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Modern society while being a revolution in every aspect of life has its setbacks. The lightning pace at which this society trend has created a lot of health problems in all age groups and strata of society. From lack of physical activity to rigorous (almost dreadful) study schedules to long work hours. We literally have been entangled in a web of fancies of modern times. In all this ruckus of ‘keeping pace’, health has gone down our list of priorities in life. So much as that we believe in ‘damage control’ rather than ‘preventing’ health calamities in the first place.
Being a health professional, I have realized that as people we either do things wholeheartedly or we don’t pursue them at all (my way or the high way kind of stuff). You will see all these fancy posh ‘health clinics’ mushrooming around you but on the other hand, the increasing trends for new cases of chronic metabolic disorders like diabetes and Hypertension make you wonder, where are we going wrong? Our health standards are either this way or that way. We either want six-packs, sunken cheeks, ‘toothpick’ legs or we ‘live to eat’. Where is the mediocrity in all this?
The root of the above mentioned is obesity which what we want to prevent. But what we need to understand is that there isn’t always a lot of rocket science involved if you want to live a happy and fit life. I will stepwise describe factors which play a role in the development of obesity but at the same time will underscore the importance of maintaining a balance (avoiding over or underdoing effort)
1. Its All In The Genes:
Yes, it sure is and to be frank, we can’t do anything about these genes currently. But on the much brighter side, we can certainly prevent the genes concerning the development of Obesity/Diabetes Mellitus (DM)/Hypertension (HTN) from getting activated. And how is that? By not ‘providing’ the right conditions for them to cause havoc. For example, if an adolescent’s parents have one or more of the above mentioned conditions then he/she probably harbors the genetic framework to get the same disease in life (genetically predisposed). At an early age, this person should be encouraged to be more active, to consume less processed/junk and sugar food. All in the effort to prevent the concerned genes from doing the cascade of damage.
2. It’s In The ‘numbers’ Too
Some people eat less and gain more while others gain less even while binging. Again, this is genetically determined as well. However, what is also important is that certain habits and behaviors run in families. The trends of physical inactivity/activity can or are imprinted in the future generations as well. They follow what they see. As a rule, you lose weight if you consume less calories than your ‘TOTAL ENERGY EXPENDITURE or TEE (total energy requirement as per your basal metabolic rate and activity)’. You gain weight if you either eat more than your TEE or burn less calories. To know more about nutritional calculations, you should consult a qualified nutritionist. Details are beyond the scope of this article. But this does not mean that you immerse yourself into all the grizzly details of formulas/numbers. This is to enlighten you that there are ‘mathematical’ reasons as to why you don’t lose weight. The crux is eating less and burn more with an emphasis on ‘no one size fits all’. You cannot compare yourself with someone else as to why he or she puts on or loses weight at a speed that is different than yours. Everyone has different metabolic machinery, focus on your own.
3. Food Content
What we should and should not be eating is not something which can be summarized in small articles. I just want to focus on using common sense while we choose what we eat. Self-control in face of the lust for processed & refined/simple sugary foods is warranted. The focus should be on the quality and quantity of goods. First off, make sure it is prepared healthily, or in case of fruits/veggies washed thoroughly as well. Plain/prepared white rice, for example, is a staple diet for a large proportion of the world population. Being refined/polished, it has basically lost most of its nutritional value (especially the B complex vitamins), but what it does have is the ability to rapidly increase your blood sugar levels and consequently release loads and loads of insulin into your blood stream form your pancreas as a counter measure. The insulin normalizes the blood sugars but at the same time causes fat deposition and repeated surges in response to simple carbs (with high glycemic index) like refined rice, juices, and sweets cause substantial increases in weight.
The point I want to emphasize is that choose sensible proportions of food. Big plates of rice 3 times a day will not yield anything except a huge bag of meds down the years. So, what can you do about it? Choose smaller plates, balance out the carbs with veggies to make your meals healthy.
Try to choose unrefined flour in your diet, the said has a lot of fiber and the resultant sugars don’t peak in the blood as do the simple sugars/refined flour.
Cut out sugary drinks from your diet. They are nothing but sugar bombs. Once or twice a week a 300 mg soda can is enough. And don’t go thinking that the ‘DIET’ versions of soda are any better and will do you wonders in losing weight. The ‘non-sugary’ proteins in these sodas have been suspected of causing memory loss and as they are devoid of calories, they mess with the appetite sensing/signaling areas in your brain and you end up eating more than you would have without having that ‘DIET’ soda.
Maintain a balance, it’ll be tough earlier on but once you see the results manifesting, you will love the discipline.
4. Timing Of Food Intake
When you eat is also as important as what and how much you are eating. Besides preventing obesity, our objective should be to practice behaviors that enable us to carry out daily routines disease-free.
The importance of breakfast cannot be overemphasized. Having breakfast gives you fullness (provided you eat the right stuff) and stops you from overeating in the consecutive meals besides giving you fuel to start the day. New data underscoring the importance of a healthy breakfast even to the extent of reducing cardiovascular disease risk is emerging.
Skipping meals in normal conditions is not recommended (in case of certain fad diets) as it leads to overconsumption at a particular time of the day and nutritional deficiencies.
Eat more at breakfast, less at lunch and the least at dinner. Try not to lie down immediately after meals which cause gastrointestinal disturbance (bloating, heartburn).
Caffeine as coffee/tea is an integral part of our food plans for almost everyone. But try not to lie down after intake of caffeinated drinks and it is not recommended to take coffee or tea at or near bedtime ( unless due to certain reasons you have to stay up), as coffee/tea at the wrong time can cause disturbance of your sleep-wake cycle leading to a stressful state in the body. This can eventually lead to chronic metabolic issues like diabetes/hypertension.
In plain words, lack of or disordered sleep puts you at risk for uncountable diseases. You lose concentration at work. Stress is a contributor in many ways to chronic metabolic health problems It causes you to overeat, put on weight and increase the release of stress hormones (like cortisol), all of which add up to disease. Avoidance of stress is a must.
The first thing to realize is that it’s not necessary to be sweating it out at the gym or running sprints like Usain Bolt to be physically fit. Exercise is basically incorporated in everything you do. Like how you avoid leisure and opt for walking to somewhere. Using the stairs instead of the elevator.
Try to stand up after every 30 minutes of sitting during working hours. Standing up and attending phone calls instead of sitting. I would use the term ‘Super Active’ not as in ‘Super Man’ but it’s about burning calories throughout the day. Simple things add up. These days you will come across a lot of recommendations regarding daily step count (8K to 10 K/day), activity duration. For instance, WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity/week and/or 75 minutes of vigorous /strength training activity or a mix of both per week. Choose guidelines that you find the simplest and follow them.
In a nutshell, be active, stay motivated and eat healthy. Chances are you will lead a healthy, productive life. Good luck!