Caffeine and Insomnia

Are you having difficulty falling asleep at night? Do you regularly drink coffee, tea or energy drinks in the afternoon and at night? Or perhaps you only drink it in the morning but do you seem to be quite sensitive to the effects of caffeine?

If so, this article is for you.

Caffeine has a half life of 5-7 hours. It means that after 5-7 hours, 50% of the caffeine has already been removed from your body. It also means that after 5-7 hours, you still have 50% left in your body, which could be around much longer and may be the reason why you can’t fall asleep at night.

For example, you drank a cup of brewed coffee with around 114 mg of caffeine at 4 pm. At 10 pm, you’ll still have 57 mg of caffeine in your body. It’s like having a cup of instant coffee at 10 pm.

Some people won’t be bothered by this, but if you’re like me, this would mean that your mind would still be wide awake after midnight! Not fun.

Caffeine is Everwhere

80% of the world’s population use caffeine. It is the second most traded commodity after oil. It has truly become a natural part of human life, particularly because of its ability to perk you up.

Caffeine is actually the most commonly used drug in the world. It is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, softdrinks, chocolate, energy drinks and snacks, and some medications and supplements.

It would help you if you have an idea of how much caffeine is in your food and drinks so you’ll know how to control your caffeine intake and timing.

Different brands have different caffeine content depending on the type, origin and preparation method. This is the caffeine content of 1 cup (240 mL or 8 oz.) of common beverages:

  • Brewed coffee – 70-140 mg (average of 95 mg)
  • Instant coffee – 30-90 mg (average of 60 mg)
  • Energy drinks – 50 – 160 mg
  • Black tea – 47 – 90 mg
  • Green tea – 16 – 36 mg
  • Soft drinks – 20 – 40 mg
  • Chocolate drink – 2-7 mg

Decaffeinated” does not mean “non-caffeinated”. Decaf can contain up to 15%-30% of the original caffeine content.

  • Decaf coffee – most have 8-14 mg, but others have up to 20-32 mg of caffeine
  • Decaf tea – < 5 mg

Chocolate contains caffeine, as well. 1 oz (28 grams) of chocolate has:

  • Milk chocolate – 1-15 mg
  • Dark chocolate – 5-35 mg

Check out your favourite beverage and snack and its caffeine content here. How are you after 390+ mg of caffeine in one drink? I’d be shaking and puking all over the place, if you ask me.

How Much Caffeine is OK?

Most health literature including that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state the following:

  • 200-300 mg of caffeine a day is considered to be moderate That is equivalent to two to three cups of coffee, or 4-5 cups of tea per day. 1 cup is approximately 240 mL or 8 oz.
  • 400 mg is the recommendeddaily limit of caffeine. That’s 3-5 cups of coffee, or 8-10 cups of tea per day.
  • Excessiveintake is more than 400 mg, such as eight to ten cups of coffee per day.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not exceed 200 mg of caffeine per day, or two cups of coffee.

Aside from the amount of caffeine, you also need to consider when you take it if you want to have a good night’s sleep.

Different people have different speed and efficiency at which their bodies break down caffeine.

Some (gifted and annoying) people have no problem falling asleep and staying asleep even after drinking coffee after dinner.

But if you’re like most people, you may find it difficult to fall asleep if your last caffeine intake was after 2 pm.

Much worse is if you’re like me who is very sensitive to caffeine, which means that the effects of caffeine last longer (especially if it’s brewed coffee).

I never really drank too much coffee or tea because I experienced a lot of its side effects. I also drank my coffee and tea before noon, usually at 10 am because I learned my lesson the hard way: drink it in the afternoon and I’d still be staring at the ceiling at 4 am.

My usual intake was only 1 mug of coffee and sometimes I would add 1 mug of tea. In total, it would only be around 150 mg of caffeine for the day, but the after-effects were pretty strong, particularly if I had brewed coffee:

  • Hyperacidity, heartburn and acid reflux (sometimes vomiting acid with some of the coffee)
  • Shaky hands and muscle tremors
  • Racing heart
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Insomnia

I tolerated these for over 20 years because I thought I needed what caffeine could give me in return: energy and alertness after my sleep deprivation the night before.

Never have I thought that it was actually my caffeine intake that was worsening my insomnia and my fatigue the following day.

How Caffeine Affects Your Sleep

The effects and clearance time of caffeine vary from person to person, depending on age, weight, gender, and genetics. However, it has two effects on your body that may be worsening the quality of your sleep.

(1) Caffeine blocks your body’s natural signal to go to sleep.

As you already know, caffeine is a stimulant that helps increase your alertness, especially when you’re feeling sleepy. It does that by blocking the effects of adenosine.

Your brain naturally releases a chemical called adenosine as soon as you wake up. The longer you are awake, the more adenosine is built up.

The more adenosine that has been built up, the more sleep pressure you feel, and the more sleepy you become.

After sleeping sufficiently, your adenosine stores are cleared, ready to build up once again while you are awake.

But if you have caffeine in your body, it blocks adenosine receptors. Basically, the sleepiness effect of adenosine is ignored.

So even if you have plenty of adenosine in your body, you won’t feel sleepy after taking caffeine.

