and admired the excruciating efforts that Jia devoted to overcoming mood swings and how she endured lactic acid buildup to achieve her current figure.

"Considering that she's done it within a relatively short period, it is truly impressive," she said.

While applauding growing interests in healthy lifestyles, medical experts said that dramatic weight loss like Jia's is hard to replicate and warned of common pitfalls.

He Fang, a nutrition specialist at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University's School of Medicine, said that shedding weight at a rapid pace the way Jia did could trigger endocrine disorders and other health problems.

"It is more advisable to emulate Jia's perseverance and determination in pursuing a goal," she said. "How to enact a weight loss plan depends on each individual's gender, body mass index, muscle density and other factors."

She said that fad diets, such as low-carb, high-fat keto meals and weight loss pills, should be adopted under professional medical supervision.

"At the hospital, diet pills cannot be prescribed until we have run tests on patients and evaluate their health condition," she said. "Regarding workouts, the most important thing is to find a type of exercise that is safe and easy to continue in the long run, and it is important to combine cardio with resistance training."

In China, about 34 percent of adults are overweight, and more than 16 percent are obese. The National Health Commission estimated that by 2030, 65.3 percent of China's residents will be overweight or obese.

He, the doctor, said that her nutrition department has handled an increasing number of seriously obese patients weighing over 100 kg.

"The key to staying fit is adopting and adhering to a healthy lifestyle and understanding that weight loss is a long, gradual journey," she said.

Jia, the actress, said in a letter addressed to moviegoers in January that on the night that production of the film wrapped up, she ate 30 chocolate wafer bars.

Fan Zhihong, a professor of nutrition at China Agricultural University, said that sustaining an ideal weight is even harder than losing weight, and coping with weight loss anxiety by binging on tons of snacks is concerning.

"Many people who went on weight loss reality shows ended up relapsing off screen," she said. "Major weight fluctuations are no less harmful than being overweight."

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