Worldwide, people love chubby babies. In India, the process of making sure the baby is suitably chubby starts even before she is born, with the mother being fed all manner of fatty foods – laddoos, halwa, etc. in the name of health.
There probably are one of more scientific reasons behind this, based on our traditional way of eating. However, our lifestyle isn’t anything like that of those that designed these traditions, outside of eating these delicacies. So, today’s expectant mother experiences hardly of the intended benefits of these traditions and most, if not all, of the unintended negative consequences like weight gain and acidity. We, meanwhile, expose the unborn child to poor nutrition right from within the womb!
‘Puppy fat’ effect
As the baby grows up, family and friends will spoil her with sweet and savory treats. ‘Being cute’ becomes an intrinsic part of the child’s identity. Eventually, though, if she doesn’t outgrow the “puppy fat”, something that was an asset now becomes a liability.
Suddenly her family and friends will start constantly telling the child to mind what she eats, how much and when. Imagine (or remember, if you can) the confusion you went through, when this happened. Suddenly, what people admired about the child – her puffy cheeks and chubby body became a negative thing. And, since everyone loved that about you, it was as though your identity was suddenly stripped away, leaving you feeling worthless. This problem is further perpetuated by the media – TV/movies, and is exacerbated by newer media like the internet, resulting in a constant and very harmful assault on the child’s self-esteem and ego.
As she hits the teenage, being the right size, becomes critical to landing a good guy/job, even friends! Again, family or friends step in with “helpful” advice – follow the Dixit diet, the five small meals a day plan, cut out all rice….I could go on, but as someone who’s been on the heavier side since I was probably ten or so years old, these are three gems I heard a lot about.
The commonality in these is the lack of attention to what’s actually being consumed in terms of nutrition. A growing child needs to consume a well-balanced diet, including complex carbs, to develop properly and to do well at school, both in academia as well as in sports. Not only that, but as she grows up, every girl is developing her palate. It’s important that any child experience as much of the world, and that includes food, as she can, so she can decide what she likes and therefore, with proper guidance, figure out how she can get the required nutrition as she grows up. The constant barrage of commentary on weight and size distracts the child from other activities critical to her growth and the negative impact of this expands beyond her personal appearance to possibly her personality as well. This might be one reason why so many teenagers develop personalities radically different from what they were as little children.
Emotional cost of weight
As the girl grows into a woman, self-esteem issues impact social interactions with family, with friends, and perhaps more importantly, with the opposite sex. All relationships are important, but in the first flush of youth, so much of one’s identity is defined by which boy likes you and whether the person you like, likes you back. These interactions are important too, because they will help pave healthy relationships with male friends, bosses, coworkers, husbands and sons down the road. There are so many stories of people losing weight and the folks who ignored or mistreated them earlier are either suddenly friendly or want to date them. This is a very real emotional process one goes through having lost weight – I can tell you from personal experience, how flattering it is to suddenly have so many people notice you, ask you for your opinion, pay you attention.
The cost of weight gain/loss then becomes wider social popularity. And people who manage to drastically change their appearance often can’t handle the attention; it’s very easy to let it get to your head. As your social opportunities increase, you will increasingly be in situations where you have access to food and drink that could bring you back to your earlier state of “unhealth”. Regular indulgence would definitely do so, and then you are back to being unhealthy, overweight and socially ostracized, if only in your mind.
Diet for self improvement
The only reason anyone should ever get on the fitness path is for self improvement. Take joy in being able to lift more, run longer, climb higher. Enjoy the lack of digestive discomfort, better skin/hair/nails as you eat better and drink more water. As you do that, the change in inches will be a side effect, and you’ll enjoy the process more. Another side effect is the freedom from allowing other people power over your emotions.
I’m not saying never, ever eat your favourite carby treat ever again. But I will tell you, after following the low carb lifestyle myself for over a year now, my desire to eat carb rich foods has decreased. When I do feel like it, I always indulge myself. As time has gone on, it happens pretty rarely , so I outweigh the negative consequences of eating outside my meal plan by not feeling like I’m in a food prison. [Read this too – Cheating the diet!] I also find that I like the foods I loved in my carby days less and less. So I’m less likely to have a full plate of dahi bhat and batatya chi suki bhaji. Instead, I indulge my taste buds for a few bites, or a meal, then go back to eating the keto way. The way I feel, eating a carb rich meal, vs. a low carb meal, is as different as night and day. And that makes any sacrifice I make food wise worth it.
You should measure the cost of weight gain or loss in how much better you feel about yourself by adopting new habits. Think long-term, make healthy choices that you can stick with and start small. Fitness is marathon not a sprint, but, unlike an actual race, the real prize is staying on the journey rather than reaching any predefined goal.