Remember, though, that just because you feel awake doesn’t mean that your body no longer has the high levels of adenosine. Caffeine simply blocks it. It’s defying your body’s natural signal to go to sleep.

The problem is when you’re actually trying to go to sleep but you can’t, because you still have caffeine in your body.

Remember the half-life? You may still have 50% or more of the caffeine you ingested in the afternoon!

Caffeine is one of the most common causes of onset insomnia, which is the difficulty to fall asleep. It’s normal for people to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes in bed (this is called sleep latency).

Back when I was still drinking coffee, it could take me 1-3 hours to fall asleep. My mind would still be racing at 2 am, no matter how much deep breathing and meditation I tried to do.

Never have I seriously thought that it was caffeine causing it. I thought it was just stress and ineffective meditation!

This difficulty to fall asleep reduces your total sleep time and reduces the overall quality of your sleep. Prolonged sleep deprivation leads to a variety of health problems.

(2) Caffeine can wake you up a few times each night to urinate.

Caffeine stimulates your bladder, which leads to frequent urination. Have you noticed that you go to the toilet more after your caffeine intake?

And it’s not just the frequency that’s the issue, but also the urgency! Prolonged bladder stimulation can lead to incontinence, as well.

Urinary frequency leads to water loss. You feel thirsty more quickly because of this, and so you drink more fluids to make up for the water loss.

With this diuretic effect and your increased water intake, you’re expected to get up a few times at night to urinate. I used to get up 3-5 times a night to visit the loo.

That doesn’t really help you get a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. For the elderly, this also increases their risk for falls and injury.

Cut Down or Cut Off Caffeine?

Responses to caffeine vary from person to person. If it does not affect the quality and quantity of your sleep, your energy level, anxiety and other aspects of your health, there’s no problem at all.

But if it does, maybe it’s time for you to consider reducing your caffeine intake, or even giving up caffeine entirely.

How would you know if caffeine is affecting your sleep? If you constantly find yourself wanting to go to sleep before noon time unless you get your boost of caffeine, it is highly likely that you are suffering from sleep deprivation that may be worsened by caffeine.

Here are some tips for you if you want to cut down or control the quantity and timing of your caffeine intake:

  1. Take your last caffeine before 2 pm, or even earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine. See which caffeine-cutoff-time works best for you by observing your ability to fall asleep and sustain sleep, as well as your energy level the next day.
  2. Use halfof your usual amount of coffee or tea, or brew it half of the time you usually do.
  3. Try decaf, but remember that it still has some caffeine in it, and it’s still additional fluid that can increase urination at night, so it’s best to avoid it close to bedtime.
  4. Also cut down on the sugaryou put on your beverage. Sugar is a topic for another day, but it’s worth noting here that lessening added sugar every day compounds to big health benefits in the long term.

If you are ready to quit, here are some tips for you:

  1. Be very clear with your reasonfor quitting. Your reason must be more important to you than the pleasures and benefits you get from caffeine. I loved drinking coffee so much, I really did. But I realized that I love my health more, and if I could sleep better and feel better, that would mean the world to me. Knowing clearly what is more important to you will help you make the habit change sustainable in the long-term.
  2. Be prepared for withdrawal symptomsfor up to 10 days, such as: throbbing headaches, insomnia, tremors, palpitations, fatigue and drowsiness (yep, I experienced all of them when I gave up coffee). If you go to work, it’s best to quit on a Friday so you can have Saturday and Sunday at home. Expect to be pretty much shattered in the first 4 days, but after that, the symptoms slowly disappear and you’re free! Woohoo!
  3. Talk to the people who could provide supportfor your decision. This may be your significant other, your children, relatives, friends and co-workers that you normally drink coffee and tea with. Some of them may make fun of you, some of them may tempt you to take caffeine again. Some of them will be happy for you. Some of them won’t understand your decision, but as long as you understand your reason 100%, that’s all that matters. Most of them, though, would be happy to support you. You’d be surprised that they’ll offer you a non-caffeinated drink the next time you visit them.
  4. Also remember that you can still have funwith your caffeine-loving friends during their coffee break, or when you go to a cafe together. You don’t need to disown them because you’ve quit caffeine and they haven’t. You can simply drink something else and enjoy the moment with the people you enjoy being with. And they like being with you, too, with or without caffeine.

After I Gave Up Coffee

Because of the side effects that I experienced with coffee, I finally decided to give it up right after my 40th birthday. I still drink tea because it does not give me the side effects that coffee does, and I enjoy drinking it, not because I absolutely need it to keep me awake. However, I still make sure that I don’t drink caffeinated tea after 2 pm.

In my 20 years of coffee dependence, it was normal for me to fall asleep 1-3 hours after going to bed and to get up 3-5 times each night to urinate.

Now, it normally takes 15 minutes or less to fall asleep. I get up 0-2 times a night to visit the loo, versus 3-5 times before. I still have to work on my fluid intake at night, but this is a big improvement!

I feel more relaxed because I’m sleeping better and no longer have coffee to trigger palpitations and anxiety.

Because I’m sleeping better, my body is recovering better. I feel better overall and I have more energy the next day. I never needed coffee to give me energy.

