Good health is like a symphony composition that can be divided into four parts. When all the four seamlessly come together, you get a piece of music that is timeless and unmatched on all merits.
Likewise, our body is amazing in its complexity and functioning as long as there is balance. As the balance drops, there is a slowdown in our energy levels and in the general functioning of the body, resulting in ageing and the onset of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. With the devastation caused by COVID-19, the risk associated with such co-morbidities cannot be taken lightly. The onus of self-care lies with each one of us, to become responsible and maintain good health at all times.
It is interesting to note that ageing can be accelerated or reversed, depending on the environment we provide within our body on a daily basis. It is time we realised that our health is in our hands; and we need to make concerted efforts to combat obesity and insulin resistance, which is increasingly afflicting millions of individuals the world over. As with any good thing that has lasting value, it cannot be done in a day’s work. We need to gradually and consciously make the shift by choosing what enhances our health over what degenerates it.
Read on to understand how you can lose fat and reverse insulin resistance conservatively to keep you disease-free and functioning at peak level. Follow these four important steps to achieve good health and vitality. (Note: The post is a 15 minute read)
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Age is just a number for some. Just like old wine, they get better with age and glow with good health. We can all fit into this segment just by achieving balance, rejuvenating our body and revving up the performance of our internal systems. Techniques such as diet modification and fasting are increasingly being recognised to lose fat and regain good health. While this has been practised in Ayurveda since ancient times, it is only now that the western world is acknowledging and upholding this conservative methodology of treatment and the benefits accrued therein.
We are not entirely to blame for neglecting our health. The best of us have been misled by feeding on wrong information by health experts, the medical profession and research. Amidst increased consumerism and the influx of a vast array of highly processed and refined convenience foods readily available to us, we may have inadvertently contributed to this situation by getting caught up in our fast-paced lifestyle and consuming these unhealthy foods . We begin to realise the ill-effects of this lifestyle only when things start taking a toll on our health.
According to the projections made by the International Diabetes Federation and the Global Burden of Disease project, an estimated 98 million Indians could have diabetes by 2030. These projections are based on the current high sugar diet coupled with lack of physical activity in India along with the historical trends of other countries that have faced similar risk factors.
While modern medicine plays a major role in the treatment of disease and ill-health, it caters only for treatment/management of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure, but does not focus on preventive care. So by the time you consult your doctor, the disease would have set in almost a decade back. Conventional treatment involves management of the disease, wherein the patient continues to live with the disease. This keeps on progressing over the years, with increasing dosage of medication to control it. So the future is indeed bleak for such patients.
To understand it better, let us compare our body to that of a polluted lake with fish in it, which are dying due to toxic build up. We need to get things back to normal and help the fish live by cleaning up the toxic environment within the lake. But instead, we end up throwing in a whole lot of different chemicals to clean up the lake, which will only create a more toxic environment for the fish. One needs to only understand the consequences of these actions in order to understand the gravity of what the pills we swallow on a daily basis, are doing to our body.
On the brighter side, not all hope is lost. In recent years, alternative medicine is making a big comeback, especially since the good health of certain ethnic populations have garnered enough interest to carry out research on their dietary habits and conservative treatment methodologies.
More doctors are now focusing on disease reversal rather than management of disease. Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Pradip Jamnadas and Dr. Steven Gundry, to name a prominent few in the US, are proactively advocating through their books and talks on disease reversal through diet and lifestyle improvisation. In India, Dr. Pramod Tripathi’s ‘Freedom from Diabetes’, a diabetes reversal programme, has helped more than ten thousand diabetics reverse the disease without medication, and lead more healthy and fulfilling lives.
Understanding our body and its functioning
At the very outset, we need to set things right by understanding our body and its functioning. Each of our systems such as the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, central nervous, endocrine and excretory systems, respond to the environment we create within our body.
The functionality of these systems is interdependent and is controlled by complex mechanisms that are triggered by hormones secreted by the endocrine system. These chemicals regulate the biological functions of our body at all times and contribute to its peak functioning at all times. For instance, insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas regulates blood glucose levels.
