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A student's guide to losing weight - Part 2

A student's guide to losing weight - Part 2

In part 1 of the weight loss series, we covered some general guidelines for losing weight. Now, let us delve into the specifics.

1. Change your diet

Reduce the carbs you eat. Studies have shown that low carb diets can help you lose weight and improve your health. But if you reduce carbs, surely you must increase your intake in other areas? What? —that is the question.

Some people increase their fats intake. Sounds counterintuitive? Well, there are some research out there that suggests that high fat diets trigger fat burning in your body(ketosis), resulting in weight loss. However, though true, a high fat diet also comes with its own associated health problems, such as an increased likelihood of having heart disease. My suggestion? Up your protein intake. A diet high in protein helps you to feel fuller, and allows you to eat more food than you possibly can in a high fat diet.

The jury is still out on what is the best diet for weight loss. When in doubt, eat in moderation, in accordance with what the Health Promotion Board suggests.

And avoid the following list of foods.

Foods to avoid

  • Sugar: ice cream, soft drinks, fruit juices (without the fibre, they are nature’s coke), candies, ketchup
     
  • Trans fats: margarine
     
  • Highly processed foods: bacon (too much saturated fats and sodium), instant noodles (aka packaged death-wish)

2. But don’t do something you cannot do in the long term

For me, it’s dieting.

A few weeks back, while surfing mindlessly on the Internet, I saw this Khloe Kardashian backed diet— ominously named the military diet—and because it promised to help me lose 3kg in 3 days, I gave it a try. As with all diets, the portion is small, and for the most part, healthy. To keep an accurate record of how effective the diet is, I stepped onto the weighing scale every day and kept a record of my weight.

The first day, I was a carrot-munching, apple-crunching devotee of the diet. Weight on the first day: 50.4kg. Fast forward to the second day… 49.50kg. I know I shouldn’t let a number define me, but for the few seconds I was on the weighing scale, I was happy.

But lunch came. And I wasn’t that happy anymore. I looked at my friend’s mouth-watering food, and then back at my pathetic bread, cheese and hardboiled egg, and I wanted to cry. My breaking point came during dinner. I looked at my friend’s bak ku teh and I decided that one small pork rib cannot hurt… I ended up eating 2 pork ribs, 1 bowl of lamb soup and 2 sticks of satay.

Weight on third day: 49.05kg. By now, I just wanted the diet to end, and then go back to eating proper food. The day passed by in a whirl and throughout the day, my stomach kept pleading me to give it something good. Anything will do. Just something other than eggs, bread, carrots, apples and cheese. I patted my stomach and told it to hang in there. By then, I was almost on the verge of tears.

Weight on fourth day… I don’t know, because I didn’t weigh, because I don’t care. Dieting is simply not the way to go for me, and no matter how tempting those numbers are, I won’t do it again.  A week later, when I finally did weigh, I realised that the pounds I have shed have found their way back to me. Rebounds are real.

My story serves as a cautionary tale for those who have been dieting on and off, and seeing their weight yo-yo. To lose weight, you need to make lasting lifestyle changes. Don’t go about it in a way that makes you question the meaning of life. But for those of you who think that you have more discipline and perseverance than me, you can find the military diet here.

3. Exercise (but not all exercises are made the same)

Exercising helps you burn calories (duh). But to get the most out of your exercise routine, it is not enough to exercise hard, you also need to exercise smart. Enough talk, let’s get moving.

a. Lower body exercise are more efficient

Your largest muscles are in your legs, and by working those muscles, you create more micro-tears that your body has to spend energy repairing. Do squats, lunges and other leg exercises and you will see the fats in your arms melt away. (If you haven’t realised by now, targeted fat loss—such as losing only fats on your bum—isn’t possible.)

b. Do interval trainings

Alternate between periods of all-out effort and rest, such as 8 seconds of high-intensity all out sprint and 12 seconds of low- intensity comfortable jog, for 20 minutes. It will help you burn more calories, in a shorter time than say, 40 minutes of long distance running.

c. Exercise with a friend

Exercising with a friend makes the workout more enjoyable and helps you to exercise more, without you realising it. Research has shown that when working out with a friend, the two of you release twice as much feel-good endorphins as those who exercised solo. No wonder they say happiness is contagious.

These are just some exercise tips that I found when – once again—surfing mindlessly on the net. To read the details, click here.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with being a little on the plump side. If you are feeling a little insecure about your size but cannot muster the energy to get out of bed for a morning run, or pack your lunch box with celery sticks, then trust Google to make you feel better. Type in “health benefits of a big butt” and you will realise being all about that bass isn’t so bad after all. 