No more coffee-related headaches! No more dependence. I’m free!

My teeth stains have started to disappear, as well.

Has my sleep quality reached 100%? No, but it has improved so much since I’ve given up coffee. My sleep tracker has been giving me a sleep score of 88-96, which is very good, and I get that in most days.

I’m not saying that quitting coffee fixed my sleep all by itself. I practice other things that help me improve my sleep, from deep breathing to wearing yellow-tinted glasses and everything in between, but it was definitely being coffee-free that has allowed all the other factors to work.

Do I still have trouble staying asleep sometimes? Yes. “Someone” is snoring. Cough and colds happen, stress happens, coronavirus happens, and it’s not always easy to get optimal sleep.

It’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping. What’s not normal is when it happens regularly, leaving you exhausted and sleepy during the day over a long period of time.

Before quitting coffee, it was difficult for me to fall asleep and stay asleep regularly. Now it’s a different story, and for someone who’s had insomnia for a long time, this is a big achievement. Having good sleep had always been in my birthday and Christmas wish list.

If you are suffering from insomnia, please consult your doctor. I understand how frustrating it is. I hope that you will explore lifestyle-related changes and natural sleep remedies and steer away from sleeping pills and alcohol, which cannot provide natural sleep. Go ahead and read my article on Why Alcohol Does Not Give You A Good Night’s Sleep.

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  • Have an idea of how much caffeine is in your drink, food or medicine. A lot of people don’t know that there’s caffeine in chocolate, for example. You have to know yourself. Google is here to help you.
  • Be more aware and in control of the timing of your caffeine intake. Most people sleep well if they take their last caffeine before 2 pm, but you may be different.
  • Brew your coffee or tea for less time.
  • Gradually shift to decaf and non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Quit caffeine, particularly if you have insomnia or anxiety.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article. I wrote this for you and I hope it will help you.


“Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (2017)

“The 4 Pillar Plan” by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee (2018)

Why Alcohol Does Not Give You A Good Night’s Sleep

Have you ever heard the saying that drinking alcohol will give you a good night’s sleep?

Or have you ever had a drink or two before bedtime, believing that it will help you sleep?

If you have, you’re not alone. The majority of the population believe that alcohol helps them sleep faster and better. I thought so, too.

My father was an alcoholic most of his life. I could not remember a day when he didn’t drink, either by himself or with his drinking buddies.

He was always asleep early in the evening and even during the afternoon if he started drinking early in the morning.

He stopped drinking when he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 61. I quit my job to take care of him for 2 years until he passed away, and those were the best years I had with him.

But that’s not the point of the story. Back then, his alcoholism made me believe that alcohol helped him sleep so he could have a peaceful escape from the real world.

However, my own experience with alcohol did not seem to support this belief. Every time I had a drink or two, or even when I was quite drunk, I never ever slept well, and I never knew why.

I thought I was just different from the rest. I wondered if my Dad ever really slept well when he passed out.

How about you? How’s the quality of your sleep after your drink alcohol at night? How’s your energy level the next day? Do you feel super when you wake up?

I don’t know about you, but every time I had a drink at night, I felt rubbish the next day, and it’s not just because of hangover.

How Alcohol Affects Your Brain

Alcohol is under the class of drugs called sedatives. It sedates the different parts of your brain, such as your prefrontal cortex which is responsible for expressing your personality and moderating your social behavior.

That is why you feel more relaxed and sociable around other people when you’re drinking, and that’s the reason why alcohol is very popular and “useful” at parties and other social gatherings.

Other parts of your brain become sedated soon enough and you feel calmer and sleepy. It becomes easier for you to fall asleep and you sleep deeply during the first half of the night.

But what really happened was, you were sedated by alcohol, and sedation is not natural sleep. And when you eventually get the natural sleep dictated by your body, it is not restful.

Studies have shown that even low, moderate alcohol intake in the evening impairs your sleep.

How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Alcohol fragments and disturbs your sleep, and so you wake up tired and sleepy the next day. These are the five ways that alcohol affects the quantity and quality of your sleep:

1. You wake up when the sedative effect wears off.

Alcohol is broken down by your body. When it starts to wear off, its sedative effect also wears off and you experience the rebound effect which is waking up in the middle of the night.

2. It messes up with your natural brain chemicals that control your sleep cycle.

Alcohol interferes with your natural adenosine production. Adenosine is the chemical in your brain that builds up the pressure to go to sleep. The more adenosine you have, the more you want to go to sleep.

Alcohol increases the release of adenosine, making you feel sleepy, but the level of adenosine is not sustained and it disappears quickly when alcohol starts to wear off, making you wake up in the middle of your sleep.

Alcohol also suppresses melatonin, which is a hormone released by your brain in response to darkness. Melatonin signals your body that it’s time to sleep. That’s why you start to feel sleepy when it’s getting dark.

When you don’t have enough melatonin and adenosine in your body, it would be difficult for you to sleep soundly for the rest of the night.

3. Alcohol lessens the restorative effects of sleep.

When alcohol is broken down, one of its by-products is aldehyde, which blocks REM sleep that you dearly need to restore your brain and body.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is the only time of the day when your brain lets go of norepinephrine, which is the chemical in your brain that causes stress and anxiety.