Insulin resistance and obesity
When we eat food, the carbohydrates break down to glucose during digestion, which is absorbed into the blood stream. Excess glucose in the blood stream is harmful. So the body produces insulin to remove excess glucose from the blood stream and store it in the form of glycogen in the liver.
Once the glycogen reserves get saturated, the body begins storing the extra glycogen in the form of triglycerides in the fat cells. Since excessive carbohydrates are being consumed on a repeatedly, the fat cells expand to the maximum and when they are no more capable of storing fat, they change the insulin receptors on the surface of the cell, thereby becoming insulin resistant.
Type I diabetics are unable to produce insulin and therefore need insulin supplements to maintain their blood glucose levels. In the case of Type II diabetes, the individual produces adequate insulin, but the insulin receptors on the cell surface get blocked. Therefore the pancreas produces more insulin to push the glucose into storage as fat. The continuous high levels of insulin lead to hormonal imbalance, obesity, coronary artery disease as well as impacts brain health.
This chain reaction continues to happen every time we eat a meal or a snack. Frequent snacking and three meals (as advocated for every patient on diabetes medication) means that the insulin levels are continuously on overdrive and excess glucose is continuously being stored as fat. This inevitably leads to fat deposits in the liver and abdominal region as well as within muscle tissue.
Due to frequent feeding, there is always an abundance of glucose readily available in the blood stream, the body begins to utilize this readily available glucose for its energy expenditure. The fat deposits therefore remain undisturbed, which is why they grow over the years, leading to obesity.
In order to stop this vicious cycle, we need to examine our diet, the frequency of our consumption of food, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, sleep deprivation and stress, which trigger chemical imbalances within the body. The perpetual hyperglycaemic state caused by insulin resistance causes oxidative stress and inflammation, the fallout of which is cell damage and cardiovascular disease. It is at this stage that a person begins to feel that things are getting out of control and therefore seeks a doctor’s help.
Four life-changing steps to regain good health
Fortunately, reversal of these chronic diseases through proper management of diet, along with exercise, adequate sleep and reduced stress levels is gaining precedence over allopathic disease management therapy. This multi-pronged conservative approach has helped millions of people around the world reverse conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, thyroid problems, PCOS and even cancer, thereby enabling them to lead a healthy and normal life.
British physician Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, “The Four Pillar Plan’ speaks about managing the four pillars of good health – food, movement, sleep and relaxation – both qualitatively and quantitatively, to achieve holistic health. Throwing even one of these elements out of balance could lead to a chain of disruptions that could cause irreversible damage in the long run.
So what are the four things that you need to change beginning today that would put you on the track to good health? The most important way to reduce insulin resistance is to reduce the fat stores in your body. To achieve this, you need to optimise your diet and exercise regimen to achieve fat loss and gain lean muscle.
- Changing your diet for the better
The first thing you need to change is the quality and quantity of carbohydrates that you consume in a day. As we have understood above, carbohydrates play an important role in spiking our blood insulin levels.
The best way to reduce insulin production would be to not completely give up carbohydrates from your diet, but to choose a low carbohydrate diet that includes low glycaemic index foods (foods that are broken down to fewer glucose molecules) such as emmer wheat chapatis, bajra or sorghum for making rotis.
Include wholesome foods such as pulses, legumes, meat, eggs, fresh vegetables, leafy vegetables, bean sprouts and low glycaemic fruits like apple, guava, papaya, peach, plum, and berries. Your meal should typically constitute of carbohydrates, cooked vegetable, salad and protein (in the form of pulses or meat) in equal proportions.
