Is Our Obsession With Being Fit Endangering our Lives?

Being fit has become an obsession more than a desire. Through this article, Aravind Jain, tells us how this mania can be a threat to our lives in the long-run.

The phrase “Health is Wealth” will remain eternal till the human race exists. The ideas of good health and well-being have been with us for ages and it was sage Patanjali who realised that yoga could help us lead healthier and better quality lives.

Numerous inventions & discoveries over the last two centuries have made the lives of billions of people easier. In fact, it is not wrong to say that all inventions were created to make people’s lives easier. Yet, many inventions have also led people to adopt a sedentary lifestyle; although bad habits have led people to adopt such a lifestyle as well.

Just a few decades ago, the importance of health and wellness entered the limelight in India largely because of the poor lifestyle adopted by many Indians. Today, more Indians are seen suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, and cardiac issues and this is a result of many adopting unhealthy lifestyles. Since these issues have become common, people have also grown conscious about finding ways to prevent them.

As people’s awareness about how to be healthy grew (though a very small fraction of people is aware of how to be healthier), they started to make changes in their lifestyles including taking up exercise, practicing yoga, and eating a proper diet and having health supplements. Gradually, it is seen that health & fitness have become points of discussion everywhere. Now, it’s common to see a lot of people discussing ways on how to stay fit and joining fitness centres and appointing personal nutritionists. This have become common among fitness freaks who crave for an attractive physique. This was not the case a few years ago and lingos like crash diets, keto diets, and cheat meals were unheard of then.

However, is this obsession to fitness justified? To answer this question let us first understand and define what fitness is.

A body can be said to be fit if it acts efficiently, is productive in all aspects of life, if it remains healthy and is immune to minor diseases and disorders. The body’s ability to respond quickly (quick reflexes) to stimulus is also a definition that a body is fit.

To see if a body is fit we can classify people in two categories. Those in the first category believe that they are healthy and should be unconcerned about their fitness. Those in the second category feel that they are following an unhealthy lifestyle and hence want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. It is people in the second category that adopt activities like crash diets, keto diets, and other rigorous exercises simultaneously.

Though both categories of people are at risk, it is people in the second category whose health is more at risk. In a quest to be fit, lean and healthy they adopt unhealthy habits that lead to diseases like anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia means a complete loss of appetite and bulimia is an emotional disorder in which the body is wrongly perceived as being bloated. These are then accompanied by an obsessive desire to lose weight, eating excessively, followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging. Many people suffering from anorexia and bulimia suffer from poor health and aren’t fit at all.

Such an obsession to be fit indicates an imbalance in the body’s hormonal system. Hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol are important to regulate normal body functions. When the body faces an imbalance in these hormones problems are seen to arise.

Cortisol is the hormone responsible for maintaining normal homeostasis (normal body functioning). It helps the body prepare for a fight or flight response whenever it is under stress. Cortisol is released in the body in response to stress and low blood sugar levels. So when people adopt an improper diet or a poor diet, it leads to low blood sugar levels called hypoglycemia. Sensing this low blood sugar, Cortisol is released in the body from the adrenal glands and signals to the body that it is under stress. A chain of reactions is then triggered leading to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, insulin suppression etc. Being anorexic or eating less keeps Cortisol levels high leading to disorders like blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, compromised immune system, heart-related issues, gastrointestinal problems, fertility issues etc.

Also, it is understood that people yearn to be fit by burning more calories than they consume. This leads many of the young fitness freaks to hit the gym or take up rigorous physical activity with the sole purpose of losing weight. While it is a good idea to burn more calories than consumed, it is of the utmost importance to supplement the diet to make up for the calories burnt. If one does not supply the body with the right nutrition, then one is endangering one’s health and the likelihood that one will get a chronic disorder or immune deficiency diseases increases.

It is good to have a fit and healthy body, yet balancing between the two extremes of fitness and poor health is the best approach to have a healthy and fit body. Importantly, one must understand that our body is designed to be healthy unless we decide to make it otherwise.

Mr. Arvind Jain, Co-founder and Director of AS-IT-IS Nutrition, Bangalore

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