A student's guide to losing weight - Part 1

A student's guide to losing weight - Part 1

Have you ever stepped onto the weighing scale and feel the world collapse around you?

“I thought… I was… this can’t be… I was 48kg just last month! What happened!?”

(insert screaming, wailing and an impending breakdown)

Weight gain, while irrelevant to some teenage boys who look like pole sticks no matter what kind of junk food they stuff themselves with, is sadly a looming reality for the rest of us. If you, like me, are going through an unexplainable phase of weight gain, or are simply not at your ideal weight, then you might want to try the following weight loss tips.

1. Lose more calories than you gain

Before you start your ambitious lose-three-kg-by-Sunday weight loss program, you need to know the rule of the game. That’s right, there is only one rule, and that is losing more calories than you gain. Sounds simple? Just a simple I-ate-1500-calories-and-burnt-1700-calories subtraction.

2. Accept that you might have it harder

That is until you realise different people have different metabolism rates, depending on their lifestyles and their genes. For instance, muscles burn more calories than fats. So a muscular person will have a higher basal metabolic rate than a fat person of the same weight, and burns more calories even when resting. It is also true that some people naturally have a higher metabolism. It is in their genes. Meaning that the next time your skinny friend asks you to go café hopping with her, pause and reconsider your decision. Though both of you will come out poorer from it, you might be the only one coming out fatter. Life is unfair, suck it up.

3. Not all calories are the same

To complicate things even more, not all calories are made the same. Some types of food are calorie-dense and high in fat. Think of heavenly foods like French fries, coke, cakes. Such foods don’t provide much nutrition and won’t keep you full for long. Other types of food are nutrient dense and provide a disproportionate amount of good vitamins and minerals relative to their calorie count. Think vegetables, fruits, lean meat, whole grains, nuts and beans. 

Oh and about the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day… well, it’s true. In one recent study, people whose largest meal is breakfast lost 8kg over 3 months. While those whose largest meal is dinner lost only 3kg. Even though their total daily calories intake is the same, and they had the same exercise regime.

This is because the body’s ability to make use of the calories it gets fluctuates throughout the day, in line with the body’s circadian rhythm. Eating too late and too much will only mean your body is unable to burn away the excess calories. I know, dinner dates are way more romantic than lunch dates and breakfast dates (if there is even such a thing).  And when sitting across your Mr/Miss Right, it is easy to lose count of the calories you are eating. But hey, too much of those dinner dates and you might just scare your dream guy/girl away.

4. Follow your body

Your body’s unique circadian rhythm will also decide when is the best time for you to exercise. There is no one size fits all solution. If you are a morning person, go for a morning jog. But if you are a night owl, you will find that afternoon or evening exercises are more productive for you.

Losing weight is a skill that takes time to learn. In Part 2 tomorrow, we will cover specific tips that you can do to finally shed those pounds. Until then, stay away from the scales. 

7 health-centric apps you need in your phone

7 health-centric apps you need in your phone

Considering that most of us are glued to our phones nowadays, and will likely go into panic mode if our phones are not by our side 24/7, why not allow our phone apps to enhance our lifestyles too?

So long as we don't end up like these guys...

So long as we don't end up like these guys...

It's only a matter of time before this tech-loving generation is relying on the latest gadgets to aid them in achieving a healthier lifestyle, so why not make it fun to be fit and check out these 7 apps that can help us all stay healthy (plus, they're FREE!)

1. Couch to 5K 

If you've never ran more than the distance required to catch the bus, and the thought of the 2.4km run portion of NAPFA test makes you want to vomit, then this app is for you. Couch to 5K, or C25K, aims to take couch potatoes and slackers off their butts and slowly whip them up into shape so they can successfully complete a 5km run without passing out halfway through.

The time period for this sitting-to-running evolution is 2 months, and what I like best about this app is that there's an active, supportive community of people who are taking part (or have took part) in the program available online to share tips and cheer one another on.

2. 7 Minute Workout

The idea behind the 7 minute workout is to use your body weight to create exercises that build strength and endurance, all in the comforts of your home. That's right, no need for fancy equipment or a gym membership to get that toned body fit for Siloso beach!

The app functions as a High Intensity Interval Training countdown timer. Simply follow the instructions and perform each exercise at a high-intensity effort for 30 seconds. When the timer goes off, move on to the next exercise and so on. The workout is a mix of dynamic as well as static exercises such as planking for 30 seconds, so by the end of 7 minutes, you should have broken out into a sweat. If you're looking for more of a challenge, the workout can be repeated 2-3 times.

