Weight To Go

RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR

There is evidence to show that being overweight puts you at amplified health risk — high blood pressure, heart disorders, diabetes, and gall bladder disease, among others. Losing weight is, therefore, a key part of any early treatment plan, albeit recent research presents a paradox — that having a few ‘supplementary’ pounds may not be as dangerous as it once seemed to be. It may, contrary to popular opinion, actually protect you.

For individuals who are not yet overweight, or obese, and over age 45, but have a few additional pounds, they would obviously need to weigh their choices cautiously before going on a diet plan. This is because they tend to consume fewer nutrients/calories than they did when they were younger. Yet, the irony is — they seem to gain more weight. There are reasons for this to occur. First and foremost — with aging, your muscle mass decreases and your activity levels also drop. This leads to a situation where you could make do with less energy requirements. Life also changes — you are not like the hare you were before. You don’t play active sport, and even if you do, you accept defeat with a smile, not frown. You may also ask for a glass of fresh lemon juice, not biscuits.

You feel nice with what you’re doing — after having slowed down. However, you find yourself bolting alarms with a complex issue. As you age, you find it difficult to burn, or knock, those ‘ever-present’ additional deposits of fat, around your waist, or hips. This was not a problem when you were younger — you would throw a grand party, eat with ‘gluttonish’ appetite, and quickly burn your ‘excess’ fat. However, at 45-plus, you find it an uphill task to pull the ‘waist’ of your trousers to fit around your belly.

When your ‘reduced’ energy needs, owing to aging, are not in step with equivalent decline in food consumption, your body’s fat depot only increases in size. It is a satirical equation. If you knew how the average muscle mass changes with aging, you would be puzzled — more so, when you don’t stay in shape. When you reach old age, your body scan, for instance, may show a shrunken muscle mass —a compromised fraction of its ‘young’ size. This could be a big jolt for you.

It all hinges on upon how you react — of reduced bustle, also lean body mass and amplified fat. One sure-fire way of preventing weight gain, also aging, in their trajectories is getting more active. Exercising, for 30 minutes every day, is one worthy way of improving your muscle mass. It also aids to ‘up’ your appetite. When you enhance your mental and physical activity, your ‘excess baggage’ ought to go to the right places. The resultant benefits are just as healthy — physical activity promotes sound sleep. It helps you feel confident about yourself and it reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Remember, when you carry a few extra pounds of fat around your waistline, while being ‘fit,’ which is better than being thin and unfit, you will also live longer and in good health.

Research suggests that when you substantially reduce your calorie intake, you will live longer. In addition, you will remain healthier with fewer disease invasions — high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. You will not only live life to the full, but you will also enjoy living a full life — a life without systemic, difficult-to-treat diseases.

This does not, however, mean that you should starve to reach your ripe old age. Just look at the data compiled by insurance companies. It will be clear that the longest lived people are individuals in the middle-weight categories — not those who have been underweight, or grossly overweight, who tend to have the shortest lifespan, barring some exceptions [NB: By the way, there is no clear-cut evidence to support serious ‘fasting’ as a mode of longevity as is practiced, every fortnight, or so, in certain traditional communities].

The point also is — it isn’t the ‘bulky’ among us who are giggling their way to better life; it is the diet pill companies that are laughing their way with the moolah instead. Yet, there is a silver-lining. If you are overweight with a BMI of 25 and don’t have sleep apnoea, high blood pressure, diabetes, or arthritis, you need not worry about the extra kilos around your waist — provided you’re not a smoker, don’t have a high [‘bad’] cholesterol level, or family history of heart disease.

— First published in India First