REM sleep therefore soothes you physically, mentally and emotionally. When REM sleep is blocked, you then wake up feeling exhausted.

REM also helps boost your memory, concentration and learning. Add that to feeling exhausted, it’s difficult to have the sharpness and clarity the next day if you had alcohol before bedtime.

4. Alcohol affects your breathing.

Alcohol sedates your body, including your throat, neck and head. This makes you prone to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. You won’t sleep soundly if your breathing is impaired.

5. Alcohol wakes you up to urinate.

Alcohol is also a diuretic as it suppresses the anti-diuretic hormone. This makes you wake up at night to urinate, usually more than once. With alcohol messing up with your melatonin and adenosine levels, it is likely that you’ll find it difficult to sleep after visiting the loo.

Sleep And Alcohol Dependence

One in ten adults use alcohol to help them fall asleep faster. What happens if you become one of them?

Because alcohol reduces sleep quality, you end up feeling tired the next day, which is commonly treated with caffeine or nicotine or both. But caffeine and nicotine worsen insomnia, and so you may end up drinking more alcohol to put you to sleep.

You and I don’t want that to happen. I have seen that in my father for 26 years of my life and I don’t want you to go down that road.

If you have trouble sleeping and you have been using alcohol to help you sleep better, consult your doctor. Reliable sources on the internet can also teach you safe, natural ways on how you can improve your sleep without using alcohol.

I’m not saying that you should never ever drink again. That’s up to you. I do want you to enjoy life, but enjoy it without regularly compromising your health and your sleep.

After all, you do want to feel great and live better, and being in good health is the best way to make that happen now and in the long term.

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  1. When it’s “happy hour”, limit yourself to one to two drinks.
  2. Avoid drinking alcohol 4 hours before bedtime.
  3. If you are a regular drinker, increase your alcohol-free days of the week. Start with having one less day from your weekly alcohol consumption, and gradually increase your alcohol-free days.
  4. Every time you grab a drink, remind yourself of how it will affect your sleep, how you’ll feel the next day and your overall health now and in the future. That way, you’ll be more in control of how much you drink and its timing. This is my favorite technique.
  5. Try the non-alcoholic version of wine, beer, cider and spirits, but not too close to bedtime as it can still wake you up to urinate.
  6. Consider having an alcohol-free week then an alcohol-free month. Do this a few times a year. This will help renew your health in many ways beyond improving your sleep.
  7. If you have insomnia, consider quitting evening alcohol entirely.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article.


“Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (2018)

12 Eating Habits For Permanent Weight Loss

Do you want to lose weight and keep your ideal weight forever? I know it’s easier said than done. I struggled to lose weight for three years after giving birth.

What I learned is that short and quick weight loss programs and quick-fix slimming products don’t produce lasting weight loss by themselves. They can help you lose weight temporarily, but as soon as you stop using them, you gain the weight right back up.

It’s because you haven’t yet developed the right daily habits that actually support lasting weight loss. What you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, how you eat, how you choose and buy your food and how much you move all play an important role in your weight loss.

I know it’s hard to let go of unhelpful habits and it’s equally hard to develop new helpful habits. The key to creating a habit effectively is choosing the simplest, easiest habit you can start with. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else. If it’s too hard for you, dissect it and try one step at a time.

I’m excited to share with you the habits that have helped me achieve permanent weight loss in a safe and healthy way. In this article, I’ll only be talking about habits surrounding food and eating behavior. Stay tuned for my other articles on weight loss.

1. Track your calories.

You can only lose weight if your calorie intake from food is less than the calories you burn. If weight loss primarily involves calories, it’s worth your while to understand and track them.

If you want to learn more about calories and how to track them, please read my posts “Weight Loss: What You Need To Know FIRST” and “Weight Loss: How To Track Your Calories“.

Calorie mindfulness is the best way to lose weight. But if, for whatever reason, you find it impossible to do after giving it a try, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of good habits you can develop.

2. Eat more protein.

Protein is harder to digest compared to carbs and fats. It uses up more energy just by digesting it, helping you burn more calories. And because it takes longer to digest, you feel fuller for longer, which helps avoid cravings.

Examples of good protein source are fish, chicken breast, lean beef, pork loin, egg, greek yogurt, tofu, nuts, seeds, beans, peas and lentils.

Remember, though, that you should not eat too much protein in addition to your carbs and fats. Anything in excess will still be stored in the body as fat. Instead, you can swap your additional protein with some of your fats and sugars. Having 25-50 g of protein in most of your meals would be ideal.

3. Eat more fiber.

Fiber has a similar effect as protein: fiber prolongs your feeling of fullness after meals, reduces your feeling of hunger and appetite, and reduces your total calorie intake.

Notice, for example, that when you eat high-fiber unrefined whole grains for breakfast such as muesli, you feel full for longer.

That’s because fiber also takes longer to digest. It stays in your stomach longer. It absorbs water, providing bulk.

When you increase the portion of fruits and vegetables within your meal, the portion size will be the same but the calorie count will be lower, as well.

Fiber has many other benefits aside from supporting weight loss. It improves bowel movement and it also feeds your gut microbiome, which has diverse benefits to your health.

