Some Gyan On Weight Management
Why am I gaining weight?
The most commonly held belief is that the reason for weight gain is either eating too much food, not having a balanced diet or not enough physical activity. They contribute to weight gain but they are not the only culprits. Other reasons for weight gain can be:
- Ageing Factor: Our metabolic rate tends to slow down as we age. This means that our body is now consuming less amount of calories to generate energy. You should adjust your meal accordingly and failing to do so can result in gaining weight even though you are consuming the same amount of food.
- Weight gain can be an indication of developing a disease like hypothyroidism, diabetes, PCOS/PCOD, kidney ailment, liver ailment etc.
- Not enough nutrients in food: Green Revolution has surely removed famine from the country but has also contributed towards fewer nutrients on our platter because of the way farming is being done these days. This means we need to eat more to get enough micro and macro nutrients in our diet and consequently increase our calorie intake.
- Oxidative Stress: Our body is constantly under attack due to environmental pollution, insecticides, pesticides, chemicals and preservatives in adulterated foods etc. They cause oxidative stress in our bodies. Various research has shown that oxidative stress can contribute to advancing chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, various autoimmune diseases et al. To neutralize oxidative stress, our body needs more antioxidants which means more food and hence more calories.
- Evolutionary reason: Our brain misinterprets habits like eating too fast, irregular mealtimes, and less physical activity as if there is not enough food around. As a survival mechanism, our body accumulates fat that can be used as energy at a later stage. This ‘later’ never comes and we keep on adding weight.
- Hormonal imbalance: Pregnancy-related hormonal imbalance, menopause, leptin resistance, insulin resistance etc.
- Stress: Yes, it can be a significant contributor to weight gain.
- Medication: Steriods, some medications related to depression, blood pressure, epilepsy, diabetes etc.
- Genetics: Genetic predisposition towards obesity can be heavy but it’s not so great that you can’t overcome it with some effort.
Why sometimes a rigorous diet and increased activity does not help in reducing weight?
When we restrict calorie intake by going on a diet, our metabolism starts to slow down and we burn fewer calories. This is a physiological response of the body to conserve energy. Similarly, if we significantly and suddenly increase our activity level by starting a new exercise program, our bodies compensate by burning fewer calories. Also, we tend to feel hungrier and exercise gives us a false sense of security that we can munch extra snacks.
Further, it is very difficult to continue with a strict diet and rigorous exercise for a longer period. After a couple of months, our willpower gives up and we are back to our old habits. We eat and sleep with a vengeance as if there is no tomorrow. Psychologically we have given up and made it so hard in our minds that we may never try to lose weight again.
How does weight gain harm our health?
Apart from reasons like lowering self-image, reduced energy level, toxin build-up and deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins, obesity can do irreversible damage to our physical health. As the fat percentage increases in our body, it gets accumulated as:
- Subcutaneous Fat: It is a jelly-like fat just under the skin. Normally the thickness of the skin is a few millimetres and it protects the internal organs from the harmful effects of the environment, apart from other functions. When the thickness increases to a few centimetres or a few inches, it puts extra pressure on the organs and they start to suffocate. Especially, while we are asleep when the entire weight of the skin is on our organs. This reduces the functionality of the organs and may cause lifestyle diseases.
- Visceral Fat: This is the fat around the organs. It is far more harmful than the subcutaneous fat. You don’t need to gain weight to accumulate visceral fat around the organs and that makes it more difficult to monitor. That makes even slim people prone to degenerative diseases related to fat gain.
- Cholesterol, Triglycerides, LDL: Excess glucose (from carbohydrates) in the blood can lead to an increase in the thickness of blood by producing more triglycerides and cholesterol. This can have a negative effect on the functioning of the heart, pancreas and liver.
When we plan to reduce weight, the regime should take care of all three factors.
Why it is recommended to eat raw fruits and vegetables?
Fat cells suck up available fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K—and often don’t leave enough for the rest of your body. Studies suggest that obese people tend to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies because it’s all lurking in their adipose (fat) tissue. The deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins can leave you craving more food and you end up gaining more weight.
Fat cells are also a (temporarily) safe space to store pollutants and other organic chemicals that might otherwise pose a threat. Organochlorine pesticides build up in fat, as do the polychlorinated biphenyls and other chemicals from the “dirty dozen” of environmental contaminants. These banned chemicals can get into your food supply in small quantities and are stored in your fat, possibly because your body wants to sequester them away from your organs. Bodies don’t seem to store enough of these to become toxic, but the constant build-up leaves you vulnerable to exposure. And they do start to re-emerge when you lose weight. The body eliminates its toxins through urine. So during weight loss, you may need an additional dose of antioxidants to limit the damage caused by these toxins. Raw fruits and vegetables are considered the best source of antioxidants.
Another reason is to reduce the calorie count. On a simple level, your weight depends on the number of calories you consume, how many of those calories you store, and how many you burn up. If you consistently burn all of the calories that you consume in a day, you will maintain your weight. If you consume more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. The excess calories are stored throughout your body as fat.
While managing a diet you need to plan the diet so that the calorie is restricted and the nutritional value of the food is the same. Nutrition deficiency can lead to weakness and fatigue which makes it harder to exercise. Most of the salads and fruits are low in calories and high in nutritional value. By adding enough raw fruits and vegetables may help you get the best results (consult a nutritionist to decide on the right combination of nutrition for you). The right combination of raw and cooked food can also help you stick to the diet plan for a longer period.
Are supplements necessary to loose weight?
You must grasp the simple fact that supplements alone cannot aid in weight reduction. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that will miraculously eliminate fat from your body. Supplements can be beneficial only when there is a deficiency that cannot be adequately addressed through diet alone. An example of such a deficiency is Vitamin D, which we can only obtain from adequate exposure to sunlight. Similarly, for Vegans, achieving an optimum level of Vitamin B can be challenging. It is highly recommended to consult a dietician before commencing any supplementation.
From where I can start if I am planning to lose weight?
- Change the composition of your diet:
- Increase the number of fruits and raw vegetables
- Consume more local and regional food
- Avoid packaged food like a biscuit, namkeen, cold drinks, packaged juices
- Avoid bakery items and mithai (sweets)
- Avoid food prepared from maida (white flour) like pasta, bread
- Notice which food makes you lethargic. Avoid them as they are putting a strain on your digestive system
Become conscious of what you are eating and which food is increasing your energy levels. Keep a notebook to track the trend and understand what your body needs.
- Change the composition of your gut:
- Avoid artificial sweeteners (including table sugar) as they encourage the growth of bacteria associated with obesity
- Using fermented, cultured and fibre-rich food nourishes friendly bacteria
- Control your environment:
- Use a smaller plate while eating food. Subconsciously we eat more on a bigger plate
- Control what is in your refrigerator rather than testing your willpower every night
- Find an accountability partner. It’s easier to go to a gym or morning walk with a friend
- Find a support group where people have goals similar to yours
- A lot of healthy foods are tasty, learn to cook them at home
- Buy a health band and walk at least 10,000 steps in a day. Less than 8000 steps are considered sedentary. If you go to the gym for 1 hour but walk less than 6000 steps then the gym will not help you much in reducing weight.
- Set a long-term goal and change your body weight more slowly. Try to reduce not more than 10 kgs in three months and then maintain that weight for two to three months. The body gets time to adjust to the new weight and you may not gain it back.
- Do not kill yourself by overworking. Not getting enough rest and sleep can increase stress levels in your body.
- And most importantly BELIEVE that you can do it.