Varsha is a 27 year old working woman. She had been overweight since her childhood and was therefore body shamed in her school, college and daily life. So much so, that it was beginning to affect her mental health.
But one day, Varsha decided she’d had enough. She was going to take charge of her lifestyle and turn things around. So she cut down on her diet and hit the gym with a vengeance. In 6 months, Varsha had reduced her weight to 52 kg.
It reinstated her confidence and made her look and feel much better. She started getting the validation she wanted from her peers and relatives. After all, reducing 25 kg in 6 months was no mean feat! But the problem now is that Varsha has become obsessed with losing weight and wants to have a ‘size zero figure’.
This weight loss obsession is not unique to Varsha. Many individuals – especially adolescents – go through it due to various reasons like peer pressure, unscientific advice, the need for social validation, or the influence of media and fashion marketers who portray weight gain as a ‘flaw’. In technical parlance, this weight loss obsession is called ‘Obesophobia’ and it can lead to complications such as anxiety and eating disorders.
Being lean and fit is a good thing. But our quest for weight loss shouldn’t be at the cost of our mental and biological health. In this blog, we explain everything you should know about Obesophobia and how to sustainably reap the benefits of losing weight without it turning to pathology.
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Reasons for Weight Gain
First and foremost, it is important for us to know why we have been gaining weight. People have a tendency to blame their weight gain on their genes. But the fact is that only 5% of all obesity cases are related to genetics.
In the beginning of the 20th century, only 1% of the population was obese. Due to changes in the food system, environment, lifestyle, stress, and wide adoption of western lifestyle, it has increased rampantly in the last 100 years reaching up to 40%.
This Obesity epidemic is not due to genetics, but rather due to consumption of ultra-processed foods, lack of movement, stress, less and poor sleep. Such changes have resulted in the production of Hyperinsulinemia which in turn has reset our metabolic clock to store fat and spend less energy.
In the last 40-50 years, we have totally become a hormonally modified species, with persistent high insulin levels primarily due to the change in the food habits, sedentary lifestyle, stress, smoking, staying indoors and lack of sun exposure etc.
Moreover, there is a certain class of chemicals in our environment called Obesogens, which primarily produces endocrine (hormonal) disruption and weight gain. These Obesogens can be found in plastics, cosmetics, medicine and drugs, detergents, waterproofing, non-stick cookware, microwaveable foods, surface and ground water, etc.
Understanding Weight Loss
Most health and wellness programs emphasise on dietary protocols such as keto, paleo, carnivore, low or no carb, etc. that are based on the Calorie in/ Calorie out model for weight loss; that is, “eat less, and exercise more.” In fact, apps and sensors are also designed to count calories and do not take a holistic nutrition into account. However, sustainable weight loss goes beyond calories in and calories out, which is not only outdated but also based on the misconception that everyone has healthy mitochondria.
Mitochondria is basically the engine that burns calories to generate energy in our body. If this engine is not working properly, it means it will not burn calories optimally. So even if we reduce calorie intake, it will not help in weight reduction. The point here is that we need to repair our mitochondria to burn the calories optimally.
When we eat a lot of processed carbs, it deprives our mitochondria of nutrition and weakens it. On the other hand, if we eat healthy fats, proteins, greens and complex carbs it supports our mitochondria. Additionally, it builds a healthy engine that is capable of optimally processing calories and maintaining weight.
In the case discussed above, Varsha was also following a calorie in/out protocol without considering that our body is designed to take a balanced diet for weight loss that involves a varied set of raw materials in the form of macro and micro-nutrients.
Restrictive and fad diets, such as keto, paleo, fruit-only, low carb, do not include all such nutrients, leading to deficiency, insufficiency and imbalances over a period of time. Moreover, they slow down metabolism and do not address key issues such as inflammation, weak gut, liver and kidney detoxification etc. Following such protocols makes you more hangry (hungry + angry), thus making weight loss unsustainable.
At Wellfinity, we don’t focus on weight gain / loss. We focus on restoring the internal balance, reducing inflammation and infections, detoxifying and providing the right nutrition and raw materials that is otherwise missing in the body, through a holistic, integrative and functional medicine approach.
We understand that one of the major root cause of obesity, like all other metabolic disorders, is insulin resistance. Our protocol involves a metabolic reset using “food, lifestyle and nature as medicine.” Hence, we advise a balanced diet for weight loss, rather than a restrictive one. This protocol reverses most chronic diseases and you also automatically lose weight over a period of time, because we have addressed the inherent dysfunction.
One of our members lost a good 17 kgs in just 3 months, along with other side-benefits.
The Wellfinity program is based on scientific evidence and clinical practice. It takes into account the various relevant parameters such as metabolic status, health of mitochondria and gut, body phenotype, insulin index, hormonal response to insulin levels, macronutrient composition, glycaemic load, glycaemic index and advocates intermittent fasting and emotional detox.
