By Dr Indrajith P. Hathuruisngha
At present, people are keener on their appearance than ever before. Irrespective of gender, age, occupation, social status, everyone wants to look attractive, younger or handsome, and this has become more manifest with the advent of social media. The real challenge, however, is for you to look younger as you grow old. Ageing is something that we cannot prevent because it is a natural phenomenon. Weight gain becomes a concern as you reach middle age and this is more prominent, especially around your belly area. This is also known as the middle-age spread. This will make you look somewhat older, or unappealing, and even may extend to obesity, leading to certain health problems. It is a much-discussed issue, but the real question is whether it is being addressed scientifically. If you know how it happens or what causes it then it would be easier to control or tackle it. Some areas to focus on in terms of maintaining your figure that will eventually lead to a healthier and happier life in the long term, will be discussed here.
Our body needs energy to sustain life, and its operating mechanism is almost like that of a moving vehicle. The vehicle meets its energy requirements by burning fuel, and our body does the same thing with food on a daily basis. Our food contains a lot of nutrients such as protein, fat (lipid), carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. They provide us with energy in terms of calories. If our daily calorie intake exceeds the demand, the additional amount will be stored in our body leading to weight gain. Fat is known to be the component mostly responsible for unwanted weight gain. If you can remove already existing fat in the body and also regulate further addition, you may be able to control it to a certain extent.
Fat is metabolically broken down to generate energy in our body. This is biologically called ‘lipid turnover’ and this process has been proven with C14 (a radioactive carbon) by scientists. The lipid turnover is about the capacity for storing or removing fat from our body and it happens in fat cells in the adipose tissue. Whether you are gaining weight or not, your lipid turnover rate in fat tissue will lower with age. You are therefore more likely to gain weight as you get older. In other words, weight gain is not prominent in younger people due to their higher rate of lipid turnover. It is also seemingly independent of other biological processes in our body. However, the particular concern is whether we can do something about it. We certainly can. But it is not easy, it would mean going against nature.
We cannot consider increasing the lipid turnover alone, as it is linked to other aspects such as food intake and physical exercises. Therefore, a well thought-through plan and a strong dedication is a must for achieving the desired outcomes. Here are a few ways to lose weight sensibly.
Types of exercises
Scientists have found that physical exercise is one of the ways of increasing lipid turnover. But the problem here is, what sort of exercise should one do? People often complain about not gleaning expected results even after intense exercise over a prolonged time. And most cannot find time to work out due to their busy schedule. If you are unable to exercise regularly you can engage in incidental activities such as walking or using the stairs instead of the lift. Exercising does not mean weight loss alone, as it has many other benefits.
You can start your workout in a more structured way, with aerobic exercises, such as cycling, running, swimming and hiking. Recent studies have shown that walking for extended periods is a good way to burn fat and you need to do it continuously for better results. It helps stimulate both heart function and breathing and improves the pumping of oxygenated blood to muscles. Muscles require enough oxygen to burn calories and to generate the required energy for smooth functioning of body. This type of exercise entails many benefits, such as better cardiovascular function, muscle fitness, bone and joint fitness, heart and lungs health. Eventually, it will improve the overall level of fitness and reduce chances of cancer, diabeties, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
On the other hand, resistance exercises play a major role, than aerobic exercises, in weight loss. Lifting weights is more efficient as it helps to burn fat fast. Therefore, doing both these types of exercises in conjunction will be more beneficial. Apart from improving physical fitness, exercise also improves your mental health.
Sometimes, it is difficult to control weight gain by exercise alone. The control of food intake is another way of losing weight. But you need to do it wisely. Eating delicious food is an enjoyable experience. Consequently, changing eating patterns is not that easy and needs to be done systematically. You will lose weight if you reduce food intake drastically. But it is not a good move in the long run and will also not be sustainable. The food is the source of energy for your daily routine. If you do not get the adequate calories, you will be easily fatigued, tired and perhaps end up with some nasty side effects. Therefore, having a balanced diet is of paramount importance to a healthy life. Besides, you must be physically fit to be able to exercise regularly.
You may find it difficult to change your food intake at the beginning but it needs to be continued for better results. You need to set goals in your weight loss endeavour. Maintaining a food diary is a good way to start, but you need to be honest about it. You are required to write down everything you eat irrespective of the situation, what, where, when and with whom you ate. The food diary helps you cut down the discretionary calories (optional foods and drinks). However, it is all about your commitment and dedication. If you are too concerned about your weight, it is advisable to consult a doctor or dietician before changing your eating habits. It is worth noting that processed food, surgery drinks, and alcohol must be avoided.
It must be emphasised that if food intake is to be reduced, it should be done sensibly, since you might lose certain important nutrients that are required to maintain a healthy life.
Re-gaining weight once exercise stops
When you lose weight by controlling food intake, your metabolism slows down automatically. Then the brain stimulates hunger, making you want to eat more to gain the required energy. Scientists have found that our body has remarkable resistance against weight loss but not for weight gain. This has become an intriguing point of interest among the people who want to shed a few extra kilos. According to another scientific revelation, weight is regained particularly as fat mass and not in lean mass. This finding has discouraged many who work towards sustainable weight loss. However, there is no clear cut explanation and more research is being done to understand the science behind it.
