A sedentary lifestyle manifests itself in obesity, which has acquired the dimensions of a major global malady. Food habits, desk-bound jobs and several other factors result in obesity. Dr.Sharad Kulkarni tell us how obesity can be tackled by practicing Yoga and following the life principles of Ayurveda.
Obesity has emerged as one of the most common health issue around the world. It is futile to play a blame game on what causes obesity because in today’s lifestyle and diet, it is actually pretty hard not to be fat. In India, more than 10 million people are obese by definition.While little is being done in India to check bulging waistline, in the United States, people are engaged in a constant struggle to keep their bodies in shape and to throttle down the frightening rise in child obesity.
What is obesity? In technical terms, when a person’s body mass index (BMI) is higher than 25 they are considered overweight and when it is above 30, they are considered obese. The main reason for this condition is accumulation of excess fat in the body. Thus, obesity is a chronic disorder that can stay with a person for their entire lifetime and also eventually bring other health complications.
Causes and consequences
Obesity is a physical disorder resulting from the body’s habit of retaining excess fat. The most common and generic cause of obesity is the consumption of more calories than that are burned by exercise or other physical activities.
A healthy male needs around 2400 calories each day and a female roughly 2100 calories to maintain their weight and health. However, in individuals, factors such as the lifestyle, stress and metabolism play a decisive role in determining the appropriate amount of calorie intake. Urban lifestyle often results in poor physical activity and this cannot but lead to obesity. When such a lifestyle becomes common, it becomes a social phenomenon.
Consumption of junk food is another leading cause for obesity. A diet dominated by junk food is severely deficient in necessary nutrients and, when coupled with negligible physical activity, can play a significant role in reducing metabolism in the body. This reduced metabolism would hinder the body’s ability to burn the excess calories.
Obesity, by itself, may not be an alarmingly harmful condition. However, the overall negative consequences it begets on the human body is crucial. To begin with, it destabilizes the steady flow of hormones and other bodily enzyme secretions. Obesity is a common harbinger of conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women and problems like infertility and loss of sex drive in men. Obese patients of both sexes are equally vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases and other chronic ailments like diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, and so on.
Living in the 21st century has made life very easy for all of us. Automation has come in a big way into our lives physical activity is next to nil in the case of many. Different machines and appliances help us in our daily chores, be it in the kitchen or at work. We travel in sophisticated vehicles to make sure we look and feel fresh through the day. We hardly engage in any physical labour and, most often, our work is intellectual rather than physical. Thus, our body is gradually engulfed by sloth and sloth eventually leads to obesity.
The myth about obesity that needs to be debunked is that it is a typical disease that can be cured with medication. To be honest, obesity is not curable in the traditional sense. A lifestyle that is healthy and active and that which is clubbed with a nutritionally balanced diet and regimen are basically all it takes to prevent obesity.
To begin with, one should make sure that the calorie intake and the calorie burnt are equal so that the current body weight is retained.
Processed and junk food are heavier in calories than home-made food and, hence, these high calorie food must be avoided at all costs.
It is good to refrain from junk food and aerated drinks as they are not nutritious and do more harm than good.
Indulging in sports and other physically tiring activities is good as it helps to burn off the excess calories, promote muscle development and increase the rate of metabolism.
Role of Ayurveda &Yoga
In Ayurveda, atisthaulya (obesity) is described as a disorder due to excessive accumulation of meda(fat) in the body. When it comes to fighting or tackling obesity, Vedic medicinal practices takes a holistic approach to target the root cause of the problem. It strives to increase the metabolism of the body by means of organic elements that encourages the burning of calories.
The practice of fasting is an important method to reboot metabolism and improve the digestive functions of the body. Consumption of fruits such as Amla, Triphala and Vacais often prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians for tackling obesity. These are devoid of any possible side effects and are also considered natural anti-oxidants. Diet corrections are an inevitable part of the prescription.
Along with treatment, it is important to do proper exercises to get rid of the extra fat. Obese patients also tend to have high cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This is significant because experts believe that stress plays a major role in building obesity in patients. Yoga asanas are also great stress busters. Poses such as Pawanmuktasana, Paschimottanasana and Chalanasana increase appetite and promotes better digestion along with targeting the excessive fat.
Fitness should not be a temporary goal but a way of life. The way to tackle obesity is not just to adopt healthy measures for a certain period of time but to practice them for an entire lifetime. One should understand that only by leading a healthy and productive life can one control obesity.
BAMS, M.S., (Ph. D.)
Consultant Surgeon (Ayurveda)