3. Zombies, Run

If you already find running a great way to de-stress, unwind, and keep fit, congratulations, my friend. Why not up the challenge by turning your run into an epic adventure? One of my personal favourites, Zombies, Run! is an immersive running game where every run is a mission to escape zombies and collect supplies to grow your base back home in order to survive. 

The audio stories are dramatic and exciting, and the best part is that you can set the app to play songs from your own playlist, so you get to run to your own running mixes. 

4. Map My Fitness

Another app for the running junkies! Map My Fitness is a handy tool if you happen to be on an overseas trip with family or with school, and you want to check out the sights by going for a jog. The app will find the best and most convenient running routes in the city that you are currently in, so you get to try out interesting routes that runners from all over the world recommend. (Fun fact: The most popular running route in Singapore is in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve)

The app also syncs easily to other fitness apps like Nike+ and MyFitnessPal so you can easily keep track of your kms and calories burned seamlessly by letting technology work for you. 

5. Plant Nanny

Plant Nanny helps you to stay hydrated throughout the day by tracking your daily water intake. There's tons of water tracking apps out there but this one turns it into a game. Drinking a glass of water at an allotted time in the day will help your plant grow from a seed into a fully bloomed flower, and oh my goodness, look how adorable those plants are! 

You can choose the size of the glass of water to consume each time but my suggestion would be 8 glasses of 177ml/6 oz water to keep you well hydrated and energised every day. 

6. StrongLifts

If you've ever felt lost as a lamb at the gym over what kinds of weights to use or how long you should rest between reps, StrongLifts will help answer those questions. The app focuses on weight training with weights and barbells by introducing a weight training newbie in performing just 5 types of barbell lifts per week: the deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press, and bent-over row.

It's a 3-day-per-week program that uses 2 different workouts alternated throughout the week, with a rest day between each training day. So you'll get to learn different types of weight training exercises, while allowing your muscles to adapt to the various workouts without overstraining them. 

7. Virtual Runner

If you've ever felt that running on the treadmill is similar to running on a hamster wheel, and you're bored of the repetitive motion, Virtual Runner can help to create a fun simulative environment for your run.

The app uses virtual reality and high-def videos of different scenes in exotic locations to make it seem like you're running in that location. From New York Central Park to Niagara Falls, it's a fun way to convince yourself that running is actually pretty exciting.

The only downside to this is that you'll have to take along a tablet to prop up against the treadmill as the simulation loses its appeal on a mobile phone.

 

 

20 seconds of this a day will transform your health

20 seconds of this a day will transform your health

There's one exercise pose that you can do anywhere, anytime. Whether it's at the gym, or in your bedroom, or if you feel like, right in the middle of your lecture theatre. You don't require any equipment, other than your own body weight. What is it? 

Planking. 

Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they don't take up much time like swimming, require rallying friends like soccer, and yet still offer the chance to achieve results in a short span of time. Just starting with 20 seconds of plank a day would boost your immune system and help prevent injuries. So what happens when you start doing planks every day?

1. Planking improves your core strength

Abdominal muscles like the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes provide support for our entire back and spinal column. However, our core muscles have to be strong for them to play a vital role in supporting your spine and preventing injuries. This means training those muscles. When you start strengthening these muscle groups you will notice:

Transverse abdominis: Increased ability to lift heavier weights.
Rectus adbominis: Improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. (This is also the muscle group responsible for giving you that coveted six pack)
External oblique muscles: Improved ability to side-bend and twist from the waist
Glutes: Gives you a strong supported back and shapely butt

2. Planking decreases your risk of back and spine injury

According to the Korea's Inje University's Department of Physical Therapy, planking regularly not only greatly reduces back pain, but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back. Planking allows you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. This will also allow you to improve your overall posture and balance.

3. Planking gives an increased boost to your metabolism

Planking burns more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by regularly planking provide an enhanced metabolic rate, ensuring that you burn more energy and fat even when not exercising (yes, even while you are sleeping). This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of your computer studying. 

3. Planking improves your overall mood

Doing planks will also have an effect on improving your overall mood. By stretching out those muscle groups we've mentioned above, they release stress and tension in the body.

Just think about it: if you are sitting in your chair in school all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These all put stress on your muscles and nerves, and planking for 20 seconds can release those tension.

This not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression.

How do I start planking regularly?

First, you must learn how to hold a proper plank position:
1. Get into pushup position on the floor. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
2. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toes with no sagging at the belly area. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
3. Breathe in and out slowly and steadily as you hold the position for as long as you can.

