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Why am I overweight?

Most people are overweight because of their lifestyle. They are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and not doing others that they should. Tto lose weight, they  need to fix these problems. Permanently. There is no other way.


People blame their genes for their obesity. "It runs in the family", they say. But the truth is that obesity is caused by eating more food than the body requires for its current level of activity. Since the body cannot store the excess protein and carbohydrates consumed "as-is", it is converted into fat and stored. It's really that simple. As our family doctor, Dr V V Shah  used to say  "You don't become fat on air and water"


So, to lose weight you have to reduce your food intake and increase your physical activity. By using up more calories than you are consuming, you will lose weight automatically!!


Why lose weight?


High blood pressure

Overweight people are six times more likely to develop high blood pressure that leads to heart disease.



Even moderate obesity, increases the risk of diabetes several fold


Cardiovascular disease

The fatter the person, the higher the risk.



Fat men are at higher risk to get colon, rectum and prostrate cancer. Fat women similarly are exposed to higher risks for breast, uterus, cervical and ovarian cancer.

Endocrine problems

Irregular menstrual cycles; other menstrual problems; and pregnancy complications could be a result of obesity.


Gall bladder disease

Six times higher risk. Almost one-third of older overweight women are sure to have this problem


Lung and breathing problems

Excessive body fat interferes with the breathing function.



Higher risks again. Back and knee joints are stressed due to excess weight and wear out faster


Sleep disturbances, inability to participate in sports or recreational activities, even inability to perform some jobs leading to reduced job opportunities, reduced energy levels, leading to loss of productivity are other consequences of obesity. There are social issues - prejudice or discrimination  at school or office, restricted opportunities for romance (which girl dreams of spending time with a fat guy, or vice versa?). Psychological problems such as low self-esteem and body-image are also common.


Being overweight can  shorten your life


The largest study on obesity and mortality ever conducted  has found convincing evidence that  being overweight can reduce a  person's life span. The study, published in this week's  New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), was conducted by the American Cancer Society.


Researchers looked at the medical records of more than a million Americans from 1982 through 1996 and found a clear link between being  overweight and a higher risk of dying from cancer or heart disease. The study also found overweight people ran a higher risk of premature death, even if they were non-smokers and were otherwise healthy during their middle years.


"The evidence is now compelling and irrefutable," Dr. Joann Manson, a Harvard University endocrinologist and  preventive-health specialist, said. "Obesity is probably the second leading  preventable cause of death in the United States  after cigarette smoking, so it is a very serious problem."


Why dieting  doesn't work.


If we try to reduce our food intake i.e. go on a diet,  we feel end up feeling hungry most of the time. We end up thinking about food until something snaps and we say, "to hell with it, pass the can of beer, and while you are at it, some peanuts as well". We cannot function for long on restrictive diets or on hospital/ prison-type food. It just doesn't taste good. We go back to eating as much as before,  and that’s it.


. A diet says "Do this, and you will lose weight". Naturally, when you stop doing "it" (whatever it is), the weight comes back on. No system will help you lose weight and keep it off unless you follow it for life. 


You have put on weight because of your current lifestyle.. Now let's say you follow some diet for a few months and get the extra pounds off. Great. But, when you go back to your regular diet, you're going to put it all back on. It's how you got fat in the first place!  Since the diet is temporary, so are the results. 


Most diets are restrictive in nature and humans naturally rebel against such restrictions. Restrictions in quantity of leave you hungry and angry, especially against those who are having their fill at the trough. Other diets fail because they force you to eat only "health food" which doesn’t taste good. There is only so long that a human being can be forced to subsist on grated carrot and wheat grass juice before he says, "Sod off".   "I'd rather remain fat than eat that yuck".


Another problem with dieting is that you generally keep thinking of food as long as you're on it. You keep thinking of that piece of chocolate cake that your friend is eating. And when you get off the diet, you are sure to make up for lost time.


A lot of people suffer from the "yoyo" effect of dieting. Put on weight, go on a diet, lose it. Get back to regular eating, put the weight on again, then back on the diet …The cycle continues. It puts a heavy toll on the body and it wears out faster.


Finally, dieting is confusing. Low carb, South Beach Diet, Mediterranean diet, Keto Diet, Intermittent Fasting …Which one is right? But whatever it is, it is bound to fail because you cant stick to it for a lifetime.


Why are diets so popular?

