Is it a coincidence? The last several social outings and gatherings have veered around animated discussions on the topic of weight loss. Debate on diets has been frequent and passionate, with most people presenting authoritative (almost electoral) views on the right one. ‘Best’, I have discovered, is a favourite adjective when alluding to one’s version of it. Dissenters, be prepared to be challenged. It’s the Battle of ‘Eureka’— as I call it. Many folks are now abreast of diets forms, with keto, intermittent fasting and eating as per dosha/body type (Ayurvedic guidelines) emerging as the trendier ones. Exercise, not surprisingly, doesn’t share the same shelf space. But here too, ‘best’ and ‘ideal’ tend to find their way in. So is there really an ‘ideal’ or ‘best’ way to diet and exercise to lose weight? There are multiple aspects to consider.
Young guy jogging in a park
Know that no two people are identical in the way they process food or exercise
You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’. There is an oft-missed qualifier to this. It’s not just what you eat. It’s also how you digest and absorb what you eat; what suits your gut, and how your body is able to efficiently extract what it needs to meet all demands placed on it (or not, if you are mainly sedentary!) and eliminate/cleanse the rest. Food works at macro and micro levels. What makes one happy can be misery for another if it doesn’t suit or deliver for them. Not all food intolerances or deficiencies are easy to spot. You could be unknowingly creating a chronic gut environment that hampers nutrition absorption, cellular working and metabolism, which does not allow for easy weight loss (or weight gain). Your diet has to be mindful of this, especially if it rests on one food group excessively.
Our body doesn’t behave the same way over a lifetime. With age, internal and external factors, how the body responds to diet and exercise changes. We need to adapt eating and working-out interventions proactively. It’s true that what works for one may not be as effective for another. It’s also true what worked for you before may not work as well now. The body gets used to a pattern. To stave off plateaus, one needs to shake things up with eating and movement, but sensibly. The ‘ideal’ diet and exercise will thus be what is relevant and effective for you now, without a long-term negative impact.
Understand the bigger challenge
What about the bigger challenge of maintaining a desirable body weight? What happens when you get off the diets? When your body stops responding to exercise? Most of us cannot endlessly be on a diet and devote more time to exercise beyond a point. How many people do we know around us whose life is a story of constant struggle maintaining weight, those who keep getting on and off diets and exercise? Quite a few!
Remember, weight gain usually happens over a period of time due to sustained wrong lifestyle choices (pertaining to food and sedentary habits). The body will need time to reverse negative changes. Lifestyle habits cannot be built with quick-fix or intense approaches. Measures adopted need to be sustainable in the long run and responsive to your physical ability, goals and state of health.
‘Ideal’, unfortunately, is not a timeless reality or a plug-and-play diet-and-exercise routine. It is a dynamic process that requires eating right most of the time and working out smart, based on our changing capacity. It’s what works best for you now and in the long run.
Vani B Pahwa is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, a Master Rehab Trainer, a Functional Movement, Barefoot Training Specialist, BarefootRX Rehab Specialist, Foot & Gait Analyst, and a BOSU Personal Trainer. She is also a Mohiniyattam dancer