Try this 20 Days challenge to see improvements in your overall health:
Dаy 1: 20 seconds
Dаy 2: 20 seconds
Dаy 3: 30 seconds
Dаy 4: 30 seconds
Dаy 5 : 40 seconds
Dаy 6: Rest
Dаy 7: 45 seconds
Dаy 8: 45 seconds
Dаy 9: 60 seconds
Dаy 10: 60 seconds
Dаy 11: 60 seconds
Dаy 12: 90 seconds
Dаy 13: Rest
Dаy 14: 90 seconds
Dаy 15: 90 seconds
Dаy 16: 120 seconds
Dаy 17: 120 seconds
Dаy 18: 150 seconds
Dаy 19: Rest
Dаy 20: As long as you can

4 reasons why you're always so tired

4 reasons why you're always so tired

If you are one of those people who set 7 alarms on your phone but still hit the snooze button for each one every single morning, or you constantly feel like you have zero energy, here are 4 possible reasons as to why you feel so tired all the time. As well as tips for each one to help you feel more energised and awake (without the help of caffeine)!

1. You're having too much screen time before bed

I doubt there is a single person under the age of 25 now alive who doesn't use their smartphones before they sleep. Every student is guilty of this! Whether surfing the net, watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram, using your phones in bed is not helping your quality of sleep at all. Researchers from Harvard found that students read an e-book before going to sleep, they got significantly less REM (deep) sleep and felt up to 60% less alert the following morning.

Phones screens emit bright blue light so you can see what's on your screen even in the sunniest of days. But at night, your brain gets confused by that light. This causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that gives your body the "time to sleep" cues. Because of this, smartphone light can disrupt your sleep cycle, making it harder to fall and stay asleep — and potentially causing serious health problems along the way.

If you have an iPhone, try setting the Night Shift mode to automatically switch on from 9pm onwards, or better still, try to stop using your phone for 45-60 minutes before you actually try and nod off. Read a book, listen to music, try meditation, as long as it's anything without a screen.

2. Your food choices suck

As much as I love my daily Starbucks' fix, MacD's and cake, obviously there comes a point where too much junk food is just too much. What you eat during the day can affect your sleep pattern at night, and your overall diet is a huge thing that affects how well you rest and how alert you'll feel in the day. Most people have cultivated the habit of having a caffeine fix first thing in the morning to jump start their system, but over the long run, your body becomes immune to the stimulant properties of caffeine.

Try eating a balanced breakfast every morning that includes one source of protein, such as a banana or eggs. Stay away from any sugar. Sure, that 10am chocolate muffin might sound good then but when you're struggling to keep your eyelids open by 1pm, it won't be so great. Your magnesium levels also play a key role in the regulation of sleep. If it's too low, you can feel anxious and exhausted. Try to keep those levels up by adding more leafy greens and nuts to your diet. 

3. You're not getting enough of a workout

Studies have long concluded that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. It can be running, playing basketball, cycling or a quick yoga session; but by adding those 2+ hours of moderate to vigorous activity into your week, it's enough to provide a 65% improvement in your sleep quality! 

Exercising in the early morning and afternoon can be especially beneficial as it helps reset the sleep-wake cycle by raising your body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later. It can also be helpful if you are able to exercise outdoors to let your body absorb some natural sunlight which triggers the circadian rhythms (body clock) to reduce insomnia. 

So the next time you're having trouble falling asleep, a quick run downstairs will do wonders instead of binge-watching Orange is the New Black on your phone screen.

4. Your sleep environment sucks

Is your bedroom too noisy, too bright, or not very comfortable? Your sleep environment can have a huge influence on your sleep quality. By pinpointing the things that may be causing stress or distraction, and eliminating them. You can set yourself up for the best possible sleep every night.

We’ve already mentioned that too much light from your phone screens at night can shift our internal body clock and make good sleep difficult to achieve. External lights such as bright lights outside your bedroom window can also be a contributing factor. Make sure that your bed doesn't face any direct lights, and if needed, an eye mask can help in blocking out any form of lights shining on your eyelids.

How hot or cold your room temperature is can also affect how well you snooze. There is no perfect temperature to produce optimal sleep patterns. People simply sleep best at the temperature that feels most comfortable. That said, REM (deep) sleep is commonly more sensitive to extreme temperatures so make sure that your blanket is neither too thin till you're feeling chilly, nor too thick till you're feeling stuffy.

 

Should you "sweat it out" when you're sick?

