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Monday, March 15, 2010

Obesity has become an epidemic. Nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight and about one thirds are obese. To make the problem worse, childhood obesity is also running out of control. Recent figures show that in the past two decades the number of overweight children and adolescents has doubled. Around 15 percent of children aged 6 to 19 and nearly 11 percent of preschool children are considered obese.

Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, some types of cancers are major health risks because of obesity. Obesity is the reason for about 80% of type 2 diabetes, about 70% of cardiovascular diseases, and 42% of breast and colon cancers (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).

Obesity is taking a major toll on our health care dollars. Obesity in the United States costs $75 billion a year in medical expenses. The study -- which doesn't include children, whose obesity rates are soaring -- found that 5.7 percent of the nation's health care expenses are for treatment of obesity. Hospital costs associated with childhood obesity rose from $35 Million (1979) to $127 Million (1999).

In short, obesity has become a crucial health problem for our nation. This is a multifaceted problem.
Is our super sized food the culprit or is our modern sedentary life style is to blame? Super sized hamburgers, French fries,super gulps soft drinks; “All you can eat” foods may be one part of the problem. Lack of exercise, sitting in front of the TV or Computer for most of our day may add to the problem. But why can’t millions of people who are on a diet program, lose weight permanently? Why there is so much variation in gaining or losing weight?

Millions of Americans are trying to lose weight, spending approximately $30 billion a year on diet programs and products. People are losing 20-30 pounds in a month and feeling good. But, if you check with the same people five years later, you will find that nearly all have regained whatever weight they lost. A national panel recently sought data to determine if any commercial diet program could prove long-term success. Not a single program could do so.

Ever-changing research further adds to the confusion. A few years ago, people were told to eat low/no fat diet, but now we have realized that some fat is essential for the body. Transfats were the choice over butter, but now we are finding out that transfats are more hazardous. Atkin’s diet is very popular these days, but it also carries risk of kidney diseases, gout and many other problems.

We have a serious problem and we need a serious solution. Ayurveda, the 5000 year old science of healthy living has solution to our current problem.

In the Ayurvedic perspective, there should be a major shift in awareness. Ayurveda does not treat obesity; it treats a person who is obese or over weight. Like everything else in nature, there is so much diversity and variation in each person and “one size does not fit all”.

Susan, a computer programmer in her 30s, was complaining, “It is not fair. Linda and I are on the same diet plan since last month and she’s already lost 10 pounds, I haven’t even lost two pounds yet”. She couldn’t understand why it was so hard for her to loose weight. According to Ayurveda Linda and Susan have different Mind-Body Make up – called Body Constitution and that is why they were responding differently. We all are very different, so obviously one diet program does not work for everybody. Ayurveda respects that uniqueness in each person and helps create custom tailored plans to maintain the unique balance for each individual. In the following example you will see how knowing Body constitution helps.

Tania was a ten year old girl who weighed about 140 lbs and wearing size 16 clothes. Along with the weight problem, her grades were failing and she was diagnosed with ADD. Tania’s mother had tried everything but nothing had worked. They were afraid that the young girl would have to go to special education school because of this ADD and her poor academic performance.

Tania was one of the thousands of kids who are obese. She was on typical kids’ diet, donuts for breakfast, hamburger and fries, or something similar at school, for lunch and cookies and chips after school. The dinner was either pizza or macaroni and cheese. She was glued to the TV after school for hours and hardly went out to play or bike her ride.

Tania, according to Ayurveda is a kapha, a kid with a kapha constitution, who was doing everything to aggravate her Kapha and that was the cause of her obesity. She then followed an Ayurvedic regimen - eating light foods like toasts and ginger tea for breakfast, meat sandwiches during lunch time, and popcorn or rice cakes as a snack. For dinner she ate rice and vegetables. The major difference in her life style was going to a park to ride bike or play on the swing or a slide for couple of hours every day. The results were astonishing – she lost 12 pounds in the first month. She went from size 16 to size 12. Her grades improved and had no signs of ADD after that.. Tania liked her food so much that whenever her mom and her brother ate pizza she refused. She is still is on this eating regime and is in perfect health and doing great at school.

Mary, a 30 year old secretary followed Ayurvedic regimen of diet and life style. Her constitution was Kapha-Pitta. She had tried a few weight loss programs. She was on a low fat /low carb diet, but she could not keep her weight off consistently. When she heard about Ayurveda, she switched to Kapha-Pitta balancing foods (eating more fruit, vegetables and grains and adding spices in moderation) and Ayurvedic herbs. She started walking for one hour, five days a week. She lost about 15 pounds in three of months and has kept it off for more than three years.

Besides counting calories there are other rituals about food and exercise people have to follow. For example, Tom, a computer engineer, used to work from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm. He would eat in his office many times and then eat dinner at home after 10.00 pm. He used to wake up with allergies, headaches and felt very lethargic. When he changed his food choices and started eating lunch at noon and dinner at 7.00 pm instead of 10 pm, as well as playing tennis, 3 times a week, he started losing weight and feeling better.

If young and old, start eating according to their basic body constitution and follow some simple guidelines, our health picture will be very different and very positive. We can prevent many diseases and enjoy life. Ayurveda has a different understanding about weight and obesity along with simple and proven ways to solve the problem.

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