Saturday, June 22, 2024

IN FOCUS :Diet- Tailor it to your body type, lifestyle

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Every health-conscious individual is familiar with the word ‘diet’, though not many are aware of the pros and cons of different types of diet linked to popular cuisines. Contrary to the claims associated with various fads and fanciful diet types, experts underline the need for mindful eating that takes into account your body type and lifestyle. There is nothing like a ‘one size fits all’ diet. The Pioneer’s Amartya Smaran talks to experts who share diet secrets to chew on.

The term ‘diet’ is originated from the Greek word called ‘diaita’; which translates to a ‘way of life’. In good old days, the word was used synonymously with the overall well-being of an individual.  However, in the modern world, the term has come to signify the restricted sense of a quick fix adopted to reduce weight. It is a different matter that diet can be adapted even to gain weight. One in three people we come across nowadays will tell you that they are on specific type of diet such as ketogenic diet, paleolithic diet, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, Mediterranean diet, Atkins diet, along with add-ons like intermittent fasting, and the like.

There are millions of people who struggle with their weight. Our quest for quick fixes to attain the ‘ideal’ weight puts our minds and bodies to a lot of stress. Who doesn’t love food? We all would love to come home and enjoy a bit of variety in eatables. Some of the restrictions associated with certain diet types rob us of the variations we look for. The unbalanced and restrictive food regimen might serve us in the short term, but they will test our patience in the long run.

The adoption of unhealthy lifestyle, coupled with stressful jobs, has contributed to a spike in obesity cases across the world. The Covid pandemic has normalized sedentary lifestyle. Rapid weight loss appears to be the only possible solution for those fattening with no control over their eating habits. However, experts across the globe caution that extreme quick-fix diets are most likely to fail in the long run.  When one adopts an artificial diet that cuts them off completely from eatables that yield gustatory pleasure, boredom is bound to follow at some point or the other.

According to a paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, maintaining a negative energy balance is the best way to sustain weight loss. It also lays emphasis on following a sustainable diet, along with moderate physical activity, to achieve overall mental and physical well-being.

The all-or-nothing attitude with respect to lifestyle choices is alarming. And, with exposure to social media posts, people are exposed to different kinds of preposterous diets, some of which could lead to potential health risks like eating disorders as well as heart- and kidney-related problems.

Clinical nutritionist Hafsaa Farooq shares: “Every time somebody opts for a shortcut method to lose weight, they sign themselves up for failure. According to statistics, 85% of the people who go on an unreasonable diet gain all the weight back within 6-24 months.

In a lot of cases, these individuals end up being heavier than they were before they started their diets.  The constant loss and gain of weight causes a lot of internal health problems, which include increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes , cardiovascular health problems, and a lot of psychological disorders.”

People easily gain all the weight that they lose the moment they fall off the bandwagon. Guess what? They immediately seek refuge in the comfort of extreme diets; thereby continuously gaining and losing weight. This is known as the ‘yo-yo’ effect, which slows down metabolism.

According to a study, the risk of heart attack-related deaths is three times higher in ‘yo-yo’ dieters. The worst part of this weight cycling process is that the weight never again comes back to normal, which could lead to further frustration.

Shedding more light on the concept behind weight cycling, Hafsaa observes: “Weight cycling in simple terms could be defined as the repeated cycle of losing and gaining weight. Weight cycling often happens as a result of unhealthy approaches towards losing weight. People end up looking for a quick fix for their weight problems, which only ends in a relapse of weight and the cycle continues. The diet industry is a 7 billion dollars industry and it only aggravates the yo-yo dieting culture by selling people products and services that can help them magically see results.”

“I’d say around 10-15% of the people actually manage to stick to their diets provided that the diets are sustainable,” remarks Hafsaa, looking at the consistency rate of her clientele. “The main reason why most people quit is due to a lack of discipline and the inability to stay consistent with their goals. Most of them aim for instant gratification, which comes with seeing the numbers on the weighing scale go down. Once they stop seeing the results, they give up without making any further adjustments in the current diet. 

Everyone needs to realise that eating healthy and working out are not short-term goals; they are a lifelong investment.  If you inculcate good eating habits and have a solid workout routine as a part of your lifestyle, you will automatically see the results you want in the long run.”

The idea behind a ketogenic diet is to deprive the body of glucose. Our cells in the body thrive on glucose and when the body is deprived of glucose, it takes its fuel from ketones. The significant drawback here is that too many ketones will lead to kidney-related issues.

These extreme diets impede the body from receiving the essential nutrition it needs, with the metabolic rate taking a beating as a result of it. People turn a blind eye to the drawbacks of crash diets to look presentable. Risking lives for one good picture on Instagram or Facebook doesn’t seem reasonable, isn’t it?

“Compulsive dieting has a negative impact on both your physical and mental health,” opines the clinical nutritionist, while speaking of the adverse effects of extreme diets on the body. “Our bodies were not designed to be in a state of constant distress which is what majority of the crash diets do to you. Most people who start compulsive dieting end up developing disordered eating habits, body dysmorphia, serious medical conditions, and eating disorders, which usually result in intervention by a professional. In most cases, people develop an extremely unhealthy relationship with food, anxiety and depression, low self-esteem issues, and a lot of other linked conditions.”

Dr. Ankita Gupta, senior nutritionist and founder at Nutriediet, says: “Everybody wants a quick fix. People undergo weakness, muscle loss, anemia, and many other medical conditions after following these crash diets for a certain period. Suddenly increasing the protein content or suddenly going with a very low-calorie diet definitely has an impact on the mind as well.”

Back in the 70s and 80s no one was ever so conscious about their diet. Gradually, people got exposed to a lot of these diet types. The fashion and film industries promote the idea of having a perfect body and skin. Of course, social media plays a crucial role in making people believe that ‘perfect bodies’ exist.

Dr. Ankita, discussing why people fall into the trap of extreme diet, says: “It is because of our lifestyle. If we see our parents or grandparents, their work patterns were totally different. They could strike the right balance between food and physical activity. Now, that balance is missing. It is necessary to change the eating pattern as well. When you are not doing much physical activity, you must also change your eating pattern. When people do not change their eating patterns accordingly, that is where the problem starts.”

“Everybody wants to go with the keto diet or vegan diet,” observes Dr. Ankita Gupta, while discussing the flip side of diet. “Generally in a keto diet, the person stops the intake of carbohydrates and goes with a good amount of protein and fat. They certainly lose weight very quickly but once they stop the diet, they bounce back. A diet should be sustainable and it should fit into your lifestyle. From childhood, you are eating your roti, rice, and all the carbohydrates.

Suddenly when you stop everything, your body will also get surprised, thinking about what’s happening. This causes adverse effects on the body. I don’t believe in all these crash patterns. The problem is not the diet, but the portion that we consume. If we control the portion for a specific period of time, it is possible to maintain a good balance.”

As per experts, exercise intensity determines how our bodies utilize fats when compared to carbohydrates. However, it is important to focus on the number of calories burnt as opposed to the ratio of fats and carbs.

The fat burning heart rate is supposed to be the rate at which a person’s heart should beat per minute to achieve maximum fat burning results. A person’s fat-burning heart rate is the ideal zone for fat loss.  The ideal amount of fat burns at an intensity of 138 heart rate per minute in a situation, where 37.4 per cent of energy comes from fats and 62.6 per cent of energy comes from carbohydrates. This helps a person burn around 13.4k/cal per minute (5k/cal from fats and 8.4k/cal from carbs). Spending time in this zone is a great way to maintain good health, but ultimately it all boils down to caloric expenditure.

Unfortunately, there is no specific diet plan that works for everyone. What works for your friend or a relative might not work for you. Kolluri Samson Azaraiah, an internationally certified healthcare professional, elaborates: “There’s no universal diet. One should really find what suits their body or you should be under the supervision of some nutritionist who can do the job for you and help you understand the kind of foods your body can take.

If you suddenly switch to eating junk food after following a strict diet, you will have a bad reaction in the stomach. Generally, there are combinations of foods that our body is not used to since our childhood. There are only a few people who can eat anything and everything. You must choose a diet plan that suits your system more than anything else.

Just to understand what’s working for you, you can go to a professional for a month or two. Once you know what is put into your system, then you are on your own. No nutritionist in the entire world can provide a single diet plan that works for everyone.”

From a psychological standpoint, Yasaswi Puvvada, rehabilitation psychologist, points out the various reasons why one might end up struggling to manage their weight. “During childhood, parents exert control over the child’s diet and restrict them from eating certain foods. On reaching puberty, these children revolt and might start giving in to such foods leading to unhealthy eating styles at an alarming rate. Individuals struggle to manage their weight because of various reasons some of which include personal issues, emotional issues, and financial issues. Eating is also seen as a distraction from work. Most people in the IT sector, working for long hours feel they need a break and their breaks are usually spent in the cafeterias. A break is synonymous with a cookie or a samosa. What our body wants isn’t the cookie, but it needs rest and repair.”

She gave us a rundown on the psychology behind dieting: “When we consume food, our brain rewards us for collecting the calories. This hunger is controlled by various hormones inside the body, and an imbalance in this can cause an increase or decrease in hunger.

Health psychologists focus on the perceptions of people about their health and their beliefs about health. Weight loss or weight gain does not just happen when someone has less or more food nor does it just mean to exercise more and eat less. It includes a change in the behaviour and the attitude of an individual towards food. Unhealthy eating patterns are the precursors to extreme weight gain or loss. Binge eating as recognised by the DSM -5 TR is an emotion-driven response to anxiety. Sigmund Freud in his theory of psychoanalysis talks about the mouth being a source of pleasure for children, when one is fixed at the stage one may show overindulgence in activities related to the mouth, one of which is eating. These individuals take pleasure in eating food. An individual usually binges when anxious, angry, bored, and stressed.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 35% of the “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting, and 20-25% of these individuals develop eating disorders, shares Yasaswi, adding: “The popularly known eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, pica, orthorexia, night eating syndrome. Healthy eating patterns do require the mental efforts of individuals as well. Mindful eating helps one to consume food in a holistic way and not just chomp down. Self-monitoring can become handy during healthy weight loss/gain. Setting realistic measurable goals and tracking one’s progress must be necessary. Social support helps one to stay on track, and associating with groups that have similar goals keeps one motivated.  Finally, it is more beneficial to eat little of one thing rather than bits of many things.”

A good diet is one that is sustainable and helps you achieve overall well-being. Losing and gaining weight purely for the sake of appearance has become a norm in today’s world.  Sticking to a sustainable diet plan, which is inclusive of all nutrients, would prove to be effective.

At the end of the day, the reason why many people fail to keep up with their strict diet regimen is that they get lured by the temporary results and leave out the long-terms goals. Mindful eating and gradually stepping away from the all-or-nothing attitude will help us understand the subtle tendencies with respect to food and weight.

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