Should you "sweat it out" when you're sick?

We're headed into the end of the year! Along with the school holidays, Christmas and cooler weather, also comes influenza. Did you know Singapore has 2 big flu seasons? One in June, and the other in December.  

Picture this scene. You fill up your water bottle at the gym, bend down to tie your shoelaces, and stand up -- just in time to catch a thorough spraying from a guy sneezing next to you. Gross. 

You're thinking, "doesn't this coughing, sneezing, inconsiderate dude belong at home resting?! Not here infecting all the gym equipment!" Well, this results in the age old question: when you are not feeling well, should you "sweat it out" by exercising or recuperate in bed? Let's clear the confusion once and for all. 

Your immune system

Every single day, bacteria and viruses are attacking our bodies. It's a germy jungle out there. Thankfully, your immune system has a way of protecting itself. It does this through physical barriers like mucus lining in your nasal passages, chemical barriers like stomach acid, and producing protective cells like white blood cells. 

Things that affect your immune system

First, let's get one thing clear: There's a difference between "working out" and "physically moving the body." A workout in which you find yourself sweating hard, breathing heavily, and feeling some physical discomfort, awakens a stress response in the body. When we are healthy, our bodies can easily adapt to that stress. In fact, this adaptation is what makes us fitter and stronger over time. But when we are sick, the stress of a tough workout can be more than our immune systems can handle.

So, should you exercise when feeling sick?

Prolonged vigorous exercise is definitely out when you are feeling under the weather (no marathon running, duh). But some non-strenuous movement can actually help your immune system to battle the flu germs. These are activities such as: Walking, yoga, light swimming, and low-intensity cycling. 

These activities are not super intense until it poses serious immunity-compromising stress on the body. But they boost your heart rate sufficiently enough to help your body fight illness. Research shows that even one session of moderate exercise seems to strengthen the adaptive immune system. Even better if you do it regularly.

Also, it's important to return to your strenuous workout routine gradually. A good tip to follow is to return to heavy exercise in proportion to how long you were sick for. So if you were sick for three days, take three days to ease back in. 

One final note: For the sake of the rest of us, we suggest exercising at home and avoiding team sports while you are sick. All it takes is a single cough, sneeze or touch and bam! -- you've spread your virus to the whole gym...

4 choices to help you stay healthy

4 choices to help you stay healthy

If you have been watching the news, you probably would have heard of this name: Zika. It is a kind of virus that is quickly spreading in Singapore. This virus is especially dangerous for pregnant women because it causes microcephaly in foetuses, a birth defect which leaves a baby with an abnormally small head.

Although as a student, you are not most at risk, the stark reality is germs and viruses surround us and they are constantly warring against us. The only thing that keeps you from succumbing is your immune system. To give your immune system a better chance of keeping the coughs, sniffles and ah-choos at bay, here are four areas that you should take more notice of and choose to practice to help keep yourself healthy.

Healthy diet

Eating healthily gives your immune system the necessary vitamins and nutrients to function properly. You probably have heard of this age old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While apples are high in nutritional content, but to truly keep the doctor away, variety is key.

Research has shown that people who constantly eat the same food tend to be less healthy than those who get more variety in their diets. This is because micronutrients – for example, zinc, selenium, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C and E—are present in different amounts in different food families. Eating from just a specific food family results in micronutrients deficiency which makes your body more susceptible to illnesses.

So for all the Singaporeans out there who eat chicken rice/ nasi lemak/ roti prata every meal, every day, my advice is to switch it up. This can be done by eating according to the food colour wheel. As a rule of thumb, fruits and vegetables of different colours generally contain different types of vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Exercise in moderation

We all know that exercise is essential to healthy living because it improves your cardiovascular health, help control your body weight and keep you energised. What you might not know is that by promoting good blood circulation, exercise allows the cells and substances of your immune system to course through your body unhindered, and do their job.

However, make sure that you do not overdo it. Intense exercise temporarily puts stress on the immune system, and make you more susceptible to infection. For example, running a marathon may temporarily depress the adaptive immune system for up to 72 hours. This means that if you train vigorously for more than 4 times a week, your body’s line of defence will always be down and you will get sick more often than those who exercise in moderation  

Keep stress level low

The stress hormone corticosteroid suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system which makes us are more vulnerable to infections. Additionally, a person may also use unhealthy coping mechanisms such as binge eating, drinking and smoking to deal with stressful situations; this indirectly compromises the immune system.

