It is much more complicated than “metabolism”

We’re all told that in order to prevent weight gain or obesity, we need to be mindful of what we eat and exercise regularly.

But what about people like me who never gain weight no matter what we eat? Believe me when I say I can fit into some of my teenage clothes and believe me further when I say grass is always greener on the other side. 

It’s one of life’s great injustices. I know. And I totally sympathise. I am surrounded by friends, family and patients who are unlike me and I see their struggles. And am no stranger to the envy in their eyes. I have grown up listening to “It’s always so easy for you”, “lucky you”, or the biggest Indian stereotype “It’s the intestinal worms eating all your food” on one side and my mother’s fretting and worrying on the other end on whether her child is underfed! 

Some people must carefully pay attention to everything they put in their mouths in order to maintain their weight, while others can eat brownies to their heart’s content and achieve the same result. 
So what’s the secret? How do some people manage to never gain weight?

It’s much more complicated than faster metabolism. There’s genetic, nutritional, and even behavioral factors involved. And each of these matter in varied degrees for every individual.

In my experience one of the most important factors has nothing to do with body type, metabolism, or performing the pious fasting- of  “Sola Somwar Vrat”:  It’s perception. Many people who appear to eat whatever they like without gaining weight aren’t actually eating more than the rest of us.  For example, I eat more dry snacks (famed Gujarati farsan) on a daily basis but naturally compensate for those extra calories by eating smaller portions at major meals. My major meals use very little oil in the curries and my plate is always heaped with salad OR perhaps, when I eat pizza, I am eating slowly, getting full, then stopping after just a few slices. 
If you measured your thinner friend’s calories, they may not eat as much as you think. If you change this perception for your thinner friends, maybe you will be able to cut some slack for yourself too?

  1. Remeber HUNGER is not synonymous to APPETITE. Hunger is the physical want to eat; whereas appetite is more of a psychological desire to eat. So, ask yourself are you craving or hungry before munching on that cookie or asking for another serving.
  2. Let’s say you are simply CRAVING. That’s not a crime. I know. Why don’t you just take it slo-mo? My advice is to enjoy every bit of that cheesy crust or gooey cake and truly savour it. I eat my heart’s fill but I am extremely slow. I am blessed with this naturally, but you can train yourself to do that. 

Physical activity can also make a difference, but it doesn’t have to be a gym workout. Some people just move more, even if they’re not necessarily athletes, for instance, I fidget or pace a lot. Some may have an active job, or spend all day chasing their kids around.

  1. So, find creative ways of moving around if you are not an exercise person. For example decide you will open the door each time a door bell rings or you will watch TV while standing or you will walk and talk on phone. 
  2. Ofcourse aerobic exercises are a must. No short cuts to this. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Pick one thing, simple thing, and be consistent.

The inhabitants of this side of the grass (thinner side) also naturally moderate the number of calories they consume without exercising tremendous self restraint thanks to hormone called leptin. 
Taking my example,  I can go back for seconds and thirds at a party, then feel full for the next few days and eat less.  I can kind of recalibrate my energy balance because my appetite signaling system can say, ‘Okay, I got enough energy,’
So, if you use this strategy in a healthy way, you can bring about major changes in your wellness goals too. Follow your feasts with fasts. Alternate them. Like all things in life, be moderate and not an extremist in this regard too. In my experience “intermittent fasting” really works for our clients at Healing Harmony (my colleague Dr.  Prajakta Vaidya is an expert on this topic, so I will leave the details for her to explain). But in a nutshell Intermittent Fasting is an age old scientific method of regularising your metabolism…integrating feasts and fasts. Many religions and cultures around the world use fasting as much as they use feasting. There is more merit in this than you can imagine.

  1. After a cheat day or a feasty festivitie or an indulging dinner date treat your body with a fast.

Also, remember one can be thin on the outside and fat inside. So, a person’s body type or weight is not a true testament of their health. For the record I don’t fall in this category☺️Being healthy cannot and should not be dependent on the weighing scale.

In the end, the answer is complex: our tendency to gain weight or maintain our weight isn’t pre-determined, but it’s also not entirely under our control. There’s no genetic on-off switch that allows some people to eat all they want without gaining weight; at the same time, a tendency to gain weight isn’t necessarily due to a lack of self control. Like all things in life this is multi factorial, mysterious and one needs to gracefully accept and work on what one has.

And remember there is big business called “weight loss industry”. This circus includes the weight-loss supplement manufactures, diet experts and obesity doctors, the burger makers and the low-fat food makers,  low calorie soda makers, wellness spas, fitness trackers, green tea makers and instant weight loss churan (powder) makers etc. etc. You are intelligent enough- choosing to read my blog to the very end, so I trust you are more than capable of not falling prey to this circus.

My piece of advice is simple. Trust in your body’s intrinsic desire to be well. Listen to the deep wisdom your body has and try working with it to be heathy. Love your body: colour, shape, size, type no matter. In the end we are all in the same boat! 

Also, know that there is no weight limit to beauty.  Beauty always, always lies in the eyes of the beholder.

-Dr. Preety Shah, BHMS, Fellow in Homeopathic Psychiatry & Counseling

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