A few years ago when I was first starting out on my fitness journey, with the primary goal of losing weight, decreasing my waist size and building some muscle along the process, I did what I assume most of you would do in a similar situation. I typed “How to lose weight” and clicked on “Search”. 

Feeling lucky and blessed I saw thousands of results, links to articles, videos, websites pop up in front of me. So I clicked on a video, which seemed the most relatable at the time. 

The video was by a skinny dude with a noticeable six-pack who was a personal trainer and was giving advice on weight loss. I was totally intrigued by this individual not only because of their physique which I assumed at the time to be a reference for good health, high fitness levels and “How a Fitness Professional” giving advice should look. 

So, as most would do in a similar situation, I spent the next couple of hours going though this persons virtual content (mainly videos) and ended up with the following list of tasks for me in order to lose weight: 

  • Eliminate sugar in all forms
  • Avoid fruits for weight loss
  • Reduce dietary fat intake, focus on omega -3 fat intake
  • Avoid white potatoes
  • Eat brown rice and avoid white rice
  • Avoid white bread and eat brown bread
  • Eat lean protein
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Eat every few hours, six meal a day to be exact
  • Exercise 

If you’ve ever consulted with a professional exercise trainer or nutritionist you might find the above mentioned tasks common among the advice given for a beginner weight loss program. 

So, I did exactly that. 

I lost weight, decreased my waist size and built some muscle.

Sounds great, doesn’t it. 

I was leaner, looked athletic and was finally able to buy clothes a few sizes down, than before. On paper this weight loss seemed a success, or so I thought. 

Lets, talk a bit about how I was feeling during and after this transformation. 

On most days, I could not fall asleep. 

On most days I did not have sufficient energy to perform my daily activities. This impacted my relationship with my family and friends a lot. My mood was easily irritable and my social life was left with just me in it. 

There were several days when getting out of bed seemed like the hardest task of the day. 

So I did what I assumed most people would have done in a similar situation. I went back to my old eating behavior. Gained back the weight I lost, well I gained a little more actually. But, how I was feeling hadn’t changed much. 

A couple of years later when I was studying nutrition and dietetics to become a nutritionist I came up with my own hypothesis (mentioned below) as to what all may have affected me in a not so good way. 

  • Deficiency of Vitamin C: Most of us get our vitamin c daily needs fulfilled from fruits and some vegetables. Since I had practically eliminated all kinds of fruits for months, a vitamin C deficiency was more than likely.
  • Low Energy Availability: We get most of our energy from carbohydrates and fats. By eliminating most fats (oils, ghee. etc.) and energy rich carb sources like potatoes, white rice, etc. I was probably limiting energy available for daily functions. Now I was obviously consuming the “allowed carbs” at the time like oats, brown rice, etc. they however were not in sufficient quantity as I had no concept of portion size at the time.
  • Deficiency of Vitamin D: This one is hard to figure out and is usually confirmed through a blood test. My test results showed a severe deficiency prompting my doctor to prescribe ultra high doses of this vitamin for many weeks. Just to let you know primary vitamin d food sources are egg yolks, fish and fortified dairy.
  • Deficiency of minerals especially sodium: From this I learned that not every one has to reduce their salt intake as is widely publicized these days, particularly people with normal blood pressure and no diagnosed medical issue.
  • Water and electrolyte imbalance: Guess what happens when you take in too much water but not enough salt. Conversely, for too low water intake and high salt intake. Avoiding both these extremes is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.
  • Dip in Testosterone: Too low energy intake coupled with declining micro nutrient intake and an increasing time spent exercising in the gym along with poor sleep can wreck havocs for your reproductive health and well being.
  • Elevation in cortisol: Cortisol is our stress hormone that keeps us up from sleeping, is good friends with stress and anxiety, and even wakes us up in the morning. Having enough cortisol for daily functioning is relevant and needed rather than having too much of it all the time. 

I do have a few more point that would make my case more appeasing but I hope you’re getting my point. 

I am not implying that some random person I took information from is to blame for all this. But rather, that me doing what I assumed most would do in a similar situation, that is taking random advice from a random person which was not specifically crafted for me based on my needs and goals, my preferences, my strengths and my limitations, my health profile, my lifestyle and my choices is probably the worst thing anyone can do. 

This is my motivation and inspiration to work as a science and evidence based nutritionist/dietitian.

To offer you the best guidance based on your needs, requirements, lifestyle, heath status, budget and goals. And what to do after you achieve your diet and health goals.

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Keshav is a dietitian based in Jammu (India) and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics (PGND), M.Sc Dietetics (DFSM) along with Certification in Nutrition & Child Care (CNCC) and Renal Nutrition Certification.

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