Fitness: How far does one go to be thin?

Starvation and malnutrition make you vulnerable to a plethora of diseases, say experts.

Momina Sibtain June 24, 2012
Fitness: How far does one go to be thin?


“Don’t hate me, but I’ve always been skinny. I got lucky,” says actor Malin Akerman. But what about those who did not get so lucky or were born big-boned? People tend to judge others who do not conform to our rigid paradigm of perfection. In Pakistan, women pressurise their daughters and sons into being thin and even a little underweight. Statements like “How will you get rishtas (marriage proposals)?” and “No one wants to marry an unfit boy” are common in households where mothers worry about their children’s marriage prospects.

Due to this pressure by families and peers, many people, young and old, are obsessed with losing weight — sometimes when it is not necessary.

The number of people who are suffering bulimia, anorexia and binge eating in Pakistan is alarming. Doctors say that these diseases creep in when people try too hard to reach their ideal body weights and lose control of their behaviour in the process.

Dr Aliya Aftab, a Lahore-based psychologist, says that while disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are caused by low self-esteem and self-consciousness, another common factor that causes such behaviour is sexual and child abuse. “Childhood scars are very hard to erase,” Aftab says.

“Esteem issues that become apparent in adulthood are directly correlated to your past. The desire to punish yourself leads to extreme behaviour because the self is subject to so much guilt at the hands of others,” she adds.

Thinking you’re overweight is a state of mind and even the skinniest person could suffer from this psychological disease, says Dr Aftab. “It is disturbing how so many people have started resorting to smoking hashish because it increases the metabolism and makes one lose weight.”

Shazia Zahra, a nutritionist at the Fatima Memorial Hospital, works to help patients neutralise their diet.

“In an attempt to lose weight rapidly, people stop eating meals and resort to borderline starvation, which leads to slow metabolism and a reduction in the body’s efficiency to combat diseases,” she says. “As the metabolism slows down, the tendency to gain weight also increases and instead of losing weight people are liable to become even fatter. This could further trigger self-esteem issues,” says Zahra.

Emotional eating

Iram* had been overweight all her life. But when her friends told her that she needs to stop, she decided to take control of her life. She lost over 80 pounds (40kg) in almost a year without any days of “cheating” — taking a break to eat “normal food” — for three months.

Linking back to how eating disorders are triggered by emotional imbalances, she says, “I would binge eat when I was upset or emotionally unstable and that’s when you resort to different types of food groups.”

Dr Aftab explains how different individuals resort to certain eating habits.

“When an individual is emotionally hurt they resort to eating products with mint because mint soothes the soul,” she says. “Similarly when one feels emotionally deprived of love, they resort to milky chocolates because of the high infusion of endorphins and when anger possesses the soul, crunchy items are high in demand.”

After maintaining a slim figure for one year, Iram remains determined. “More than the fear of going back to my old weight, I fear this loss of discipline I have achieved. There is a certain control over your own life that eventually helps boost your self esteem.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Simple ways to cut down weight

Online weight-loss buddy

In one study, researchers assigned a few weight-watchers to a weight maintenance programme on the internet. The study showed that online weight-loss buddies helped the weight-watchers sustain their weight better than those who attended weight support groups.

Life full of ‘blue’

If you notice, you’ll see that normally restaurants avoid using the colour blue in their décor. That is because the colour blue plays the role of an appetite suppressant. On the other hand, some studies say red, yellow and orange stimulate eating. So to avoid the intake of too many calories bring blue in your dining areas; use blue table covers, dinner plates and you can also go to the extent of wearing blue to suppress your diet.

Chew slowly

While eating, savour every bit of your food by chewing slowly. Studies show that women who chew at least 20 times before swallowing eat up to 70 calories less at mealtime. It is evident from researches that our body takes 20 to 30 minutes to convey that the food requirement has been fulfilled. Hence, by eating slowly the body will register the feeling of being full on fewer calories.

Wait before second helping

Before the second helping of food, wait for 15 to 20 minutes. This way, when your stomach sends signals to your brain that it is full, you are most likely to get a smaller second helping — or none at all!

Small portions

It is important to take small and frequent meals in order to keep pH levels within the body at bay. Instead of binge eating once a day, divide your nutritional intake by eating small portions every few hours. This will keep your metabolism going and helps burn calories too! At the end, remember that health is more important than achieving size zero.

Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.


ABU | 12 years ago | Reply

Donot forget about those who have not got anything to eat for days, while eating your meal. I am sure that you will remain smart forever.

Hashmi | 12 years ago | Reply

The new PM Raja Rental will ensure no electricity, the excessive heat will burn our excessive fat without any effort..

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