Many want to lose weight and many need to. Many try but few succeed. What is the secret of their success? Is there one secret or are there many? Do doctors know all the answers? Maybe, but aren't there lots of obese doctors around?
In my practice I have had the opportunity to speak to both types of people; the ones who have lost weight and the ones who have failed. I myself have struggled for many years to lose weight only to find success recently. So what are these secrets?
Secret 1: Sincerity. People who successfully lose weight have a deep commitment and sincerity in their effort. It is akin to a project that they have taken up and need to see it to completion. They work hard to lose weight, they have pride in their effort and they celebrate their achievements. Quite often the commitment comes due to a life altering mishap that they have suffered like a heart attack or a complication from diabetes. It is only after a major near death experience do they realise how fragile life is and how much they have taken for granted. I urge readers to take weight loss seriously and not wait for their wake up call!
Secret 2: Exercise or Diet? Is dieting enough to lose weight? or is exercising enough? or do we need both? the reality is that diet is far more crucial to reduce weight than exercise. Exercise helps but diet is the key. Those who exercise but continue their usual eating habits almost never lose weight. Of the weight one loses, 75% will be due to changes in diet and 25% will be due to exercise.
Secret 3: Quality of food. Is it acceptable to buy petrol mixed with water? We are so particular about quality of the things we buy, however we stop thinking of quality when it comes to food. We are ruled by taste. What tastes good is good. Its time to stop and think about what we consume. We ought to eat only quality food. We should avoid deep fried foodstuff. We should also avoid artificial sugar. Avoiding sugar doesn't stop at adding Splenda to tea. One cannot imagine the extent to which artificial sugar has infiltrated our eating habits! Biscuits, chips, packaged snacks, cakes, chocolates, sweets, mithai, cold drinks, ice creams etc etc are all loaded withartificial sugar. This modern sugar stresses the body's mechanisms to control blood sugar. The body converts all this excess sugar to fat and stores it, resulting in a pot belly. The hotel industry, the biscuit manufacturer, the bakery, the chocolate industry, the Paani-Puri Wala or the Wada-Pav Center are not interested in your health. They thrive on our weakness for taste. So when I say avoid fried foods and artificial sugar, I really mean one must avoid eating packaged food (what is typically stocked at a Kiraana store) and one must avoid eating outdoors. Home cooked meals will always have the quality you are looking for! In addition to this we must reduce our consumption of the GREAT FOUR! They arerice, potatoes, pasta (and other maida products) and bread (bakery products). These products are similar to sugar and have high carbohydrate content which will be converted to fat. Once one learns to avoid these poor quality foods, what remains is all healthy. Wheat (or jowar, bajra) chapatis, dals, vegetables, meat (in limited quantity) and nuts are healthy to eat. To this we can add cereals(without sugar), muesli, oats, milk and eggs. Milk products without sugar like dahi and chaas are good. The sugar in fruit is natural and far far superior to artificial sugar. One can safely consume all types of fruits unless diabetic. Raw vegetable salads (without unhealthy mayonnaise dressings) are a complete winner. Now with this knowledge lets assess the quality of some of our foodstuffs - first the seemingly harmless 'wada-pav'. It has got potato, maida and bread. Plus it is deep fried. Its a total disaster, isn't it? Lets see another scenario: a visit to MacDonald's. What do we end up eating? A fried patty in bread? Still not so bad one may feel. But lets see the accompaniments. A sugar filled cold drink and fried potato chips! Another disaster. What about the people who drink many cups of tea in the day? Not much harm done? Actually lots of harm done if the tea has sugar! All the sugar just ends up in one's belly.
Secret 4: Portion control. Now we come to the most difficult part of weight reduction. We may be very motivated to lose weight and we may be willing to let go of our tasty snacks, but are we ready for portion control? What does one mean by portion control? It means that one has to control the quantity of food consumed at a particular time. This is very critical for the major meals which are lunch and dinner. I have devised the 1 to 2 rule. For lunch or dinner one should not consume more than 2 chapati's or 1 chapati and 1 small helping of rice. Obviously this is hugely difficult as we will feel hungry. There are 2 secrets here to succeed. First is to reduce the speed of eating. It takes time for the stomach to send a signal to the brain that it is full. If we eat too fast, we have already over eaten by the time the signal reaches the brain. Vice versa if we eat very very slowly, we will feel full even with seemingly small quantities of food. One should chew slowly and swallow only after chewing the food completely. One should not put another morsel in the mouth till one has swallowed the previous morsel. The second secret is to eat healthy snacks in between meals. So one can have a fruit or a salad or some nuts at 11:00 am and in the evenings at 4pm and if required even at 7pm. If one feels hungry after dinner, one can have a healthy snack at 10pm. This way we can counter the hunger we will feel because of portion control. I must emphasise here that the snack must be healthy! People have a habit of skipping meals and then binge eating at dinner time. They feel proud of skipping a meal and think it will help reduce weight. Then they feel the need for a reward and feel justified in eating a heavy meal. Little do they realise that all the benefit from skipping a meal is not only lost in the binge eating, in fact more harm is done than good. Binge eating can never result in weight loss! The tough truth is that we can never have a heavy meal ever, if we are serious about weight loss!
This is a sure shot way of losing weight! Many of us feel that we don't eat much food, we eat healthy and still we don't lose weight! But I request you all to introspect sincerely! You must take into account exact quantity of food consumed rather than your best estimate. You must look at the quality of food as well. Learn to pay attention while eating and actually count the chapatis and helpings of rice. Also every small unhealthy snack eaten in between, like a chocolate, a biscuit, a piece of cake or a few chips, matters!
Armed with these secrets, I am confident that all of us can start losing weight and move towards a more healthy and happy life!