Eating explained: Expert advice on how to make sure you remain slim and healthy

You know how often you hear yourself or your friends complaining no amount of exercise or diet is helping them lose weight and look slim? Yes, us too. Simple answer, really. Healthier lifestyles. Our grandmothers, who, by the way, had better skin, hair, figures and health than us despite all the struggles they faced, lived right, worked right, cooked right and ate right. With the kind of fast-paced lifestyles that we lead today, that, funnily enough, leaves us alarmingly sedentary, we have forgotten that eating requires much more time than we are willing to give it. As a result, our general health has been deteriorating and weight gain is on the rise. In this article, I will explore how our body deals with food and what habits we can change to ensure that our overall health improves, initiating a natural process of weight loss.

As per human physiology, our satiety (satisfaction of hunger) is fulfilled in three steps.

A) 10 to 20 percent by ocular reflex (by seeing the food): That is why mothers and cooks don’t eat much.
B) 20 to 30 percent by oral reflex: When we chew and grind the food in our mouths, we get some more satisfaction and
C) 50 percent by gastric reflex: The rest of our food gets digested by the stomach and our hunger is fully relieved.

Analytically, while eating, we don’t look at our food - we watch TV or browse e-mails, losing 10 to 20 percent of the satisfaction. Due to scarcity in time or our fast-paced lifestyles, most of us gulp our food down without chewing or grinding, losing another 10 to 20 percent satisfaction, resulting in 30 to 40 percent more food intake than required for our needs; our hunger does not get satisfied due to a shortfall in the usage of our ocular and oral reflexes. This results in obesity. It is compounded by eating at odd times, especially partying regularly at night.

A common saying is that we need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the proportion of 4:2:1. But we eat a scanty breakfast, moderate lunch and mega dinner. After having our mega dinner, we go to bed without waiting for the adequate digestion process to set it. We are supposed to take a stroll after dinner, which facilitates digestion, that we always skip. These habits are what make us complain of ill-health. A simple realignment in our food habits is the first step to leading a healthy life.

So, to summarise, we should:

  1. Look at our food as we eat

  2. Chew well

  3. Eat a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and a small dinner

  4. Finish our last meal of the day at least two hours before we sleep

  5. Take a walk at night

  6. Make sure we get enough exercise during the day

Next, we spend more time in traffic jams than in any other place. The pollution, adding to weather changes, is creating havoc in our lives. As clinicians, we see lots of young Indians in their twenties suffering from metabolic diseases like raised cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases, which were a rarity in previous generations. The lack of physical activity, together with our unhealthy lifestyles and eating of junk food, is a recipe for disaster for our health.

A version of this article was first published in Garden City Plus. The author, Dr (Wgcdr) A Nagasubramaniam, Dr (Wgcdr) A Nagasubramaniam is a healthcare professional and  administrator, currently an entrepreneur, educationist and a columnist.