Let weight not weigh you down!
“She has come down to 43 kgs, Sir,” I exclaimed to my guide. “It is too much weight loss; she is too thin for a 50-year-old who is 5’2”.” My guide retorted, “It does not matter. Weight is not a good indicator of health.”
I have been trying to come to terms with this statement since the past one year, ever since me and my guide started our student-guide relationship. Like all of us, I have prioritised weight and valued it as a fine indicator of health. Deprioritising it is a constant struggle.
When I tell those who ask me, that I have lost 13 kgs in the last 3 years, I say it with a hint of pride! I did not set out to just lose some weight 3 years back, I set out to regain health. The weight loss happened as a side effect of gaining health and reversing disease.
A confession: In spite of all my unlearning around weight, I am still occasionally tempted to stand on the weighing machine and monitor myself.
Is it just social conditioning? Or is it because weight forms a big part of what is most obvious about us? Maybe you have other answers.
But what is it about weight that makes even the most sorted amongst us lose sense? If it is just the visibility of it, then aren’t glowing faces (‘chehre pe noor’, as we say in Hindi), clear skin and twinkling eyes also equally noticeable?
Maybe to those who bother to ‘look’, these are. But maybe most of us are not ‘looking’ but rather just glancing!
What can weight tell us?
“Disease has weight,” my guide often says. And he means it literally!
As I work with my clients using naturopathic diet regimes and treatments, almost all of them lose some weight initially. Those who come with weight loss as an aim, lose more.
Some of the reasons are obvious. The transition to a raw diet or a saltless diet means that people eat less than what they normally do. Also, the calorie value of these food items is much lower. But there’s more. In naturopathy lingo, we call it toxins or accumulation leaving the body and consider it a good sign. This kind of weight loss is a sign that the body is clearing, and diseases are leaving the body.
Johanna Brandt in her book, The Grape Cure, says: “nature never rebuilds on a rotten foundation”. So till there are toxins/accumulation/disease in the body, the body does not start the process of rebuilding tissues/cells. She sees weight gain as a sign that the old disease has finally left the body.
Then there is the kind of unexplained weight loss which can be used as diagnosis. This is seen more in destructive diseases like cancer and TB, where the body has started eating itself. A friend once told me about her neighbour, a lady in her 40s, who was thrilled at her rapid weight loss, only to discover that she had a very invasive form of cancer.
Where weight fails
If we continue to judge our health or state of wellness by measuring ourselves against some standard captured through a weighing scale, we may, sadly, end up with a very lopsided understanding and experience of health.
I once refused a client who came after bariatric surgery and said she wanted further weight loss but could not digest anything raw along with a list of other items. Her mouth was persistently inflamed with sores, but that was not something she saw as an issue. Clearly, we were both on different pages here!
Most people who come to me stating weight loss as the primary aim are not lazy people who are binge eating. On the contrary, they are relatively active folks, who exercise, yet continue to put on weight. What they are missing is a deeper look at their gut health, hormonal balance, liver function and other diseases which are disbalancing their bodies. And from this imbalance arises the weight.
Similarly, low weight can be misleading. My guide defends low weight vehemently. You can call it his bias or his experience. His wife who was 5’ 4” in height lived many years of her life weighing just 37 kilos! I know, just 37 kilos! But she died at 83, disease-free, active, and buzzing till her very last day. She was a seasoned naturopath, who knew how to gain and shed weight easily. She concluded that if she was active, energised, and disease-free, she would never bother with weight, and she never did.
I have noticed this sort of thinness in most tenured naturopaths. But their faces glow and eyes twinkle.
But what about fat?
Yes, there is the question of fat and weight. And here I agree that having excess fat is not a good indicator of health. Fat cells accumulate more toxins than other cells, making them harmful. A BMI (body mass index) assessment, then, is a useful tool to use occasionally, but honestly how many of us do this?
If there a better indicator of health?
Think Energy !
You know the kind of happy energy that children have when they wake up in the morning? That energy is a far better indicator of our health, both physical and mental. This kind of energy comes from good sleep because it would have rested both the physical and mental body and recharged the nervous system.
This is also why, in Naturopathy, we encourage those with chronic diseases or those recovering to sleep more.
If you observe yourself carefully, whenever you are taking ill, you will first experience an energy sap. It comes on sometimes a day or a few hours before we are going to be sick. Then emerge the signs of illness. This is mostly true for what we call ‘acute diseases’ in naturopathy: viral, fever, diarrhoea, etc.You might not notice this in chronic diseases, those that take hold of the body over a long period of time before they become a full-blown disease: Diabetes, asthma, hypertension, etc.
But weight is easy to measure and monitor, I can hear some of you thinking. How do we do this with energy? How is that to be measured and monitored?
And to me, that’s the beauty of it. First, the fact that there is no averaged out, universal formula that needs to be applied. Second, that we can all define it for ourselves using the parameters of lifestyle, age, life situation, climate, etc.
“To get out of bed in the morning feeling recharged, to have enough energy and some extra to go through my life’s activities without feeling drained; to feel like I can have a little reservoir that can be utilised anytime, if called upon.” This is mine, you make yours. You can get creative and add nuances like ‘good energy’, ‘joyous energy’.
Clear eyes and a glow on the face are some other. It is what makes someone naturally attractive irrespective of other bodily aspects. No healthy body can ever be unattractive. These are more difficult to gauge, and perhaps even achieve, but they are far better indicators of health than weight can ever be.
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