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Health Goals: From Illusion to Reality

The article is published in Scientific India magazine (Nov-Dec 2017 issue)

Have you noticed the recent increase in obese population in India? What’s the story behind this? What do words like “calories” or “processed food” relate to in respect to health? And how much diet and exercise a person should do in order to burn off the stored body fat? Let’s find out.

The story of obese: In India, obesity has become a massive problem and the rate has been rapidly increasing since the 80’s, particularly among the children, teenagers and young adults. At the turn of the 20th century, people preferred home-cooked meals but with change in lifestyles and living standards, the food is heavily dependent on processed or canned foods. Even the home cooked food now largely involves use of processed foods. Another factor to be considered is the drastic reduction in physical activity (exercise), due to the use of personal vehicles for travelling, better office infrastructure etc. It can be said that people now have jobs that are physically less demanding. Sleep is often overlooked when it comes to weight gain and obesity. It is known that poor sleep has negative effects on various hormones that are related to weight gain, unhealthy body and can contribute to increased hunger and cravings. The vast majority of populace doesn’t put on weight overnight, it happens gradually, over years. But the rate is uneven throughout the year and spikes dramatically among few people. The reasons for unhealthy body and obesity are numerous, but what’s the solution then?

Back to basics: If you’ve ever Googled “Is diet important or exercise for weight loss?” you must have come across seemingly discretionary answers, out of which the most accepted one is 90% diet and 10% exercise but from where did 90/10 ratio come from? The key here is meal; it comes from the meals we eat. It depends to the large extent on calories-(energy)-in v/s calories-(energy)-out. Oversimplified fact is, excess calories are stored as fat and calories deficit causes stored fat to be burn off for energy. The solution to obesity is not dieting or weight loss, as it presumably minimizes the energy level from inside but fitness should be “inside-out”. What does Dieting mean? It means “torture” and a tortured person will revolt one day contradicting advice from so-called “experts”. It creates deficiency in the body at times.

Sure! It’s easy to reduce calorie intake and weight reduction by dieting but at a certain point, the body resists this weight loss and reaches a “plateau”- a stage where little or no change occur after a period of activity. In our age of quick solutions and empty promises of supernatural formulas, we are drowning ourselves into useless dieting habits. There is simply no magic pill that can solve our problem permanently. The only long term fitness reliable method is to apply dietary fundamentals. Many people just have to break some old habits, myths, illusions and misconceptions. You don’t have to feel miserable while eating. Whether you want to gain muscle weight, lose fat or just want to stay healthy, there is simply one rule- adjust caloric intake according to your target. Indians consume far less than the recommended quantum level of micro-nutrients and vitamins. With that said, nutritious diet is the first step. It's important to put the accentuation on a positive change in body composition and not just the weight reduction.

Misconceptions are the biggest hindrance in reaching goals of fitness- Mark Lauren

What you eat v/s how much you eat? If a person consumes the right food in correct proportions then he can maintain good health. Wrong type of eating causes craving for extra calories. On the other hand, it is believed that regardless of what food sources are, it is simply a matter of fact how much is the intake of calories to how much calories has been burnt off. Now question arises which of this is right? It might sound funny but both modes are correct. For that to be done, best way is to use combination of two theories. For large proportion of us, always eating properly balanced meals at each sitting simply can’t happen. We ought to take steps for a balanced meal and if that’s not possible then we should adjust our macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins for the duration of the day. There is no hard and fast rule for nutrition, fitness and health. Eat slowly, not too much-not too less. Stop wishing, start doing. The bottom line is what you intake matters more than how you work it off.

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