The actors on TV and models on glossy fashion magazines are thinner than ever, but obesity is on the rise like never before. What a paradox!
If there were ever a time when the general population looked as far removed from their collective idea of beauty, it is now. It shouldn’t be very surprising when you consider that the focus is on becoming skinny, not fit. Is there really any difference between being skinny and being fit?
Skinny are the malnourished people from third world countries. They are not remaining skinny by choice. They simply don’t have enough food to have healthy, nutritious meals and become fit. Compare that to bulimics who binge on loads of food only to purge themselves later because they want to be skinny.
Skinny is the person suffering from some debilitating disease. He doesn’t feel fit; he doesn’t look fit. He would do anything to be fit, and not skinny. But then there are grossly underweight anorexics who still feel they need to look thinner.
Bulimia and anorexia are eating disorders that could have underlying psychological problems, and they could be triggered by traumatic experiences. But they are more prevalent in cultures where thinness is greatly valued and in professions where being skinny is a prerequisite. That should tell you something. Fortunately for men, muscles are still given the highest rating, and fitness usually goes hand in hand with muscles. Not surprisingly, men are less at risk of these conditions compared to women for obvious reasons.
Overweight and obese vs. Skinny
Being overweight or obese is bad for health. We all know that. So being skinny should be good, right? Most weight loss programs out there seem to propagate this false rationale. Diets that allow you to have just about 500 calories a day may make you skinny, that is, if you can hold out long enough. But they will not make you fit. On the contrary, they may actually make you sick. And, once you’re done with them, you will find the pounds rushing back.
Why starvation diets are unhealthy
Our body needs nutrients for a whole lot of biological functions. Food contains not just calories. We get vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and fatty acids, and several other complex substances from the different food items that constitute our diet. It is simply not possible to put together a healthy diet in a few glasses of meal replacement shakes, despite all the assurances from the weight-loss product companies.
Why taking the easy way out with diet pills is not a great idea
There are many diet pills and magic potions out there promising to melt away fat without any sweat. Many of them have botanical origin and claim to be safe. Garcinia cambogia extract, Orlistat, Green coffee bean extract, Glucomannan, Caffeine, Green tea extract, Forskolin, Bitter orange extract, Ephedra, Fen-Phen and Metabolife are some of the popular names.
Most weight loss drugs––at least the ones that have some effect––work via one or more of the following way:
- By reducing appetite, so you would eat fewer calories.
By reducing absorption of nutrients, especially fat, so that your body does not get all the calories you’re consuming.
- By improving fat metabolism so it would increase energy expenditure.
Not many independent studies have evaluated their safety and efficacy. But if they have any effect at all, they probably have some side effects too. In fact, Ephedra and Bitter orange are known to have heart-related side effects; several others cause digestive disturbances, irritability, allergic reactions etc.
Why bariatric surgery may not be right for you
The enormous weight reduction people achieve through bariatric surgery is making it look like an attractive option. However, not many people are aware of the risks involved, and how one has to be on nutritional supplements for life to avoid deficiencies, while eating miniscule portions of food, that too, mashed or cut into tiny pieces.
According to the statistics released by the University of Minnesota, one out of every 200 bariatric surgeries ends in fatality within 30 days due to post-surgery complications. Despite the constant feeling of nausea, episodes of vomiting, aversion to food, stomach pains on eating a slightly larger chunk of food and risk of kidney and gall bladder stones, many people who have lost weight seem to be happy.
They had always wanted to be skinny, and now they are as skinny as they could get. Nevertheless, within 5 years, 85% of them regain half of the pounds they have lost and the remaining 15% regain even more than that.
Bariatric surgery may be a lifesaver to morbidly obese people because it reverses diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea, and reduces the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. But such drastic measures should be a last resort.
What does it take to be fit?
Being fit is about becoming stronger physically and mentally along with getting rid of extra pounds. It should give you energy for everyday activities and some to spare. The goal is to develop a well-toned body, rather than a skinny body. While getting rid of a major chunk of fat tissue, one should be able to replace some of the lost weight with muscle mass.
If you are overweight, you should make sincere efforts to reduce weight. There’s no doubt about it. But becoming skinny by starving shouldn’t be the way to go. If you are obese, that problem needs to be addressed. Calorie restriction is one way to do that, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of health.
For people who have been overweight or obese for a while, attaining a fit body is not an easy task, even with moderate calorie reduction. Stepping up general activity and adding in some workouts as you become increasingly fit should help you make progress. More importantly, you should analyze and identify how you ended up being fat in the first place.
Underlying medical conditions, hormonal imbalances, eating disorders, unhealthy behaviors and addictions, if any, should be treated and remedied. Your body will fight your weight loss efforts every inch of the way since it doesn’t want to part with its precious energy reserves. Persistence is the key to success here.
When you eventually reach your goal, however, being fit will have a great advantage over being skinny. The muscle mass you have developed will burn more calories for you even when you sleep, and help you maintain your weight.