Here we need to differentiate between acute stress, which lasts for at most, hours, and chronic stress, which lasts for days or even years on end. The latter is more problematic and results in a host of health problems, ranging from stomach upset to even heart disease.

Sleep more

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to an impaired immune system, and a longer recovery time once you fall sick. Mortality increases when you get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. So, if you have to wake up by 5.30am the next day to go to school, you best be in bed by 11.30pm. I know, you have endless amounts of homework, but do not forget that you only live once!

No one likes feeling under the weather, so this article serves as a check list for keeping your immune system in tip top condition. And if you think your health can wait, let me tell you, no it can’t. 

6 ways to keep your stress level low

6 ways to keep your stress level low

As a student in Singapore, feeling stressed is practically inevitable. We are constantly pressured to do well and to be on top of our game. We are also constantly bombarded with homework and CCA commitments. Year after year, we compete in a rat race that is life. And we feel burnt out. But the world will not stop turning for us, and so we must trudge on.   

However, chronic stress is actually very harmful for our physical and emotional health. No matter how stressed you may feel, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and to regain control of your life.

All of us are unique and the amount of stress we can take before we buckle is different. Our reaction in the face of stress is different too. Some of us fight, some of us flight. But even if there is no “one size fits all” solution, one of the following 6 tips is bound to help.

1. Exercise

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones in your body. A quick exercise can be used as a channel to metabolise the overload of stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a more relaxed state.

2. Sleep more

Efficiency is the name of the game. By sleeping well, your head will be clearer, and you will be able to study more effectively.

3. Keep a to-do list

This tip is very effective for me. In the past when I did not have a to-do list, I only knew that I have a lot to do. But exactly what do I need to do NOW? That was unclear. I was running around like a headless chicken, doing the things that came to my mind (when the deadlines loomed ominously near) but neglecting those that might be just as important. As such, I constantly felt stressed.

After I developed the habit of keeping a to-do list, the heavy burdens lifted off my shoulders. I got a clearer idea of how much work and how much time I have. This allowed me to prioritise the more important and urgent ones first, and if I really did not have the time, I would just skip the less important tasks.

It also gave me the satisfaction of ticking things off the list. The feeling is so good, seriously, you need to give it a try.

4. Don’t be a perfectionist

As I said, efficiency is the name of the game. Bear in mind the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the outcome can be attributed to 20% of all causes for a given event. To illustrate the 80-20 rule, let us use the example of exams.

In a given exam paper, approximately 80 marks (out of 100) will come from questions which test basic concepts. These concepts are easy to learn and as such, requires maybe only 20 percent of your effort. On the other hand, to secure the remaining 20 marks (which come from hard questions), it requires you to build upon the basic concepts, to apply what you know to unknown situations, and to be exposed to a variety of challenging questions.  All these require substantial effort. This means that if you want to get 80 marks, you may only need to study for 1 hour. But to get 100 marks, you need to spend 5 hours studying.

Is it worth it? I will let you decide, whether to pick only the low hanging fruits, or to climb up the proverbial fruit tree and pick all the fruits.

5. Be prepared

Fear of the unknown may manifest itself as stress. By being prepared, you make the unknown less scary. Have a presentation tomorrow? Rehearse your lines. Have an exam next week? Start studying now.

6. Don’t be distracted

Have you ever woken up telling yourself that “today I will be super productive”, only to end the day moping in self-pity and guilt because you got distracted by Youtube…?

I can empathise because I have been there. When I was taking my A levels, I keep getting distracted even though deep down, what I truly wanted was to study hard and do well. Eventually, I came to realise how weak my self-control is. As such, I asked my parents to change the Wi-fi password and I turned off my phone once I reached home every day. But temptation can come in other forms. For instance, my bed and the stash of food in the refrigerator… Which eventually caused me to relocate to the nearby library. Once school ended, I would go to the library and study until 9pm, the closing time of the library. The hard work eventually paid off, so no complaints here.

I hope at least one of these heartfelt tips inspired you. All the best keeping your stress level low! 

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started! You mentally calculate and reason with yourself: ‘If I cut down on my sleep tonight, and wake up early tomorrow to complete it, that is an extra 3 or 4 hours more for this essay!’

Is burning the midnight oil the best choice you are making? What does it do to your body?

Convinced that it was the best idea you have made that day for the sake of your grades, you burn the midnight oil, cutting down your previously 6 hours of sleep to just merely 3 hours of sleep. Does this situation sound familiar? If you are a student, you have probably found yourself in this situation before. Is burning the midnight oil the best choice you are making? What does it do to your body?

