Unique weight loss challenges for Indian Men
Life is hard enough these days without carrying extra weight everywhere you go.
Apart from a hit to your confidence, excess weight is a risk factor for chronic illness and disease.
There are several unique challenges men in India face when attempting weight loss programs. Environment, lifestyle and genetics all play a significant role in weight gain, and there are a variety of unique challenges in the Indian landscape.
At some point or other, you must have asked yourself why can’t I lose weight? Here are some reasons your weight loss may not be succeeding:
Festivals & Social Obligations
Culprit number one is due to society!
That’s not a fair accusation – your food choices and what you put in your body are up to you (in theory).
But the high number of social interactions and personal contacts in India means endless occasions for you to eat and drink “party” food.
How do you say ‘no,’ though?
Birthdays, anniversaries, work functions, festivals, weddings – you could face one of these functions almost every day!
And that is a lot of party food!
💡 TIP - Eat before you go to functions. You can still be polite and eat while enjoying yourself, but you might be less likely to overindulge.
Very few people around the world learn about nutrition.
Our ideas about nutrition tend to come from our parents, friends, relatives and perhaps from school.
The problem with this ‘education’ is that it is often not based on evidence or facts.
Myths and individual experiences start to form the basis of the common nutrition folklore. The danger of this is obvious.
Listening to health advice from people who do not know about the basics (i.e. why protein is required by the body, what are the essential nutrients? etc.) can seriously disrupt your weight loss efforts.
I spoke to someone the other day who told me lentils (dal) are protein. And they are – approximately 10g of protein per 100g, depending on the variety. But they also have 20g of carbohydrates.
The point is that foods are not all protein, fat or carbohydrate – they are usually a combination of all three. The RDAs (recommended dietary allowances) for nutrients are not optimal amounts – nor are they for people with illnesses.
So you may be deficient but think you are receiving the correct amount. Confusing, isn’t it? Adequate protein can be challenging on a vegetarian diet, especially if you exclude dairy products. Protein can be a challenge on any diet if you consume too many carbohydrates and do not prioritise foods containing protein.
Protein is an essential nutrient for the body (essential amino acids). They are ‘essential’ because your body cannot make these nutrients and must receive them from food.
Without adequate protein, the body cannot perform numerous vital functions.
Protein remains a misunderstood nutrient in the community. This study demonstrates that protein is a poorly understood part of the diet in India.
There are essential fats (fatty acids) too. There are no ‘essential carbohydrates’, but often we are encouraged to eat carbohydrates for “energy.”
If you are overweight, lack of energy is not your problem. Your body has stored your excess “energy” in the form of body fat.
Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge about which nutrients are needed by the body and which foods contain these nutrients could hamper your weight loss efforts.
💡 TIP - Learn about protein and its role in the body. Learn about the best sources of protein foods, and experiment to see which ones improve your health. Seek the help of a professional if applicable.
Lack of suitable conditions to exercise.
There are plenty of parks and gyms in India. However, not everyone has access to these facilities. An Individual’s financial constraints may limit access to fitness venues.
There are solutions to this problem. Home-based weight loss exercises can prove very effective.
Extreme weather conditions often found across India can also play a part in disrupting consistent exercise regimes.
Staying up late may not be an obvious cause for the lack of your weight loss results.
Many people in India eat their main meal quite late at night.
Social events, work and life in general in India often start late in the morning and extend very late into the night.
Problems with this lifestyle can arise when sleep is interrupted and eating patterns extend for long hours.
The body rests and repairs at night. Circadian rhythms are affected when food and sleep occur at irregular times for your body clock, such as nighttime.
The effect of late nights can be two-fold – You may eat more in the evening meal AND your body may not repair optimally. You can also develop an imbalance of hormones such as cortisol.
💡 TIP - If you have tried everything and can't lose weight, consider eating and sleeping earlier to see whether it impacts your health.
Stress from a frenetic pace of life could put a potential spanner in the works of your weight loss efforts.
Many Indian men face long hours at work each week.
They can also face a long list of family and social obligations.
The result is less (or no) spare time to focus on their health.
Too much lifestyle stress can cause problems with cortisol, a vital hormone in the body that affects fat storage, amongst other crucial functions.
Sometimes diet and exercise are thought of as the main reason for weight gain, but it might be emotional and physical stress stalling your efforts.
If you find yourself turning to alcohol or comfort junk food to cope with stress, it could be a sign your life is out of balance.
💡 TIP - Add stress reduction techniques, including fun activities or hobbies, into your weekly schedule.
Stress can cause illnesses, but sometimes infection or diseases can add to stress loads on the body.
Consider a checkup if you feel unwell or are already suffering from an infection, chronic or acute illness or disease.
Your health requirements may change under these circumstances (i.e. you may require more or less of a particular nutrient).
Your weight loss regime may need modification in these circumstances.
Your Genes: Probably one of the biggest Reasons Why you can’t lose belly fat
It seems unfair, but studies have shown that ‘South Asians’ have a genetic predisposition to storing fat in the wrong places!
This study (3), reported in the New York Times, explained the unique problem facing Indians and other people from South Asian countries.
The study reveals that people of South Asian descent store fat around the stomach and organs such as the liver rather than distributed across the entire body.
The study demonstrates that fat in these areas is more dangerous for health than being overweight all over your body.
Stomach fat (4) is more important than obesity.
Now you know that genetics may be working against you, it is even more vital that you become aware of the areas of your life where you can prioritise health to prevent dangerous weight gain.
If you have thin arms, legs and face but a large stomach, this is a sign of something being potential ‘off’ with your metabolism and health. This could be one of the main reasons why you can’t lose belly fat even after so much efforts.
💡 TIP - Don't focus on your weight - focus on your measurements, especially waist circumference (5) (6).
So now you know that many lifestyle, environment and genetic factors can affect weight loss efforts.
Being aware of the challenges can assist you in implementing changes where possible.
Although diabetes is a growing problem in India, the popularity of fitness and health programs is also growing simultaneously. Read: Diet Trends: Which One to Follow?
It is possible to turn things around.
Jennifer is the co-founder of menPsyche. She holds an Applied Science degree in Public Health & Health Promotion and authored the ‘Personal Disaster’ book series.
Jennifer has a vast range of experience across many domains, including extensive international exposure.