The program requires you to eliminate the leading causes of Hyperinsulinemia – such as ultra-processed foods, refined carbs, refined oils, excess sugar, dairy and gluten products – from your diet. You can otherwise enjoy all vegetarian/ non-vegetarian/ cultural foods in the right combination and portions. Once sustainable reversal has been achieved, you can also enjoy sweets on festivals and special occasions along with limited quantities of sugar in your daily life.
We also advise minimising exposure to Obesogens. This includes opting for organic foods (fruits, vegetables, and traditional varieties of grains), minimising use of chemical-based cosmetics and personal care products, preferring to stainless steel and glass utensils over plastic, and avoiding overheating food in plastic containers and a complete no to microwaves. If at all plastic must be used, it should have ‘BPA-free’ and ‘Phthalate-free’ labels.
Understanding Weight loss Goals
There is a plethora of information at our easy disposal on the internet. This information is so diverse that often leaves us confused. But the bottom line is that every person’s weight loss goal and result will be different. So the best way to lose weight is to set small, achievable targets and work towards it gradually. If the goal you’ve set for yourself is unrealistic, chances are that you may give up. Even if you haven’t achieved a realistic goal, you need to be kind to yourself and adjust your goal for the next period accordingly.
At Wellfinity, we understand that everybody is different. This variation is the beauty of God’s creation. Therefore, we spend time to know you and to understand your body and the causes of your obesity before designing a customised protocol based on your biomarkers, preferences, and particular needs. We also help you in setting realistic targets over time.
Our process takes time and effort. It may not give you dramatic results as Varsha achieved. But it is comprehensive approach to reach your healthy weight loss goals and maintain your ideal weight for life, without falling into the trap of Obesophobia like Varsha did.
Obesophobia: Fear of Gaining Weight
Obesophobia is a type of anxiety disorder which involves the fear of gaining weight. The anxiety makes people go to extreme lengths to avoid putting on weight. As a consequence, it increases the risk of developing eating disorders, nutritional deficiency and insufficiency and other negative fads, as seen in Varsha’s case. Which then starts the journey towards poor health, eventually leading to chronic condition.
Obesophobia symptoms include negative emotions when thinking or talking about weight. These emotions can be an intense overwhelming fear, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, high blood pressure and even dizziness. A person suffering from Obesophobia counts calories obsessively, has a negative body image, avoids social activities that include food, exercises too much, diets frequently and even vomits on purpose.
The biggest reasons for Obesophobia are the need for social validation. There is also a direct link between media and body image. Less than 1% of our population have super-slim, toned, model-like bodies. Moreover, photos, ads and billboards are airbrushed and unrealistic. But they create an illusion in the minds of people about the concept of ‘beauty.’
Teenagers and youngsters like Varsha begin to feel that they don’t measure up. Consequently, they start following fad diets, habits and lifestyle which is counter-productive and debilitating. If we want to avoid the psychological implications of Obesophobia, we need to change this notion of what is ‘good-looking’. A big step in that direction would be to make space in the media for all body types.
If a person is suffering from Obesophobia, he suffers eating disorders. Since anxiety and eating disorders are linked, conventional medicine usually prescribes anti-anxiety drugs such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilisers for Obesophobia treatment.
However, we don’t advocate these medications for a long period at Wellfinity, though it could sometimes be used in the short-term depending upon the case. Otherwise, we have a competent team of mental health professionals who provide multiple psychotherapy sessions with the objective to decrease weight gain-related anxiety and improve your body image.
The most common method used is the Cognitive Behavioural therapy that recognises distorted thinking patters and aims to change unhealthy and adopt positive habits.
Apart from the above, we recommend a balanced diet for weight loss, exercise regimen, more sun exposure, and steps to reduce inflammation, improve gut health, lower stress, better sleep etc. with the focus on overall health and not just weight loss.
Obesity paves the way for many physical and psychological problems including type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, etc. These problems can hamper your ‘quality of life’. Benefits of losing weight include reducing the risk of the aforesaid problems, looking better and feeling more confident. However, simply following the calorie model for weight loss is neither sustainable, nor healthy. The metabolic mantra to good health should be – ‘consume only complex carbohydrates, prioritize proteins, and fill with healthy fats along with the other micro-nutrients.’
Apart from a balanced diet for weight loss, exercise, movement and certain lifestyle changes are needed. We should also look to reduce inflammation, clean gut infections, improve gut microbiome, and improve mitochondria. Thus, we can avoid falling into the trap of Obesophobia, by focusing on physical fitness and not on looking skinny.
We have a highly qualified team of nutritionists, health care professionals and functional medicine doctors who can help you achieve your healthy weight loss goals with a scientific approach. Our focus in on addressing the underlying cause of obesity and we offer customised and personalised fitness programs based on your body type and individual needs or preferences. So, if you’re ready to take the plunge and enjoy the benefits of losing weight, we are always there to help you in your fitness journey.