Sleep Deprivation in Singapore

sleep

Firstly, getting just 5 hours of sleep per night is not enough. While sleep requirements vary with different people, most healthy teens (age 14- 17) would require 8 to 10 hours of sleep, while adults (age 18-64) require about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Year after year, Singapore is found to be one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world. In fact, Singapore is the 3rd most sleep-deprived nation out of the 43 that were profiled in a recent report, trailing behind Tokyo and Seoul.

Effects

active

The effects of sleep deprivation is extensive. A study by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) showed that the lack of sleep in students negatively impacts their ability to retain information and to integrate new information on problems. This is because learned information is replayed and reactivated during sleep, so with sleep deprivation, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, losing ability to retained learned information.

Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts moods, giving a sleep-deprived person mood swings

Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts moods, giving a sleep-deprived person mood swings. Such mood swings affects our ability to acquire and retain new information. Numerous other studies have assessed sleep in students and its correlation with grades and test taking abilities, with all pointing to the same direction- burning the midnight oil to revise your work is not be the best solution for your learning in the long term. Although sleep deprivation affects different people in different ways, it is clear that having a good night’s rest has a strong impact on our learning and memory.

Take action

1.     Study Smart

Studying smart can save you all the trouble of needing to even stay up late in the first place. Manage your time well and create priorities for the assignments or subjects that need more attention. By studying smartly, you will be addressing the root of the problem, which is ‘insufficient time’ for doing your work.

2.     Caffeine

coffee

Try to cut your caffeine intake by 2pm. It may be tough at first, but the earlier you stop drinking it, the earlier you will get to bed at a decent hour. In replacement of caffeine, you can take small 20minute power naps throughout the day.

3.     Electronic Devices

All of us would be guilty of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while lying in bed. Even I am guilty of this almost every night, but it has to stop. The artificial light that comes from our cellphones or tablets make it more difficult to fall asleep, making us more alert and messes up our sleep cycles.

4.     Exercise

active

You might find it helpful for your sleep to exercise in the day. Try to exercise at least 30minutes a day. There is no need to be running a full marathon- it could be as simple as walking or some stretches. This way, your heart rate increases and you burn the energy, making it not only beneficial for your health, but also leads to excellent sleep at night.

Taking the first step in getting more hours of sleep may be difficult at first, with the overwhelming work that you always seem to have on your hands

Taking the first step in getting more hours of sleep may be difficult at first, with the overwhelming work that you always seem to have on your hands. Nevertheless, having sufficient sleep is important for your health and quality of work so do not be afraid to take that leap of faith!

Does appearance matter for success?

Does appearance matter for success?

You may have been told ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it is what on the inside that counts.’ Have you ever wondered if this quote really holds true, why then, is the world focused so much on having that hot body or pretty face?

You may have been told ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it is what on the inside that counts.’ Have you ever wondered if this quote really holds true, why then, is the world focused so much on having that hot body or pretty face? Why is the cosmetic industry so huge? The answers to these questions draws parallel to the conclusion of one single question- does appearance really matter for success?

Scale of cosmetic industry

beauty

Research and Markets, the world’s largest and most respected market research resource have indicated that the global cosmetic industry was at 460billion USD in 2014 and is projected to reach 675 billion USD by 2020, growing at a rate of 6.4% per annum. In comparison, the global mobile phone industry was only at an estimated of 267billion USD in 2014- that is almost half that of the cosmetic industry.

It is widely known that countless of students and even adults in South Korea even undergo plastic surgery in a bid fix that slighted crooked nose or even enlargement of eyes, all in the name of “beauty”

With the Asia Pacific region obtaining 35% of the global market share, and with its extensive marketing, it is no wonder many teens around us are longing for that fair, smooth skin and the latest hairstyle. It is widely known that countless of students and even adults in South Korea even undergo plastic surgery in a bid fix that slighted crooked nose or even enlargement of eyes, all in the name of “beauty”. Is such focus on appearance really warranted? 

Does Appearance Really Matter? 

Yes

greek beauty

Being attracted by something deemed as beautiful has always been ingrained in us, stories of how beauty was a competitive sport in Greece in the 8th and 7th century BC. In times as recent as the twentieth century, some artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio, a famous mathematical ratio, believing it to give a more aesthetically pleasing look. Many objects we find today, from Apple iPod to the bento box plate have been said to make use of this golden ratio, in a bid to improve sales.

Societal pressure and affirmation on one’s physical appearance can have a drastic effect on one’s level of confidence and self-esteem. In fact, confidence early in life can mean an upward mobility at work.  As we all know, confidence is very much key to job interviews and networking. According to a study by the University of Melbourne, confident children in primary and secondary school go on to earn higher wages and were promoted more quickly.

