A weighty issue

Why dropping kilos is a marathon-like endeavour that needs the right attitude

Updated - March 07, 2019 10:47 am IST

Published - March 04, 2019 03:24 pm IST

Shot of a sporty young woman taking a break while exercising outdoors

Shot of a sporty young woman taking a break while exercising outdoors

A worried set of parents reached out. They wanted help with their teenage daughter. She was obese, and had been experimenting with diets. Advice to exercise was falling on deaf ears. They also made a seemingly unconnected comment that the girl had now started using a lot of makeup.

Consider these examples: an overweight person wondering why he doesn’t lose weight in spite of some walking (quantum obviously not commensurate with the need); an obese couple comfortable with their girth and unwilling to give up their ‘fun’ in life to lose weight; somebody becoming more stubborn in their ways when asked to exercise restrain with mindless eating; or someone full of reasons on why they have shelved weight loss for a later, ‘better’ period.

Is there something in common?

There are several reasons for obesity: poor eating habits, a sedentary, stressful lifestyle, perhaps medical reasons, all contribute to extra kilos, which need addressing. There is something else, in addition to these.


Wha t about attitude? Obese people commonly may not initiate or adhere to weight-loss efforts. Denial, stubbornness, a sense of feeling overwhelmed, giving up quickly — you may perhaps not identify or acknowledge these states in your personal weight-loss journey, and/or of those around. Why? Often, it can be traced to attitude.

Attitude towards self

Chang e begins with an honest assessment and acceptance of one’s current state (body weight/health here). What you don’t accept, you cannot change.

Attitude of willingness

Awareness is not enough. You have to be willing to bring change. Without it, change cannot be initiated or sustained, certainly not a meaningful one.

Attitude towards the journey of change

Obesity doesn’t happen overnight. Neither will substantial changes/results. It will be a ‘process’. Accept it. How long? It depends on your honesty and tenacity to stick with what it takes. Consider how a runner trains for a marathon, slowly building mileage, working on training, diet, hydration and much more, to eventually reach the distance goal. She must respect and follow the process to finish the 42K. There are no short-cuts or quick fixes.

Young Indian woman stretching in a gym and looking to camera

Young Indian woman stretching in a gym and looking to camera

Attitude towards setbacks

Any process is likely to run into periodic walls. When, where, how, is not standard and cannot be foretold. Much like for runners, ‘hitting a wall’ is different for individuals. And just like a runner, you have to be willing to take steps to address it and come back stronger.

A marathon, not a sprint

Attitude is a much bigger player than you might think. Weight loss is more in nature of an endurance pursuit than a sprinting one, and your attitude needs to be aligned to this reality to promote long-term success.

For women especially, increasingly straddling diversified and challenging roles beyond the traditional ones, both at home and at work, it is important to watch their attitude and prioritise health and well-being. They need to be wary of the tendency to push health to the bottom of their list of responsibilities and priorities, for whatever justifications they may ascribe to. Biologically too, women experience more complex demands of the body than men. This is by nature’s design. It’s an indicator of your inherent power. Don’t confuse your strength with weakness. Do not allow this to be twisted into a tool to question your competency! Prioritise weight and health.

And let’s not judge that obese teenager on her heavy makeup so quickly. It could be her silent way of coping with body issues, a silent cry for help. She needs reaffirmation that she is beautiful, that it may be a long road ahead, but it’s worth taking. She also needs patient support from those in her life to nudge her whenever she may feel dejected and tempted to give up. She, and many others battling obesity, including members of their support system, must recognise, appreciate, and encourage the right attitude towards weight loss and see them as health goals, rather than as short-term fixes.

Vani B Pahwa is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, a Master Rehab Trainer, a Functional Movement, Barefoot Training Specialist, BarefootRX Rehab Specialist, Foot & Gait Analyst, and a BOSU Personal Trainer. She is also a Mohiniyattam dancer

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