MANY moons ago when I was 19, my weighing scale registered my all-time heaviest! I had always been a tall, chubby child and teen. It was the realisation that I was soon going to be a young adult that caused something to click in my head. I then went on to lose the excess weight – but let me tell you, it did not happen overnight.
I lost 30kg over four years by making better choices in my meals and walking daily. Now, even at the age of 45, I am glad to report that I have not gained any of that weight back. The small changes I made have now become so much a part of my lifestyle — to eat in moderation and to be active.
If weight struggles have been plaguing you, I do know what you are going through. So, take a breather and have this important heart-to-heart conversation with me. You may just discover a new perspective.
AS A DIETITIAN, HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF HELPING OTHERS TO FEEL EMPOWERED ABOUT THEMSELVES?
Good nutrition is an important component of your overall health. I empower you to value your health and to embrace a healthy lifestyle. No one can put a value on your health but you. Unfortunately, for some, this realisation to treasure themselves only occurs once they are faced with a life threatening health issue.
As a dietitian, it’s my role to make sense of nutrition science and offer practical solutions for healthy living. The easier I make it for people to understand, the better they’ll be at putting it into practise. This is why this heart-to-heart conversation is important.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES FOR PEOPLE WHEN IT COMES TO CHANGING THEIR DIET?
One of the biggest obstacles for those who are overweight is the fact that they have the tendency of putting their own needs and priorities last. Many people I know cook complete meals for the family, but they themselves either skip meals or eat whatever is convenient, and wear themselves out. So, I rationalise with them that they would be more effective staying healthy before being of help to others in their life.
DOES ONE’S FIGURE REALLY DEFINE WHETHER ONE IS HEALTHY, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE TREND OF BODY SHAMING THESE DAYS?
A persons’s figure and shape is not a true reflection of their health status at all. That’s something we all need to get around in our heads. As an example, just because someone is thin does not mean that they do not have a high body fat percentage or high triglycerides.
Now, the irony of body shaming is that it’s men or women judging and being most critical of someone from their own gender from a visual perspective. But, ask any man and his standard of what’s a healthy figure for a woman is very different from a woman’s own perception. The same holds true with what women see in a man’s figure. I urge you to learn to love yourself first, because no one can shame you if you like what you see in the mirror.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS THE “PERFECT” BODY?
“Perfection”, is extremely elusive. Hence, body perfection is a visual trap we put ourselves in – much like tunnel vision, where you only choose to see what you want to see. My take on it is, you can spend all your time chasing after that perfect body, or you can savour living happy and healthily in the everyday practices that you do for your wellness. Between you and me, I would rather the latter.
WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE SO QUICK TO HOP ONTO THE LATEST DIET FADS RATHER THAN LEARN TO EAT WELL?
It’s because many of these diets are touted as easy with no effort needed and the results are supposedly instant and amazing. If that were really the case, then why aren’t there more people succeeding at these types of diets? Truth is if you want change to happen, then you need to change the habits that made you overweight to begin with. No product or supplement can change your mentality.
WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO CHANGE A PERSON'S FOCUS FROM “LOSING WEIGHT TO BE HEALTHY” TO “EATING WELL TO BE HEALTHY”?
I feel you have to get into the mentality that your lifestyle efforts are an investment in yourself. Once you make it a point to eat well and tweak some of those lifestyle habits that need improving, the weight will just naturally move down in the right direction.
WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO HELP PEOPLE LIKE THESE FIND A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON HEALTH?
One needs to realise that health is not about physical perfection. Your health is so much more than just your outer physical appearance and shape.
WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH MANTRAS?
My personal mantra is simple – respect your body. I truly started to have a deeper respect for my body after having a serious health issue when I was in my late twenties. It’s this sense of respect that I have for my body that keeps me in line to not abuse it. So, I do everything in moderation. I eat in moderation where I am neither starving or stuffed; I exercise regularly at a pace that re-energises me, not injures me; and lastly, I manage my stress level, where what I commit to drives me forward with passion but doesn’t wear me down.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING WE CAN DO EVERY DAY TO POTENTIALLY MAKE US FEEL AND LOOK MORE HEALTHY?
Connect with what’s real – eat real food that nourishes you and do real things that bring you joy. Health thrives on you being true to yourself. It really is that simple.
* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at email@example.com