Weight loss

Why are we getting bigger?

50 years ago the average Indian was a lot fitter and healthier than we are today. What's changed and which of these changes matter most? Discover what matters and how you should approach your journey to better health.

Arvind
Aug 23, 2020

Over the past few decades, the average weight and waist circumference of both male and female Indians has been steadily increasing.

There are 30 million obese adults and 14.4 million obese children in India (and this data is from 2014-15).

There are a number of reasons as to why, and we’d like to help you understand the problem better. The solutions are rather straightforward, once we understand the real issues.


Let’s start with a story, and roll the clock back 50 years.


Whether one was a farmer or a city-dweller, times were different. The culture was different, and how we thought about work, activity, food was all drastically different.


The daily activity was high. Farming is a physically demanding activity, especially unaided by machines. Transportation did not deliver us from door to door and involved a reasonable amount of walking. All our household chores required a lot more work as well - from washing the clothes to drying them, to meal preparation. Everyone, irrespective of their job, moved a significant amount.


Their diet probably consisted of a lot of grain (rice or wheat mostly, depending on their geography), with seasonal, local vegetables thrown in. And the occasional serving of meat, if one was a meat-eater. Dairy was also available locally.

All foods were of high quality (especially compared to today), and the amount of junk foods available was close to zero. 

While the amount of grain eaten back then was a lot, it was because calories aka energy was hard to come by. For the amount of physical activity they did on a day-to-day basis, they needed the calories.


With limited access and availability of TVs and social media, the evenings were spent in socialising and then going to sleep at a reasonable hour, and getting adequate quantity and quality sleep.

They did not carry work stress home.

This is not to say there was no stress - we are simply talking about taking work home, which a lot of us tend to do today.


To summarise:

  • Food was simple and high quality. Nutritious and not junk.
  • Activity was a regular part of the day.
  • Sleep was not a problem - quality of quantity.
  • Stress levels were different and the amount of stressors were less.


The contrast with today must be obvious to you. Let’s spell it out.


  • Our eating habits, thanks to a flattening world, are poor. We have access to all kinds of junk and packaged foods. The amount of restaurants and delicacies available to us is insane. Most of these processed foods are high in calories and limited in nutrients.
  • Today, our activity levels are abysmally low. Almost no one has a physically demanding job, at least, not the folks who are able to read this on a smartphone or laptop.
  • We sit around a whole lot, spend a large amount of time in a poor posture - hunched over. Our neck muscles and hips get weak and tight, and they cause us to lose our natural movement patterns and mobility. Not only are we not moving, we are making things worse by not addressing the cause or effect. The sitting pandemic is wrecking our body.
  • With TV and social media, we have a lot more things to do which take up our time and eat into our sleeping time.
  • Most of us also have poor sleep hygiene, where we watch videos on our phone until we sleep. This leads to poor sleep, and does not leave us as physically and mentally alert as we can be.
  • Stress levels are at an all-time high. With news filtering in from all over the world, and most of it being bad news. Coupled with work that never ends, and calls that need to be catered to our clients halfway across the globe and thus at inconvenient times to us locally - work stress is crazy.


Low activity, poor sleep, high-stress levels - they are individual problems that get compounded because of each other. Prolonged sitting, weak and tight muscles, poor joint mobility add to how our body thinks we are doing (rather poorly).

These send signals to our body that we are under constant stress, which the body interprets as “do what it takes to keep this going”. 

Coupled with fast foods, extremely high-calorie eating and low nutrient intake - we end up putting on a lot of weight. 


It is a downward spiral. The high stress and poor sleep increases our cravings for junk food, and the junk food increases our girth, and reduces our health, which in turn makes our stress levels higher and harder to fall asleep (sleep apnea, for example, has been linked to poor sleep routine and nutrient intake). Slowly but surely, this results in weight gain over the years. 


Please note that this is not about being skinny or six-pack abs or any such thing. Presence of a high amount of adipose tissue (fat in the body) is unhealthy, but at the same time, unrealistic goals like single-digit body fat percentage are not appropriate and mentally unhealthy. Many times because of the drastic measure we take to get there or try to, they are downright unhealthy for us. 


Our society today has

  • Higher obesity levels
  • Higher health risks
  • Hypertension cases on the rise
  • Diabetes capital of the world
  • Increased cardiovascular diseases
  • Early deaths


All of them are connected to us getting bigger. Poor nutrition is one of the pieces of the puzzle but it is the vicious cycle of all four (diet, activity, sleep, stress) that keeps worsening the situation. 


That’s why, in the Daily9 coaching programme, we focus on small habits across all facets of your lifestyle. All the big rocks, and multiple ways to tackle those big rocks. Slowly and steadily, we chip away at our old habits and patterns, learn new ones, and solidify them. 


The answer does not lie in living like a saint, in a cave and away from all modern advances. It lies in finding balance, and that’s not easy.


Two good goals we’d like to point you to are

  • A waist-to-height ratio of under 0.50. Your waist as measured around your belly button should be less than half your height. Other measures like your weight and BMI are limited in how they look at health and longevity. The waist-to-height ratio is a reliable indicator for good health and all-cause mortality.
  • Instead of wanting to lose a lot of weight in a short span of time, see if you can lose 1kg every year.


Don’t worry, we are here to guide and coach you.


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