Let’s face it: we’re an odd bunch. On the one hand we’re very image conscious and on the other we also refuse to stop stuffing ourselves with heavy meals and even heavier desserts.
Despite the increase in the number of gyms and aerobics and yoga instructors, our lifestyles are becoming more and more sedentary. At the same time, our approach to fitness seems to be lopsided: we’ll go on crash diets without exercising or will exercise till we drop and then promptly gorge ourselves on junk food. But the hard fact is that there are no quick fixes and the only sustainable road towards a happier and healthier you is by sticking to a regimen that includes both regular exercise and a balanced diet. This is what Rujuta Diwekar — India’s renowned nutritionist, sports science expert and personal health advisor to Bollywood beauty Kareena Kapoor says: “There is no such thing as going on or off a diet; a diet is a lifestyle.” Make Diwekar’s words your new mantra, along with many other gems of advice which luckily are quite easy to follow. These can be found in her book, Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight. A best seller in India, the book is also very relevant for us in Pakistan. For one thing, it gives us advice on when to eat foods such as samosas, kebabs and gulab jamuns. It doesn’t get much closer to home than that.
Today, most of what we eat is processed or refined food, be it pasta, easy-to-cook-dinners, or dishes you just pop into your microwave. Also, because of advances in technology intended to make our lives ‘simpler’, we are not as active as we used to be. Case in point: We wake up, walk to the kitchen cabinet, pop ‘food’ in the microwave, wait two minutes until it’s well nuked, eat a processed meal in front of the television, clog our system and arteries and then wait for the inevitable life-long ailments. We don’t go to the grocery store and pick out fresh vegetables, we send our drivers to do that. We don’t take time to decide what meal to prepare for ourselves because we’re too consumed with the other deadlines we need to meet. We consume more coffee and smoke sheesha because there are more cafes. The drive to become healthier, to choose what you feed your body; to give it time to replenish the energy it has lost is drastically decreasing. Everyone wants a shortcut, when really, it does not exist.
Farah Irfan has been helping women get into shape and transform their lifestyles since 1992. She resides in Islamabad and runs her own gym as well. She shares the same opinion about dieting as Diwekar, re-emphasising on diet being the way you live your life and not a crash course you take for a week and then forget. “The fat you lose during that one week of dieting is regained after you return to your normal eating habits. It is those that you need to change for good to become healthier.”
Along with working on your diet, it is essential to incorporate exercise into your life. This could be something as simple as an evening walk in the park, a swim at the club, or even yoga at home. “The human body needs exercise — it was created to work,” says Farah. “Treat your body like a machine. The more exercise you do, the faster your body works, the more efficient the machine becomes”. Efficiency means a higher metabolism, which means that all those sweets you just can’t resist won’t end up as unsightly flab. But exercise isn’t just about looking good, it’s also about feeling good. Exercise is a mood elevator, says Farah, which means the more you exert your body the more refreshed you will feel. This is not a myth; biologically speaking, endorphins are released into the system when you exercise and these ‘feel-good’ hormones help to elevate your mood. Most importantly, people who exercise regularly also have a better chance of fighting disease than people who don’t. Whether it is diabetes, high cholesterol or even some forms of cancer, the more you exercise, the better equipped your body and immune system are to tackle these problems.
Of course, every one is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and any diet and exercise regimen has to be suited to the individual’s body type, fitness goals and lifestyle. Becoming healthy and fit is something that needs a certain amount of resolve and consistency. Don’t leap into a hardcore regimen; start from your comfort zone and go easy on yourself. The power to change exists in all of us, even if we do need a bit of a kick-start most of the time.
Remember...just dieting or exercising is not going to get you where you want to be in the long term. You have to do both...there is no other way around it. So what are you waiting for? Get moving!
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