4. Choose low GI and low GL carbs.

The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks the carbohydrates in your food based on how quickly it affects your blood sugar. If it raises your blood sugar quickly, it’s considered high-GI (GI of 70+). If it raises your blood sugar slowly, it’s low-GI (GI of 55 or less). You can check the GI of your favorite foods in

Examples of low-GI foods are:

  • vegetables
  • pulses (beans, peas, lentils)
  • whole grains (such as oats, muesli and quinoa)

Because low-GI foods raise your blood sugar slowly, your insulin will also be released slowly. Insulin is the hormone released by your pancreas to push blood sugar into your cells.

Low-GI foods help you avoid drastic changes in the levels of your blood sugar and insulin. The result is that you have prolonged energy and you don’t starve and crave shortly after eating. For this reason, low-GI foods are also called “good carbs”.

The opposite is true with high-GI foods, such as:

  • refined sugars, sugary foods and drinks
  • white bread
  • white rice
  • potatoes

High-GI carbs raise blood sugar quickly. Insulin is released to compensate for this. This leads to feeling hungry shortly after a meal.

Constant drastic changes in your blood sugar and insulin can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.

Glycemic Index (GI) has some limitations mainly due to its changeability depending on how ripe the fruit is, how the food is prepared, and what other foods are eaten with it. It also does not reflect the level of vitamins and minerals the food has.

For example, chocolate cake with frosting has low GI (38) but it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy food. Watermelon has a GI of 72, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad carbs. GI also does not reflect the amount of calories in the portion size.

These limitations have been addressed by Glycemic Load (GL), which helps you check the quality and quantity of the carbohydrates you eat. GL less than 10 is low, and more than 20 is high.

You can see the GI and GL values in the International Table of Glycemic Index and Load. Don’t worry if you eat high-GI from time to time. Just eat it or offset it with more nutritious low-GI and low-GL foods.

I’ve seen many studies studies that prove the ability of low-GI low-GL to support permanent weight loss as well as overall good health. However, there are also studies saying that the effect of low GI and GL on weight loss has been inconsistent. Check out this meta-analysis, for example.

Nevertheless, low-GI and low-GI particularly works for me and for many people and I recommend it to you, as well. I believe it can help you lose weight if you stick to it and if you are more conscious of your other eating habits, as well.

5. Eat because you are hungry, and stop eating when you’re just full.

Eat because you are hungry and not because it’s out of habit. Before you eat your meals, dessert and snacks, always pause for a minute to ask your self if you are hungry.

If you are, then it’s okay to eat. If you are not hungry, food is not necessary. Food that your body does not need gets converted into fat, leading to weight gain. Do not feel obliged to finish everything on your plate once you are feeling just full.

When tempted to eat when you’re not hungry or to finish everything on your plate even when you’re full, ask yourself the magic question: “Where do I want this excess food to go: to the bin or stored in my body as fat?” That question has been consistently helping me to control my eating. I hope it will help you, too.

Don’t wait for you to feel very full before you stop eating. Stop eating when you’re just starting to feel full. That way, you’ll feel hungry just in time for your next meal, which you’ll enjoy more because you’d be hungry.

Move away from the food, distract yourself and do something else to keep you busy if you find it hard to resist the temptation.

6. Eat smaller portions.

Reducing your portion size will reduce your overall calorie intake. Here are some tips for you to eat smaller portions:

Use a smaller plate. This produces an illusion that you have “plenty” of food on your plate if it somehow fills your smaller plate.

Remember what you ate in your last meal. This can help you decide to eat less for dinner if you remember what you had for lunch.

If you are still hungry after your main meal, you can have dessert but it would be better if you choose the healthier alternative such as fruit and yogurt, or something that is not as calorie-dense.

If you’ve been planning to have dessert, adjust the size of your main course.

If you’re really just craving for dessert, consider having a dessert-only meal.

Buy food in smaller-sized packages.

7. Eat slower.

If you eat slower, you give your body more time to digest the food and build up your feeling of fullness. It also increases the hormones in your digestive system which are responsible for detecting fullness.

Here are some tips on how you can eat slower:

  • Chew your food longer than you usually do. Chew soft food 5-10 times, and chew harder food up to 32 times before swallowing. I’ve recently counted the number of times I chew my harder food, it actually ranged between 30 and 35. How about you?
  • Put down your utensils while chewing.
  • Use your non-dominant hand.
  • Use a smaller spoon and fork.
  • Use chopsticks if you are not a regular chopsticks user. Have fun!

8. Eat mindfully.

If you are paying attention to what you are eating, you will experience more pleasure from it, it will satisfy your appetite more, and you will stop eating when your appetite is satisfied. Being mindful will also enable you to notice if you are starting to feel full.

Here are some tips on how you can be more mindful when you are eating:

  • Feel the pleasure of your food: how it smells, tastes, and feels in in your mouth
  • Use a heavy plate, heavy cutlery and a heavy glass as they heighten the pleasure of eating.
  • Sit down on the dining table for your meals.
  • Avoid eating on the go while standing up or walking.
  • Avoid watching TV.
  • Avoid browsing your phone.