No

cosmetics

Physical appearance is not the single factor that forms impressions. It may be a key to forming first impressions but the way you interact with others has a deeper impact on the impressions formed on you. Your body language and eye contact and the content of interactions play a deeper impact. In the workplace, these form the basis of impressions on job interviewers. However, on top of that, they also look for what skills you have to bring to the table and if you are a right fit for the role and culture of the company. Hence, physical appearance do not matter as much as the cosmetic industry portray it does.

Boosting your attractiveness

In conclusion, your appearance does matter and is a factor, but not the most important factor of impressions formed on you. Fortunately, even if you are below average looking, you can take some actions to boost your level of attractiveness instead of going under the knife.

working out

Working out can not only leave you feeling great about yourself due to the lean and fit look, but also because of the endorphins produced which  can instantly boost your level of confidence. Working on your other soft skills like body language and eye contact can also help you with your interactions with other people. More importantly, staying well-groomed by looking neat and tidy and choosing the right clothing to wear are actions where you can control how you appear to others.

Of course, in the end, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’- you should not change yourself for the sake of others but for yourself and it is important to be in control of such change to avoid the disastrous situations of eating disorders and plastic surgery.

All about that zzz

All about that zzz

Riddle of the day: What is free but you never get enough of it?

The answer is sleep.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night. Now ask yourself, how much are you actually getting?

How to exercise

How to exercise

Your biggest hurdle might sound like this, “I know exercise is good for me. But I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Or this, “I am a full time student. Where do I find the time to exercise? Unless you are telling me to join one of those boring sports CCA where they force me to train every day. I don’t want to!”

Don’t worry, I know exactly how you feel.

Five benefits of exercise

Five benefits of exercise

Have you ever felt sore all over just by sitting at your desk and listening to your teacher talk? It is not because your teacher is such a pain in the ass. It is because our bodies are not made to be sedentary. The longer you sit inactive, the more agitated your body becomes. The 360 joints and more than 700 skeletal muscles in your bodies are there for a reason—for you to move!

The Health Promotion Board recommends 150 minutes of physical activity every week.

In an earlier blog post “Mind over Mattress”, we briefly mentioned how exercise can help you feel better throughout the entire day. This time, we will go in depth into the benefits of exercise, because like it or not, you can reap a lot of benefits from exercising.

Weight loss

Exercise burns calories, which helps you to lose weight or remain slim. You might have learnt from biology class that when you consume more calories than your body needs, your body stores the excess energy as fat cells. The reverse is true. When the food you eat is not enough to supply your daily energy requirements, your body starts to burn your reserves, aka your fats.

Combats diseases and health conditions

Exercise is the panacea for many ills. From avoiding diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks, down to living longer, exercises can give you a hand. A recent study has shown that people who exercised regularly were half as likely to get a cold. On a deeper level, exercises increase your production of antioxidant enzymes. This means that your body is less susceptible to the insidious problem of free radicals. In other words, if you want a glowing complexion even when you are an auntie/uncle, you should start exercising now.

As if those benefits are not enough, God decided to make exercises even more appealing for nerds and geeks all over Singapore. We have listed below some ways exercises boost mental wellbeing.

Makes you more resilient

Exercises increase concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical which increases your ability to deal with stress. This correlation between stress management and exercise has already been proven in the lab. When mice that ran regularly and sedentary mice were put in stressful situations, the mice that ran regularly were able to adapt quickly and to cope with the stress. The sedentary mice were less resilient and continued exhibiting signs of anxiety long after their active counterparts have calmed down.

Makes you happier

Exercises release endorphins, which create feelings of happiness. It is therefore no surprise that a study shows that people who exercised regularly were half as likely to be depressed compared to those who are sedentary. So for those of you who are getting back your results in a few weeks, it is time to start exercising now.

Makes you smarter

When you exercise, more blood bringing oxygen flows to your brain. You will instantly feel less sleepy and more alert. Additionally, your brain produces more of a protein known as BDNF. This, coupled with an increase in the production of cells when you work-out, helps you to learn better, think better and make better decisions. For example, a study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults. In the long run, exercises prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus and guard against cognitive decline.

Now that you know exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally, it is time to get moving. The Health Promotion Board recommends 150 minutes of physical activity every week. This may sound a bit unachievable, I know, that is why we have prepared another blog post giving you tips about how to exercise. Stay tuned!