I never had a problem with my weight as I was growing up. Though I noticed that my family members put on weight as they grew older I never thought much about it. When I was in college studying medicine in India, weight was never an issue but whenever I came back for the holidays for a month, my weight would go up by almost 6 to 8 kg, which I will lose within one to two months once I went back. We always blamed it on the “hard” water there.
Working in Malaysia as a doctor, life was hectic, but I still found time for exercise as I loved jogging and used to take part in ten kilometer runs and half marathons. Weight again was never an issue. In my early thirties I became a specialist and in 1994 was offered a government scholarship to do Geriatric medicine at Cardiff, Wales. I was excited as I would be the first Geriatrician here. However once there I realized that jogging was a challenge as it was either too cold or the hay fever got to me in summer. That was when I first started putting on weight. Also the diet changed while in the UK with more intake of refined carbohydrates and alcohol especially during the weekends as was the norm there. My weight had always been around 70 to 72 kg in my twenties and early thirties. Now it went up to around 76 kg.
When I came back, I was really busy trying to set up a new specialty in Malaysia. Both me and my wife were working and eating a lot outside and there was no more time for exercise. My weight slowly went up to its peak of 94 kg by my mid-thirties. My wife kept on telling me that I was overweight but I kept on brushing her off. After all most of my relatives and friends were like me and it must all be in my genes (interestingly when I did my DNA profile many years later I did have all the variants for weight gain).
It was the birth of my first daughter in 1996 that made me decide that I needed to take better care of myself. It was also during this time that I started going more into wellness and I had to ‘walk the talk.’ The first thing I did was stopped all alcohol and sugar and started walking (because of knee injuries playing hockey, jogging was no more an option). During this time the Atkins diet was a craze and I did two weeks of Atkins and then a modified Atkins. Basically I really reduced refined carbohydrates and most junk and chemical based foods as toxin accumulation will lead to weight gain. Within six months I lost 20 kg. The weight than stabilized between 70 to 72 kg until 2019.
However last year the weight slowly went up by one to two kg and was not coming down as before. I got worried as my family all gained weight as they got older and also I knew that our hormones levels can drop as we get older and that can make it more difficult for us to lose weight. Luckily for me been into wellness I was reading up a lot about plant based diets, low calorie diets, intermittent fasting, autophagy and HIIT exercises. This was more for healthy ageing and I decided to try this. I seldom ate red meat but I loved chicken and had it almost every day for lunch and sometimes dinner, and fish and eggs. When I went plant based I really reduced my intake of chicken. I still take but less often. The plan is more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, legumes and good fats. Then I stated intermittent fasting with twelve hour fast and occasionally sixteen hours fast. I also was eating less (80% full as done by people in the Blue zones). My mornings on waking up I did a ten minutes HIIT exercise. Suddenly in four months my weight went from 74 kg to 70 kg and later to 66kg. When I went down to 64 kg and everyone was commenting on my weight loss and my wife and daughter said I was too thin that I cut back and have stabilized at 66 kg.
Weight loss is a complex problem. When I did my DNA profile a few years ago I realized that many things can affect your weight. Variants in your inflammatory genes, detoxification, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, thermogenesis and vascular tone can all cause weight gain. I had variants in all this. We now know that we can switch of our ‘bad’ genes and that lifestyle is still the key. Twenty four years ago when I reduced my refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and toxins (like a modified keto diet) and started walking I switched off my fat and carbohydrate and thermogenesis genes.When I went into plant based, intermittent fasting and HIIT, I switched off the inflammation, detoxification and vascular tone.
Obesity and metabolic diseases are now a pandemic and killing more people worldwide than all other diseases. Even the Covid virus has affected this group of patients more severely. So we have to try to maintain our weight and reduce our risk of metabolic diseases.
I suggest always start with baby steps and slowly add on one habit at a time and see what works for you. Be careful not to make too drastic a change as this can overwhelm you and you might give up. Please let me know of your own successes or challenges in your weight loss journey.
LIVE LONG LIVE WELL