When you are watching TV or when you’re browsing on your phone while eating, your brain is distracted, and so it is not able to accurately tell that you’ve had enough to eat. This can lead to overeating.

9. Use menthol mouthwash or brush your teeth after meals.

Menthol mouthwash reduces craving, appetite and hunger after meals, which means it can help you avoid snacking in between meals or just before bedtime.

Look for an alcohol-free mouthwash so you don’t kill the good bacteria in your mouth, which you need in promoting oral health.

10. Don’t buy calorie-dense snacks.

Do you eat snacks even if you’re not hungry, just because you have them in your house? Do you find yourself rummaging through your stash of snacks if you’re bored or stressed or angry?

If you don’t have the snacks in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Don’t buy them. It’s a matter of resisting it once at the supermarket, or resisting it constantly if it’s in your house.

(Actually, my husband used to say that to me a lot, because I looooooove snacking. I didn’t listen to him at first, which led to more snacking and weight gain. But when I finally stopped buying my favorite snacks, I stopped snacking, as well! It’s a miracle!)

I’m not saying that you should never snack. You can, just make sure you don’t go over your calorie requirement because of them.

If having them in your house makes you go over your calorie requirement regularly, then it’s worth not having them in your house at all.

However, eating snacks does not necessarily mean it will make you gain weight. If you are hungry, it means you need food, but choose your snacks wisely, considering their calories so you can stay within your target.

Consider snacking on healthier options such as boiled egg or carrot, bell pepper and cucumber slices with hummus or nut butter without added sugar.

If you’re on the go, have a packet of nuts and seeds or fruit with you.

If you particularly love chocolate and won’t have no as an answer, have a small portion of 90%-100% dark chocolate.

11. Don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry.

Your senses can wreak havoc on your appetite when you go to the supermarket on an empty stomach. Trust me, I’ve been there many times.

Supermarkets release a distinct aroma of fresh bread which stimulates the appetite, making you more likely to buy extra food. The drinks and food will also look more visually appealing when you are hungry.

Do you remember how much you bought at the supermarket the last time you went there hungry?

12. Eat your meals within a 12-hour period.

Without food intake for several hours, your liver releases enzymes that break down your stored fat and cholesterol, which means that your liver is helping you burn fat. This also improves blood sugar control and appetite signalling.

Some people can go for several hours or days without food (fasting) and they report several health benefits with it. However, long periods of fasting can be problematic for some and impossible for many.

12 hours without food (micro-fasting) is manageable for most of us. If you finish your dinner at 7 pm, start your breakfast at 7 am. Outside your 12-hour eating window, you can have water and tea, but move away from caffeine at night.

This would also help you control your late-night snacking.

If skipping breakfast works for you, skip it, just make sure that you are not binge-eating at lunch and dinner. Skipping meals does not guarantee weight loss if you are eating excessive calories in your other meals.

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  1. Track your calories.
  2. Eat more protein.
  3. Eat more fiber.
  4. Choose low-GI and low-GL carbs.
  5. Eat because you are hungry, and stop eating when you are just full.
  6. Eat smaller portions.
  7. Eat slower.
  8. Eat mindfully.
  9. Use menthol mouthwash or brush your teeth after meals.
  10. Don’t buy unhealthy, calorie-dense snacks.
  11. Don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry.
  12. Eat your  meals within a 12-hour period.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article.


“Nutrition: Maintaining and Improving Health” 5e by Geoffrey P. Webb (2020)

“Eat What You Like & Lose Weight For Life” by Grame Tomlinson (2020)

“Not A Diet Book: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence. Transform Your Life” by James Smith (2020)

“The 4 Pillar Plan” by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee (2018)

“The Energy Plan” by James Collins (2019)

“How To Retrain Your Appetite” by Dr. Hellen McCarthy (2019)

Why follow a Low GI Diet?

Weight Loss: How To Track Your Calories

How many times have you tried to lose weight? Did it work? Did you achieve your weight goal and sustain it permanently?

If yes, congratulations! You don’t need to read this article.

But if you answered no, I feel you. I struggled losing weight for three years after giving birth. Only after I understood calories did I manage to enjoy permanent weight loss.

Indeed, the most common reason for not losing weight even if you’ve been dieting and exercising is that you don’t know the numbers involved.

The fact is, you can only lose weight if the calories from the food you eat is lesser than the calories you burn, and calories are your numbers. If you want to learn more about calories and weight loss, please read my post “Weight Loss: What You Need To Know FIRST”.

As the saying goes, “Numbers don’t lie”. If you can see the number of your calories and how they are affecting your weight and general well-being, you’ll be able to really know your body and your daily habits more.

And when you change your daily habits as you track your numbers, the most beautiful thing happens: you develop new helpful habits that will lead you to the weight and health that you desire, permanently.

Normally, you’ll have to pay a health coach or fitness coach to give you these numbers. It’s great if you can find an affordable and reliable weight loss coach to help you, but you can also learn how to do it yourself. I’ll teach you how I did it.

First, you need to know how much calories you need.

What’s Your Calorie Requirement?

On average, adult men need 2,500 calories from food per day, and women need 2,000 calories per day.

