BY PANCH PAUL, MD*
Many Indians find themselves overweight or obese despite following a healthy lifestyle. Do you struggle with extra stubborn fat in your belly, waist, or hips- which no matter what you do refuses to melt away? Regular exercise and healthy eating helps to lose some weight, but reach an impasse with the stubborn fat. When we gaze at the pictures of stars, models, and athletes, we are awed by their toned and trimmed physique. Getting rid of stubborn fat is not difficult if we first understand the biological role of fat and harness its power. Human body is a product of millions of years of evolution. Each part of our body is naturally selected to promote survival and reproduction. Fat, although vilified in the media, is essential to human existence. Any excess calories that we consume is stored as fat. Fat serves four crucial biological functions. Stored fat can-provide energy, generate heat, store toxins, and produce hormones. Let me explain, in the next section, the four key strategies to melt down stubborn fat.
1. Fat for Energy: All mammals require a constant supply of energy in the form of ATP to carry out the cellular functions. The common form of energy used by our body is glucose which we get from carbohydrates and protein. But in this process, all excess glucose is stored as fat for use in future. Our body can burn fat for fuel only after a 12-hour fasting when the glycogen store is depleted. Since, we rarely fast, or are out of food, the stored fat is never called for. The food industry makes it worse by constantly reminding us to eat all the time. This is good for the economy as more processed food are sold, but bad for the human body. Fasting is as important as eating and is practiced in all major religions. To use fat for energy, limit your eating time to an eight to ten-hour window in the day. This means, you should have your last meal three hours before sleep, and delay your breakfast to 3 hours after getting up. If you sleep 8 hours, this will produce a state of 14-hour fasting, forcing the body to burn fat for fuel during that time. You can check this easily. When you convert fat to energy, the body produces ketones. You can buy ketone strips online, which can detect ketones in the urine. The strips are inexpensive, and will confirm that your body is metabolizing fat for energy.
2. Fat for Heat: Animals in the wild, with no access to artificial heater, harness their body fat to survive winter. When exposed to cold, our body produces a special kind of fat called the Brown Fat- which produces heat. Research has shown that people who work outdoors during the winter month have a higher percentage of brown fat. Short exposure to intense cold can trigger fat burning. You can begin with short cold showers. You can progress to ice baths. Spending time outdoors during winter will also help. Cryotherapy which is used by athletes to boost recovery will also help. The head, face, and the back of neck are more susceptible to cold. Putting ice bags behind the neck region will work. Those who want to go even further can study the Wim Hoff method. Wim Hoff, also known as the Iceman successfully swam and ran bare body in the arctic, and climbed snowcapped mountains like Mt. Kilimanjaro. He has heralded a new science of using cold to improve health and treat diseases. Indian yogis of Himalayas, have also used similar methods to withstand extreme cold. However, people with low immunity, or those with chronic diseases- need to be careful. Cold- if it does not make you sick, will make you slim.
3. Detoxify Fat: Life exposes us to toxins daily. These toxins, if unchecked, can reach the blood, and poison the body. Again, fat comes to our rescue by storing the toxins. The more toxins you have in your body; the more fat the body must maintain to contain them. You can lose the fat by getting rid of the toxins. The body can detoxify through the skin, lungs, liver, urine, and stool. Drink clean filtered water throughout the day to pass toxins through your urine. Breathe clean air slowly and deeply to have more oxygen in your body. Ancient Indian breathing practices like Pranayama can help detoxify the body through increased oxygenation. Eat food rich in fiber on a regular basis to get rid of toxin through stool. You can use hot saunas or spend time outdoors in summer to drain toxins out through the skin by profuse sweating. High intensity exercises also detoxify the body through sweating and rapid breathing. Exercise on empty stomach burns more fat by increasing metabolic rate, and using fat for fuel. A diet rich in raw, organic, unprocessed fruits and vegetables detoxifies the liver. You can also try fasting on vegetable juices or bone broth which will cleanse your body from within.
4. Normalize Hormones: Fat cells release cholesterol which is the building block for vitamin D, steroids, estrogen, testosterone, and many other essential compounds. The use of chemicals and plastics products are causing hormonal imbalance. Plastics contain a compound called BPA which is a xeno-estrogen, and mimics the action of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen which is produced in excess during pregnancy in women, promotes fat storage in abdomen, breast and hips- to prepare the body for pregnancy and lactation. Men and non-pregnant women exposed to artificial chemicals notice fat deposit in theses body mimicking pregnancy. Minimize the use of plastics. Look for BPA free products. Use glass containers and utensils. This is also good for the environment as well as for health. Most animals in US are fed corn, and treated with hormones and antibiotics which promote fat storage. Only eat animal products which are grass fed and organic.
In summary, if you have too much fat in your body for too long, take it seriously. Chronic stubborn fat can cause insulin resistance, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and other metabolic problems. Realize-if you have fat in your body- this is for a reason. Use the fat for its biological role. Learn to burn fat for energy and heat. Live clean and consume fresh, high quality, unprocessed, organic food. This will minimize fat storage by eliminating toxins and normalizing your hormones levels. High intensity exercise, intermittent fasting, cold exposure, detoxification will get rid of the stubborn fat for most. However, every Body is unique. When in doubt, always consult your doctor. Wish you best luck in your fat loosing journey.
Dr. Panchajanya ‘Panch’ Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA – is an American Board certified – Child, Adolescent, and Adult psychiatrist. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He holds adjunct faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine; University of Georgia, and University of Central Florida School of Medicine. To schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul at the Amen Clinic , call 6783672810. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFHepimOcZM