January marks the first month of a new year and this is the month wherein the resolutions are made and people get focused on trying to stay in good health and knock off the extra weight thus marking this month as - Healthy weight awareness month. So, in honor of the month of new beginnings, we at Medicircle have begun this series wherein we are interviewing the experts in the field of Health and Wellness to give out correct information to all our viewers and readers.
Shameera Somani, Masters in Food Science and Nutrition has received the Young Scientist Award from the Nutrition Society of India for her research paper. She is also a former Director of the Aga Khan Health Service India and volunteered at Aga Khan Health Board India for 20 years.
‘Is weight loss occurring at the cost of one’s health?’
Shameera shares her thoughts on whether loss of weight seen on the weighing scale means it’s good, “Is weight loss occurring at the cost of one’s health? This is the question that one needs to ask. Are you losing your hair, suffering mood swings, and losing bone density at the expense of wanting to be thin? You may be thrilled at losing kilograms on the weighing scale through a fad diet or a wrongly prescribed exercise regime. But one needs to think of the short-term and long-term consequences. Women may experience gynecological issues like anaemia, amenorrhea, and difficulty conceiving because of faulty diets. These same individuals end up with fractures and osteoporosis early in life. These poorly planned diets can confuse your body, and soon your weight starts yo-yoing. Often fitness instructors prescribe protein supplements and high protein diets which can cause kidney damage. Then you have individuals who may be a few kilograms overweight but can still work an 8-hour shift, pursue a sport, and have healthy blood parameters. Think of your mom and grandma who didn’t have hourglass figures but would rise at dawn and work through the day and be on their toes till they hit the bed. They didn’t eat junk food, but neither did they avoid carbohydrates and ensured that a healthy meal was consumed with an occasional sweet thrown in. Let’s get this right; the focus should be on health rather than weight alone,” she says.
Lack of skilled, professionally qualified manpower is a big challenge
Shameera sheds light on the challenges faced by the health industry, “Lack of skilled, professionally qualified manpower is a big challenge faced by the health and wellness industry. By doing a weekend course or a short certificate course, people call themselves fitness experts, diet and health consultants. Quality accreditation and effective monitoring of the industry, where false claims, miracle approaches to losing weight are promised, are essential. Like with education, health has now become a money-spinning industry, and the true essence is lost. Fitness centers, spas, gyms, diet clinics are mushrooming everywhere, but there is a lack of monitoring mechanism or legislation in place. The end result is that the general population is confused. There are more misinformation and a dearth of scientific, evidence-based knowledge. It is not uncommon to read in the newspapers of patients losing their lives or developing health complications due to wrongly prescribed diets by unqualified health experts,” she says.
No magic formula to lose weight
Shameera explains the best way to lose weight, “We are approached by clients who want to lose weight in an instant when the same weight has been accumulated over months, years and sometimes even decades. There is no magic formula or easy, quick fix, but it requires consistency and effort which is not difficult. Healthy weight loss can be achieved by a three-pronged approach of diet, exercise, and lifestyle modification. A well-planned diet is suggested based on the blood parameters, daily routine, target weight to be achieved, likes and dislikes, and other factors. WHO recommends that adults do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. For some it’s hitting the gym, for others it is running or cycling for some it could be walking or yoga. Whatever form of exercise you choose, consistency and persistence is the key. You need to set aside that time slot exclusively for exercising. One needs to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce and maintain weight. Eating healthy, getting your 8 hours of sleep, managing stress, limiting/avoiding alcohol smoking, and doing regular exercise are all elements of a healthy lifestyle. It’s a non-negotiable that needs to be followed 365 days of the year. Not something you do today because you have the time or are in the mood and skip for days and weeks because you are busy or stressed,” she says.
Make health a priority
Shameera advises, “Don’t wait for a special occasion or special someone or a wake-up call like a heart attack to lose weight. Make health a priority and start today with small steps:
The ‘Ek chamach kam’ BMC campaign launched in 2018. E.g. Use 1 teaspoon less oil while cooking Start with 15 minutes of exercise, and slowly increase the duration Start gradually with small, doable changes and progressively reach for higher targets Often it is a mind game - If you control your mind, you can control your body Don’t fall prey to fad diets or miracle pills that promise overnight weight loss A registered dietitian and a qualified nutritionist are the best to seek dietary advice, not your social media influencers Before following any dietary advice or exercise regime, make sure that it is scientific and evidence-based
Weight loss has to be gradual, not drastic based on sound principles of nutrition and dietetics. Losing 500 grams per week or 2 kgs in a month is a reasonable weight loss target,” she says.
(Edited by Rabia Mistry Mulla)