However, various factors can increase or decrease that requirement, such as your age, your metabolism, your level of physical activity at work and how often you exercise.

For example, your calorie requirement would be very different from that of an athlete who’s the same gender, height and age as you. Your calorie requirement when you had a very active lifestyle would be different now if your lifestyle has changed into a sedentary one.

Click the link below to compute your calorie requirement that will help you meet your weight goal considering the factors above. It will show you how much carbs, protein and fat you need in terms of calories and portion size. It will also give you a guide that you can print and email to yourself.

Click here to access Precision Nutrition’s calorie calculator to meet your daily goal. (link – )

Next, you need to start tracking your daily calorie and weekly calorie intake.

Tracking Your Calorie Intake

(1) Read food labels before you buy them and before you eat them.

Reading labels is very important. Look at the calories per serving. Sometimes, “kcal” or “kJ” is used. I prefer using calories/kcal (which are used interchangeably).

Reading labels will make you more aware of whether your meals, snacks and drinks will take you closer or farther from your desired weight. It can help you make better decisions in the food you buy and eat, as well as portion sizes.

(2) Know how much calories are in your meals, snacks and drinks.

There are plenty of food that don’t have calorie labels on them, such as the curry you’ve just cooked. You can check the number of calories in your food by using calorie counter apps and various sites on Google, or you can buy a food composition book.

Click on the link below to go to one of my favorite sites that will show you how much calories are in your food, and how much physical activity you’ll need to burn those calories.

Check the calories in your food via Nutritionix database. (link – )

If you know, for example, that the one medium donut has about 250 calories which would need about 68 minutes of walking just to burn it, you might just skip the donut, particularly if you’re not hungry, or you can choose a healthier alternative.

I’m not saying you should never eat donuts and other things you love. Weight loss will be very difficult if you have to ban everything you love from your life.

But if you are more mindful of how much calories are in the donut, you can make necessary adjustments in your other food intake and your movement, or it can even give you second thoughts about the donut, especially since you are more aware that you’re having sugar.

(3) Know your daily calorie intake.

You can write down the individual food and corresponding calories and get your total calorie intake for the day, or you can use online calorie counters and mobile apps, such as the ones mentioned here. ( link – )

One example is, which also has a mobile app. You can enter your food, select it from the database, and it will automatically compute the calories for you.

Click here to access your free daily calorie counter from (link – )

Various users contribute to the database so you may find different calorie counts, but if you’re unsure which one is correct, you can double check it with other calorie counters such as Nutritionix.

Looking at the total calories weekly is better than daily to make room for adjustments in case there are social occasions or you ate more on a specific day for whatever reason. But remember that, although occasional single large meals won’t make you gain weight significantly, habitual large meals do.

Tracking The Calories You Burn

Based on your gender, age, height, weight and level of physical activity, you can estimate the calories that you burn using this calculator. (link – )

You can also use a wearable fitness tracker and mobile app to help you track the calories you burn each day. These fitness trackers are not accurate and can even have up to 25% margin of error when telling you how much you burned.

Nevertheless, they can give you estimates and can give you an idea if you’re moving more, so it’s still a great tool to have.

If you don’t like wearing it on your wrist such as Fitbit, try something on your finger, such as Oura ring. I have both and I prefer wearing the ring.

Food And Movement Diary

Having a food and movement diary is not necessary, but if you’ve really been struggling to lose weight, I highly recommend having one.

Writing down your weight loss numbers would greatly help you in being more mindful of your eating habits and movement. If you are writing down what you’ve eaten, you’re able to reflect better on your food choices, and this can help you make better decisions in the next days.

It will also help you uncover any unhelpful habits and attitude towards food and movement. You’ll be able to pinpoint faster what’s helping you and what’s not.

Having these information on your food and movement diary would be very handy:

Date and time

  • Individual food and portion sizein your meals, snacks and drinks
  • Hunger levelbefore you ate (1-10, 10 being very hungry)
  • Physical activity(what kind and how long)
  • Whereit happened (at work, at home, with friends?)
  • Total caloriesfrom your food intake (use the calorie calculators online, such myfitnesspal or Nutritionix)
  • Calories burnedbased on your your fitness tracker
  • Notes(your mood, what happened in your life or work, or why you ate even if you’re not hungry, the number of hours you’ve slept the previous night, etc.)
  • Total calorie intakefor the week
  • Total calorie burnedfor the week
  • Your weekly weight and waist circumference taken on the same time and day of the week
  • Weekly change in weight

It’s Worth Trying

Does calorie tracking sound tedious to you? I feel you. That’s what I thought the first time I learned about calorie counting.

I used to count my calories manually using a calculator, pen and paper (I computed the calories per gram of carbohydrate, protein and fat in each food). That was quite tedious.

But now, it’s so much easier because of the websites, apps and wearables, such as the ones I mentioned above. Give it a try.

You don’t need to count calories forever. Once you have a good idea of how much calories are in your food because of your experience in calorie counting, it will be easier for you to assess the right portion size for you without looking at the calorie count anymore. The same goes for tracking the calories you burn.

