So you want to lose weight. Half the world does. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic so it’s only natural that every second person you meet is keenly seeking the holy grail of weight loss. Dinner conversations invariably return to feelings of guilt over indulgences. The Internet is flooded with clever advertising to lure vulnerable individuals into buying some product or the other with the promise of ‘losing ten kilos in ten days’ or similar fantastic claims.
You may not be thrilled with your body right now; in fact, you may view it with a good deal of distaste. Let’s ask ourselves a question, how did we get this way? How did we pile on the pounds? Where is that slender teenager? No doubt there are some who struggle with obesity all their lives. Overweight as children and teenagers, they are often faced with ridicule and marginalised. A large percentage of the population however, grow obese with age. A certain amount of weight gain with age is acceptable. But to become obese and as a result develop various obesity related complications like pain and discomfort, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression, indigestion and so on, is not.
Take stock of your lifestyle.
- Are you physically active all day or does your job entail a lot of sitting behind a desk?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you stay home and watch a lot of television and do little physical labour?
- Do you deal with an inordinate amount of stress? More importantly, are you one of those people who do not handle stress well? Do you develop acidity, anxiety or insomnia as a result of your stress? Do your work and relationships suffer? Do you become an insufferable boss or mother?
- Do you go on eating or drinking binges?
- Do you starve yourself often with the hope of losing weight only to go back to binge eating?
- Do you get enough sleep? (Six to eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep is recommended.)
- Do you eat well-balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, protein and healthy fats or are you loading up on the bread/cereal group (rice, rotis, bread, etc.), refined, processed, packaged food with additives and sugars out of packets as is common and convenient?
- Do you eat home-cooked meals or depend on canteens and hotels and takeaways?
- Do you travel a lot, subjecting yourself to different time zones, food, lack of sleep and stress?
- Does your life involve a lot of socialising with indiscriminate eating and drinking?
- Are you addicted to sugar and need to eat something sweet ever so often?
The list of poor lifestyle habits is endless. These are some of the reasons you could be steadily gaining weight. Each problem has to be addressed independently with a combination of life skills, dietary advice and regular exercise. There is no way around it. Whatever the reason for the weight gain, the solution is to eat better, exercise and change your lifestyle.
Here’s the problem — most people think an hour of exercise alone will solve everything. It takes more than that, although that’s a good place to start. Your lifestyle is important. What you do for the rest of the twenty-three hours counts far more than one hour of working out. This means change. A change in attitude towards your lifestyle and not just one aspect of it.
A new mindset and not just a new menu is what is required.
The real secret to losing weight and more importantly, keeping it off is your attitude. The ability to look at your lifestyle with a certain amount of objectivity and a critical eye and then take the necessary steps to change what needs to change; the ability to get the necessary professional help when required. It’s not easy to change a whole lifestyle. There are other people involved — family, friends, colleagues and boss who are probably helping you preserve the current lifestyle. Change may involve others and this is not always welcome. For change to be sustainable however, it has to be holistic.
Adopt a slow and steady approach. Help your body and mind gradually learn to eat better, exercise more, live healthier, sleep earlier, relax and breathe. Most importantly, learn to appreciate yourself and your efforts. Learn to respect yourself and your body.
(The writer is a fitness and lifestyle consultant. E-mail: Sheela.firstname.lastname@example.org)