People want an easy way out. Many are looking for a short term solution they can follow for a short while, ideally with minimum effort. Weight loss is a billion dollar industry. Many systems insist on your swallowing their pills, swigging their potions or applying their lotions. These are proprietary and expensive.  They don't last forever. You have to go back for more.  Weight loss books, video tapes, courses, lectures, seminars, support groups, etc bring in so much money for their proponents, that it would be commercial disaster if they succeeded permanently. How would they get repeat business? The whole system hinges on the fact that you lose weight, so are happy with the system, but soon put it back on so you have to go back for more. 

Why ONLY exercising does not work?

So if we can't easily cut down on food intake, why not attack the other side of the equation  exercise? In theory that's a good idea. But in practice, to lose one pound of weight  (454 grams),  you need to use up 3600 calories more than you consume.

That means 36 hours of walking, 30 hours of jogging, 20 hours of swimming!!  And one can of coke has got 300 calories, or a slice of apple pie 500 calories. You can put on in five minutes what it will take five hours to get off.


Exercise ALONE is not the answer. But as part of the whole system, it will certainly help you to lose weight.


Dangers of Short cut diets

Protein diets. Atkins Diet. The Zone Diet. Diet with special supplements. All of these are inadvisable shortcuts. Some of them use appetite suppressants. Some of them starve us of vital nutrients  they might work, short term..but you lose weight AND health


A Safe and Sure way


We need to use up more calories than we consume, but we cannot do that by limiting the quantity of food (dieting) or by exercising more. We need a sustainable way of reducing the number calories consumed. Such a weight loss system should meet five  basic criteria:


-  It should never leave people feeling hungry  i.e. they should be able to eat to their stomach's content

- The food has to be tasty, else people won't enjoy their meals and won't stick to the system

- It has to show quick results, so people don't get demotivated and stop following it

- It should be simple and practical to follow, not very complicated. It has to be followed for a lifetime.

- It should not cost a fortune to implement


What we are proposin, is not a diet but a change in lifestyle. You can eat a sufficient quantity of food, three times a day, to your stomach's content. The food will taste good and will generally be what you are normally accustomed to eating, with  some adjustments There is nothing proprietary about it and the things you need can be bought from your neighborhood grocery store. They are not expensive. You do not have to come back to me each month for your dose of "Peter's Special Weight Loss Lotion". I don't make any. The system is flexible and practical. It will work if you decide to stick to it.


Getting down to the specifics


And what is the best way to eat to our stomach's content and yet go light on calories?,The best choice for our diet will therefore be fresh, raw fruit and vegetables. They contain at least 70% -90%  water, which is zero calories. These foods are rich in fibre, which adds bulk to the food, satisfying your hunger too,  while reducing your calorie consumption. Other high fibre foods like whole grains, lentils, pulses and beans are your best friend too.


If you eliminate sugary foods, deep fried foods, processed foods, soft drinks and cooked animal products, all of which again are very high in calories, again you reduce your calorie consumption


Add a moderate amount of regular exercise, say 45 minutes a day.  This increases your body's metabolic rate  which means it burns calories more rapidly, even when you are not exercising!

Raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lentils, beans, pulses and sprouts are the healthiest foods on the planet. They are bursting with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other nutrients.So you lose weight AND gain health!


Suggested meal plan


- Breakfast  Fresh fruits and a simple vegetarian breakfast item


- Lunch and dinner  1/3 raw vegetable salad, 1/3 cooked vegetables, beans and pulses and 1/3 starch like whole wheat bread, unpolished brown rice, millets

There are no quantity restrictions, you can eat as much as you want, as long as you maintain the proportions. You will never go hungry.


Snacks: If you are hungry in between meals, you can snack on fruit, or a small quantity of nuts or other vegetarian snack -  as long as it is not deep fried, oily or sugary


If followed faithfully, you should lose about half a kilo (one pound)  of weight PER WEEK. It will melt away like an ice cube in the sun.


To conclude, you can still eat to your stomach's content, three times a day. You can still eat most of your favourite vegetarian foods, provided they are conservatively home-cooked. So you never feel you are depriving yourself. And once you have reached your target weight, you can even indulge in your favourite weakness (say chocolate ice-cream or chicken tandoori), in reasonable quantity, once in ten days.  But that is the limit. If you break the rules more often, you will soon be undoing all your hard work and putting the weight back on again.

How to get started

Try this for  21 days to see how your body adjusts to this system. You will find out if it suits you and works for you or not. Most probably, you will be on the path to weight loss and health gain!

By the way, here's an article of mine on Weight Loss that appeared in Tehelka Magazine - see below..

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