If, for any reason, you find calorie tracking very difficult and unsustainable after giving it a try, don’t worry and don’t feel bad. You still have plenty of other helpful habits you can develop to achieve weight loss. Check out my post on helpful eating habits that will help you lose weight and maintain your desired weight.

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  1. Know and remember your target calorie intake based on your weight loss goal.
  2. Read the labels of the food you buy and check the calories.
  3. Know how much total estimated calories are in your meals, drinks and snacks.
  4. Track your calorie intake versus your target intake.
  5. Track your movement and calories burned.
  6. Keep a food and movement diary.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article.


“The Energy Plan” by James Collins (2019)

“Eat What You Like & Lose Weight For Life” by Grame Tomlinson (2020)

“Not A Diet Book: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence. Transform Your Life” by James Smith (2020)

Weight Loss: What You Need To Know First

Have you ever been confused about the right way to lose weight? Perhaps you heard these before and you believed what you heard, only to hear something different later on:

  • Carbs make you fat.
  • Fat makes you fat.
  • Low-carb makes you lose weight.
  • Low-fat makes you lose weight.
  • Giving up sugar makes you lose weight.
  • and so on….

You’d find it hard to know which one to actually eat!

And there are so many kinds of diets our there: keto, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, alkaline, organic, intermittent fasting, juicing, superfoods, raw food, diet tea, and the list goes on. Which one should you follow?

I personally found it confusing before, as well. I know how you feel.

In this post, I aim to cut through the confusion and simplify weight loss.

The Only Way You Can Lose Weight

Weight loss only comes when your calorie intake from food is less than the calories you burn. This is called the calorie deficit.

That is the only way that you can lose weight, regardless of the kind of diet and exercise you do. If you are asking why you are not losing weight, the most likely answer is that you’re not in calorie deficit.

If your calorie intake is equal to your calorie expenditure, you maintain your weight.

If your calorie intake is greater than your calorie expenditure, you gain weight. Excess calories are stored as fat.

The more calorie deficit  you have, the faster the weight loss.

Calorie DeficitWeight Loss
300-500 calories / day300-500 g/week
500-1,000 calories / day500-1,000 g/week

The desirable rate of weight loss for most people is 0.5 – 1 kg per week. The initial weight loss in the first month is usually faster, and then it can slow down or come to a plateau.

You then have to readjust your calorie intake and calorie expenditure to maintain calorie deficit. Once you’re reached your desired weight, you’ll have to readjust your targets to move to a new goal, such as weight maintenance or muscle gain.

So, yes, your weight loss is really about your calories. Because of that, it’s worth your while to be learn more about them.

Where Do Calories Come From?

Calories are units of measurement of energy. You get your energy from the food that you eat and that energy is measured in calories.

The four sources of energy from your food are called macronutrients (macros), which are the following:

  • Fat – 1 gram of fat has 9 calories
  • Carbohydrates – 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories
  • Protein – 1 gram of protein has 4 calories
  • Alcohol – 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories

For example, you ate 50 g of protein. It will give you 200 calories (50 g X 4 calories per gram of protein =  200 calories).

Calories from Fat + Carbohydrates + Protein + Alcohol = Your Calorie Intake

P.S. If you see “kcal”, it’s short for kilocalories, or 1,000 calories. However, kcal and calories are used interchangeably, even in food labels. We’ll use “calories” as our unit of measurement in my blog.

How Do You Burn Calories?

You burn calories because of your movement and everything else that happens in your body to keep you alive, which are basic metabolic stuff.

It’s hard to control the energy you burn with your basic metabolic stuff, but you have plenty of control over your movement.

You can burn more calories by increasing your exercise and day-to-day movement such as walking, going up and down the stairs, playing with your kids and doing household chores.

Are Calories Created Equal?

100 calories from fat are the same energy as 100 calories from protein. 200 calories from “healthy food” are the same as 200 calories from “junk food”.

So even if you eat “healthy food” but you eat too much of it, you can still gain weight. Calories are equal regardless of their source and they are burned the same way.

Calories then are about quantity of food but not about the quality of food. But remember that the quality of your food is important for your overall health.

The food you put in your belly for your energy requirement and enjoyment is also the same food you give to your brain, your heart, your arteries and all important parts of your body. To me, being healthy on the inside is more important than looking good on the outside.

Aside from calories then, you also need to look at the quality of the food you eat so you can enjoy your weight loss with good health, as well. Eat more whole, unprocessed food (made by nature) and eat less processed food (made by man).

Putting It All Together

To achieve weight loss, you need to be in calorie deficit: your calorie intake from food should be lesser than your energy expenditure. You can therefore lose weight by:

  • Eating fewer calories
  • Increasing your movement

If calories are the foundation for weight loss, it’s really worth learning about them, tracking them, and developing helpful habits around them if you want to lose weight permanently.

Check out my post on how how to set your target calories and how to track them, and stay tuned for my post on helpful habits that can lead to permanent weight loss. (How to Track Your Calories)

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  • Eat less.
  • Move more.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article.


“Human Nutrition” 13e edited by Catherine Geissler and Hilary Powers (2017)

“Eat What You Like & Lose Weight For Life” by Grame Tomlinson (2020)

“Not A Diet Book: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence. Transform Your Life.” by James Smith (2020)

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