In general, you could either eat less and exercise less or eat more and exercise more. Whichever the method you apply, the one you should remember is that food intake is more important of your weight loss regime and it is about incorporating physical activity with food intake.
Types of food to eat
People often worry about what to eat and avoid. Your food should have three main characteristics; low in calories, promotes fat burning and slow in digestion. When you feel hungry, you tend to eat more. But if you can suppress your hunger, you can reduce your food intake. Therefore, you must select the food that keeps you full longer. In other words, the foods which slow down the metabolism and control your appetite. What are these food; those food with a high level of fibre, contain water or are rich in protein. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, eggs, nut and oatmeal are highly recommended. It is always good to add some grains to your breakfast as they are rich in fibre. Our nation is blessed with a variety of green vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and grains.
You must also stick to healthy food and stay away from fast or junk food. Always choose food rich in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. There are plenty of options for affordable meals. Expensive food should not be resorted to in the weight loss plan. Our staple food is rice, same as most other Asian countries. But you must choose brown rice instead of white rice. This is because brown rice is low in calories and contains important elements such as phytonutrients, fibre and starch.
Adding green vegetables to the diet as much as possible is a good move. For instance, cabbages, low in calorie, contain antioxidants and vitamin C. Similarly, cauliflower is a very low-calorie option and has vitamins such as C, K, and B6. Moreover, cauliflower and carrot have calorie burning properties.
Bananas help keep full longer and put you on fat-burning mode. You must not forget to add fruits and nuts to your main meal. Apple, orange, avocado and almonds are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre. This will help shrink your waistline and keep your hunger at bay longer. It is best to add yoghurt or curd as a dessert to your main meal, because yoghurt and curd are packed with protein and will help you feel full for longer. These are just a few examples out of many affordable options available and you have to be wise enough to choose healthy food for your daily intake.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good indicator to assess your condition for the weight loss plan. It indicates the ideal weight of an average person based on height. A general physician or a family doctor can easily tell you your BMI value or you can do it by yourself if you are familiar with the index.
According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classification, people with an IBM value between 25.5 and 29.9 fall into the overweight category. If this value is above 30, it is considered obese and immediate doctor or dietician consultation is recommended. They will advise you how to control your food intake systematically. The BMI of a healthy person is usually 18.5 to 24.9 and should not drop below the minimum threshold. It must be emphasised that the purpose of eating is to sustain life and should not be driven by gluttony. Therefore, you must avoid taking additional calories. It is all about self-control.
If the situation is irreversible, one can still opt for bariatric surgeries. These types of surgeries are varied and the doctor decides what sort of surgery is suitable for each individual. Bariatric surgeries involve removal or shortening of a part of the stomach, with gastric bands, by altering the path of the intestine. However, there are pros and cons of such surgeries, and therefore, must be considered the last resort. You must be in charge of your own health before things get out of hand.
Advertisements and weight loss
Weight loss seems to be a good marketing tool, with various advertisements attempting to coax consumers to buy certain products. For instance, some advertisements showcase a pretty athletic woman drinking tea, claiming that she got her athletic figure by drinking a special kind of tea. Do you think that they have a secret recipe for weight loss? They don’t, but they know what you want and the demand in the market. The science behind this is simple. Because tea, particularly green tea has fat-burning properties. Apart from that scientists have found that green tea is full of antioxidants, has the potential to fight against inflammation, improve metabolism, boost energy, and refresh your body. Therefore, drinking green tea, instead of opting for advertised products, is a healthy and smart choice.
Non-fat milk or milk powder advertisements are another fad. We all know that milk is a good source of nutrients but fat is the killer. In general, mammalians, including humans need milk during infancy but not in adulthood. You may drink fresh milk if required but not milk powder. This is because vital nutrients are removed during the processing of milk powder and you are forced to drink a product which is low in nutrients. However, manufactures have different formulas to please consumers. Eventually, you get very little in return, but hoodwinked by misleading advertisements, spend hard-earned money.
The most important aspect of weight loss is the lipid turnover rate in the body. People often overlook it or do not have a grasp on the scientific facts. Weight loss maybe short term and you need to know how to make it sustainable. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises offers a lot of health benefits and can help achieve sustainable weight loss, if undertaken in conjunction with food intake control.
(The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Applied and Environmental Chemistry, CRTAFE, Geraldton Campus, Western Australia.)
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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development
There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.
The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.
To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.
Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.
It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.
All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.
Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.
If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.
In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.
However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.
It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.
The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.
It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.
A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.
Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.
Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka
By Sanjeewa Jayaweera
It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.
The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.
We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.
This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.
Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!
At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.
One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.
It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!
ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!
The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.
When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!
I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.
I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.
I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.
Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!
I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.
Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.
We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.
Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?
Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!
To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.
Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.
The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..
How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!
If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.
And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!
Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.
Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.
With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.
I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.
Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.
He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.
Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.
He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!
I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:
“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.
“There is no science to beat common sense.”
But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!