Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Pot Belly - a sign of prosperity ..... think again!

It's customary in India to see a man with a pot belly/paunch and say "it's a sign of prosperity". The origins of this comment are deep routed. Weight loss is associated with illness. Weight gain is associated with newly acquired wealth and hence access to richer foods. In addition a typical Indian mother is obsessed with feeding her children. A rolly-polly child seems to bring immense satisfaction to his/her mother. She feels she is doing her job well. This obsession continues even when the children become adults. If an adult male loses weight it is assumed that his wife/mother is not looking after him. To his/her friends and family, a person's pot belly is accepted easily. It's hardly a matter of concern! It's to be joked about and forgotten. 

The truth couldn't be further from this. The pot belly is the root cause of all health issues today. It's literally a house of disease. It will bring in its wake horrendous illness' like blood pressure, diabetes and the dreaded coronary heart disease (heart attack).  It is a measure of a persons lack of physical fitness. People with pot bellies are more prone to back pain (lumbar spondylitis) and knee pain (osteoarthritis). It is also a direct indicator of a persons unhealthy eating habits. 

Pot bellies were not so common until recently. Why didn't our ancestors have a pot belly? What are we doing wrong? Our fore-fathers did a lot of physical activity. No access to vehicles meant they were walking a lot. No elevator meant they were climbing stairs. They were lifting their own bags. They were using cycles and not motor-cycles. They had to walk to the market to buy their vegetables, walk to pay their bills and walk to the bank. With the progress in technology, mobile phones and internet, we are doing everything from the comfort of our home or office. The result is a near complete lack of physical activity. That is not all. There is a change in diet patterns. Our fore-fathers ate natural and home made food. Going to a hotel to eat food was not even a monthly event let alone every week or every day. There were no fancy bakery products like cakes, biscuits, toasts, etc etc. There was no packaged food industry and therefore no (or less) chocolates, sweets, ice creams, colas, chips, chevda, mad angles, etc etc. As a result, people in those days did hard physical work and ate healthy food. So it comes as no surprise that in today's day and age, the pot belly is common and so are lifestyle illness' like diabetes etc. 

The new age brought with it a food evolution. Sugar became the new mantra. Adding sugar made food tasty and easier to sell. As a result packaged food items associated with with wealth like chocolates and colas were packed with sugar. In fact most packaged food items contain sugar. May it be a seemingly harmless biscuit or apparently healthy cornflakes. This kind of sugar is hidden and we don't know about it till we read the ingredients. Only recently research has shown a direct correlation with sugar intake and obesity. 

Now it becomes clear ..... A paunch is truly a sign of prosperity as only the wealthy can indulge in these expensive packaged sugar products. And the whole food and advertising industry wants you to spend money on these food stuffs. The newspaper is full of the adverts and so is the television. Gullible people like us are falling prey. They are doing exactly what the adverts tell them to do. Biscuits, jams, chocolates have become part of our lifestyle. We cannot imagine a world without them. 

We need to wake up and realise how foolish we have been. We need to go back to the ways of our ancestors. We need to say no to the cola and yes to a walk. We need to look down on our pot belly and get rid of it immediately. We need to caution our friends and relatives and inspire them to get rid of theirs. A pot belly is a recipe for disaster and no trivial joking matter. 

It is now time for a paradigm shift. Exercise must not be seen as an optional leisure activity that you do if you have spare time. It's a necessary task of daily routine like eating a meal or having a bath. Similarly food must not be viewed as ‘going on a diet to lose weight’ but a healthy, natural (low sugar, low oil) eating habit must be developed as a permanent lifestyle change.