Avoid foods made from refined flour or maida. Avoid white rice, wheat semolina, precooked oats, poha, upma and sabudaana. Eliminate sugar, jaggery, honey and high glycaemic index fruits such as grapes, watermelon, dates, chikkoos and dry fruits like raisins from your diet completely until you achieve your targeted weight loss. Avoid sugary soft drinks, tea, coffee, baked goodies like cakes, bread, cookies, pies, pastries etc. Completely eliminate processed foods such as pasta, noodles, cheese, cream, and carbohydrate rich foods such as energy bars, fried snacks like potato wafers, tortilla chips, etc.
While this may seem a tall order, there isn’t a better option available. Make a conscious decision to eliminate unhealthy food stuffs that are pro-inflammatory and include wholesome foods that will help nourish your body.
Equally important for insulin regulation is that you need to time-restrict your feeding and allow your digestive system to be free of food for at least 12 to16 hours in a day. So that gives us a feeding window of 12 and 8 hours, respectively. A good way to begin this would be to eliminate breakfast (which is predominantly carbohydrate based). Instead, you could have two wholesome, nutritious meals till you are fully satiated.
This long gap between meals will ensure that lesser insulin is secreted. Allowing yourself to remain hungry for a few hours before dinner, will help in mobilising and breakdown of fat reserves for energy production. A 12-16 hour gap at night before you have your next meal in the morning will further deplete fat stores. You can gradually speed up this process by going in for a 24 hour fast with one meal per day. This feasting and fasting cycle will accelerate breakdown of fat and help you reduce insulin resistance. Gradually, there will be a reset and you will become insulin-sensitive once again, due to which your overall health will improve in several ways.
A word of caution though – before you make these dietary changes, you need to discuss with your doctor about your diet plan and fasting routine. In case you are diabetic and on medication, you need to regularly monitor and intimate your doctor about your blood glucose levels.
Alternatively, you could join programmes such as the ‘Freedom from Diabetes’ programme, which are tailored for diabetic insulin reversal based on several years of research. They have all the necessary experts and counsellors led by Dr. Pramod Tripathi, who would guide and support you through this programme.
- Include a daily exercise regimen
Along with a low carbohydrate and high protein and vitamin rich diet, you need to accelerate fat burning through a good exercise programme. Depending on your age and any health problems, you could modify the exercise programme to suit your requirement.
Yoga and strength training with about 20 minutes of cardio is a good way to begin. You can gradually increase or add more exercises as per your need. Exercise, along with time-restricted fasting, will ensure that you will maintain good muscle mass and lose fat rapidly.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
Along with a good diet and exercise, it is important for you to sleep well for eight hours every night. Young populations thrive on late nights, glued to their mobiles and snacking on processed and unhealthy foods during the night. This has led to poor academic or professional performance, along with the onset of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, PCOS (in girls) and blood pressure at a younger age.
Sleeping well, on the contrary, will not only allow you to be rested and energetic for the next day, but will also prevent you from raiding the refrigerator and snacking at night. The moment you snack at night, insulin will be produced and the readily available glucose will be used up for metabolic activity. This means that the fat stores will remain untouched, thereby slowing down fat loss.
- Include relaxation techniques in your daily routine
Stress has become an intrinsic part of our fast-paced lifestyle. So there is very little that can be done to eliminate it. But the good part is that you can manage it well through techniques such as regular exercise workout as well as practising pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation.
While exercise releases endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormones), pranayama and meditation calm the mind, remove negative pressures and bring in clarity of the mind. This contributes to reduction of stress levels significantly.
There are other ways such as a quiet activity, gardening, cooking, reading, developing a hobby or spending time with family and friends, which could also help reduce your stress levels significantly. These activities lead to the secretion of serotonin, the happiness and well-being hormone. The important thing is to learn to manage it in the way best suited for you.
Adhering to these four important factors will ensure you maintain good health and vitality that would benefit you in the years to come. Give yourself a fresh lease of life by aiding fat loss and reversing insulin resistance. Give up foods and habits that will create an unhealthy environment within your body and achieve balance once again. You will savour the manifold benefits of an active lifestyle, rejuvenation, a slim and healthy new you, increased productivity and improved mental faculties.
Take the first step towards healthy living today!