Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Let's Talk About... Weighty Woes And Weight Loss!

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated 7th April as World Health Day. They choose to focus on different aspects of health every year, for example, this year its about Food Safety, cooking and serving safe food. For me it's a good day to write about something that preys on the minds of most Indians, no matter where in the world we may be, weight!
My personal relationship with weight is a funny one. I was reed thin for the greater part of my life, the thinnest of our family of four. In fact I was so slim as a child and as a teenager, that rude, uncouth acquaintances often jokingly asked if the remaining three members of our family ate up all the food, leaving none for me! I was as healthy as a horse but food held no great interest for me, helping I guess, to maintain a weight on the lower side of normal. If a famous Bollywood actress hadn't immortalised 'Size 0', I surely would have, sooner than later!
Even the fact that I had two children did not have much effect on my weight and despite great gains of eighteen and fourteen kilo grams each time, I was soon back to a normal weight. In fact, the first time around I had lost ten kilo grams during the two day hospital stay itself, prompting even the doctor to double check by putting me back on the scales! Water retention due to sitting down and studying for exams for hours at a stretch in the last few months of pregnancy seemed to have had unexpected benefits, as in it equalled almost instant weight loss! The rest of the kilos were lost really quickly by never introducing my kids to a bottle... No better calorie burning than feeding your baby!
So when did an ideal weight turn to weighty woes? In my case I blame Africa and the relatively relaxed life that we lead here, compared to life in our own country, India, where we are continuously on the go, very often on foot. Here it isn't really considered safe for Asians like us to walk around in most areas and so it's all about hopping into your car the minute you have to exit your gate, even if your destination is just five minutes away.
My slow and steady gain started in Tanzania around the time my son was two years old. Though he kept me on my toes, it really wasn't enough and I saw a gain of a kilo and a half a year, helped by eating out occasionally and having wafers and chocolates once a week. So by the time we left Tanzania, I was at the upper limit of my ideal height for weight. Hang on, there's a reason for all these boring details. I was still confident I could get it off any time I so desired. After all, I was the Queen of Thin, wasn't I? Change that to had been! I could not have been more wrong...
It's as if a few extra kilos become like magnets for additional ones. Three years in my home town added another couple of kilos, a sure sign of age related slowing down of metabolism, as I had never really gained at home earlier! Africa was to blame, remember?
And then, we moved back to Africa, to Kenya this time. I was already three kilos above an 'ideal' limit. An odd kilo got added on again, with the misplaced confidence I can get rid of any time I wish! Two years in Kenya and the horrific Westgate Mall Attack happened. We placed ourselves under near house arrest for a while with nothing much to do except eat and mourn this tragedy. The scales showed a spike of three kilos with the result that I was now seven kilos above my weight limit. My Body Mass Index (BMI) was now a shade over what it should have been. It was time for action.
I was physically absolutely fit. All my tests were normal and I could perform 108 Sun Salutations at a stretch without even feeling out of breath. I was walking more than five kilometres every morning. But those figures on the scales were beginning to haunt me. I do not believe it's ok to be fat if you are fit, as I feel that extra weight will show it's true colours sooner or later. It's not even about body image or looking good, its just about the extra strain those extra kilos put on our poor, beleaguered bodies.
I joined a Power Plates class that cost a bomb but started showing results immediately. Working out on a vibrating machine for three months at a stretch with a personal trainer, along with walking eight kilometres a day showed fantastic results and I lost ten kilo grams! It's been a year and I have added on an odd kilo but I am well within my height for weight limit and feel satisfied that I attained my goal, though not as easily and effortlessly as I had always thought that I could...So start as soon as that first odd kilo shows up! Don't wait like I did...
Experts say do not weigh yourself too often. But I beg to differ. Invest in a good digital weighing scale and weigh yourself as often as you want to. You will see a clear link between what you ate and what you weigh, if you are anything beyond the mid thirties. It will help keep a check on your dietary habits like nothing else will! My personal trainer used to physically punish me on the machine every time I showed a half kilo gain after a week end of eating a large packet of potato wafers as a snack or a meal from a restaurant. I became like Pavlov's dogs in reverse, they began salivating when they heard the bell, I began losing my appetite every time I thought of my muscles screaming in pain, while being held down on the plates, as punishment for that extra gain!  But that was then and fair, as my aim was to lose weight. Once you achieve your desired weight, it is possible to enjoy treats on week ends as long as you continue to exercise in some form or the other.
And what of my husband? He was so thin that he has been described to me as 'thin enough to slip down the hole of an unplugged bath tub' by one of his college friends ! Russia, Tanzania, India, Kenya as well as the twenty odd countries he has visited on work or holiday added to his weight and he didn't feel the pinch of  extra adipose like I did. Fat but fit described him well, till he was diagnosed with gall stones three months ago! A strict diet till he could go back home for surgery worked wonders for him and he shed fifteen kilos in two months. He was successfully operated in India last month and his stony gall bladder removed. Now it's heartening to hear him refuse a particular dish with the words, 'It is fattening'! Absolute music to my ears! He still has a few kilos left to go. I hope he attains his ideal weight, we can't get all those clothes altered to a bigger size again but I will be happy to make them even smaller!
Jokes apart, may be it's time to make a change without the pain of losing a body part!  India has already become the diabetic capital of the world and should we add to the statistics, before we permanently become one ourselves, much before our time?
World Health Day seems like a good day for a fresh resolution, in case you already broke your New Year one!

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