There hasn’t been a change in the well-established fact that women have a longer lifespan than men but there has been a monumental change in the way these women lead their lives compared to men. Isn’t it natural for men to blame their wives to be always demanding, frustrated, anxious and even angry while they boast of being cool, composed and ready to handle any situation with composure? That’s true but its only one side of the story. How about switching over the roles for a day and maybe both men and women would come to understand the stress and pain faced by each other everyday. While we debate, speak about gender inequality and brood over the unjust life of women who are forced to juggle between office and household chores multitasking ample things simultaneously there is rock-solid evidence from scientists that women’s health has significantly decreased since the 1990s while that of men has improved since 1990 due to gender disparity in the society that’s causing harm to a young woman’s well-being (https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/study-shows-womens-health-worsened-since-1990-4955984/). Two decades back, almost 8.5% women reported a downslide in health compared to their peers and the rates increased to almost 20% In 2014. On the other hand, men reported an improvement in their health.
The health discrepancy doesn’t stop with general health problems but is deep-rooted in obesity, anxiety and dissatisfaction issues. The National Women’s Health Survey (Australia), 2019 doesn’t cheer us up in any way with its results and in fact, is a cause for deep worry! Almost a third (36%) of women complained of anxiety and depression; 42% women reported feeling nervous, anxious or on the edge of an emotional breakdown every day or at least once a week in the past 4 weeks; women aged between 18 and 35 reported maximum anxiety levels and loneliness and more than 50% of women (aged 36-65) consider themselves to be overweight/obese.
Such staggering health hazards in women are a clear indication that our young ladies are trying their best for an unequivocal work-life balance but at the end of day, unable to achieve it. They are chocked from all sides with work pressure, relationship tangles and naughty kids which reaches the ultimatum with peer pressures and societal posts on their physical appearance and lifestyles. Most of the women worry over any or all of these issues almost on all days of the week and it’s those women under 36 who are maximum affected by its effects. These younger ladies find trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, staying seated for a while and can be easily annoyed. Most women also feel lonely despite having a distinct social media presence and being online constantly.
If family commitments and worries take out every inch of energy left out in women workplace demands are even more annoying. Gender disparity remains an unsorted issue even in 2019 with men being paid extremely high packages compared to these poor souls who given their heart and soul into work commitments. 35-40 hours of work is the standard protocol but this can only be a reality in our dreams! Most of us work for a minimum of 40 hours and it can go up to 55 hours for some and these women face graver risks of developing depressive symptoms compared to others. Men, on the other hand, don’t face the slightest symptoms of depression even after working for the longest number of hours. A study also showed that married women with kids were less likelier to work for longer hours but marriage did not affect the work timings of men in any way which is a clear indication that women are still burdened with primary responsibility of household work even now and I guess, each of us (myself included) agree to this without the slightest hesitation! Despite this, the domestic duties, care given to family members and housework is not given the slightest consideration which makes her situation pathetic. Taking into account all of these it is seen that women in fact work harder and longer than men owing to unequal work distribution which can be linked to their poorer physical health.
Four of every 100 people experience anxiety around the world and one of every four women suffer from anxiety. This clearly shows that anxiety not only affects those with chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease but it can have a lasting impact on healthy, young people as well. Depression has been a pivotal topic of interest in recent times but we need to focus on anxiety as well as it can lead to suicide and have debilitating effects on the individual.
Young Versus Old
Ageing can be gruelling filled with loneliness and health issues but despite these older people are in fact happier than younger adults, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (https://time.com/4464811/aging-happiness-stress-anxiety-depression/). We believe that young age makes us happy with the happiness going for a dip around middle age and sinking deep into the ocean (like a ship) during older years but this study disproves all these. Though older people face disability issues, cognitive decline and economic crunches they have better mental health whereas, people in their 20s and 30s suffer from problems related to depression, anxiety, stress, satisfaction, happiness and well-being. After readjusting to changes during adolescence younger adults enter their next phase of life ready to face challenges in their financial, educational, romantic and career goals. They are always in a race ready to jump ahead of others and win but social media has made people competitive which is good but they have become comparative which makes them unhappy over some issue always.
Changes in the society, technology development, globalization, competition for higher education, changes in roles played by women and economic crunches affect young women more than the elderly population. We proudly state that we are modern people who live a forward-minded life in the 21st century but when you think deeply not much has changed in the base-many women still face domestic violence, are treated not as equals despite earning higher than their spouses sometimes, take up most of the household chores, bear responsibility for kids, are looked down when they spend some time for their well-being and are still treated as unpaid servants when it comes to household chores. Then how can we not expect our young women to not face anxiety and depression issues? The key to the problem lies with both the genders-while men should start treating women with a fair view and start taking up every chore possible women too should think of themselves as equals, should start delegating work to all family members, shun away comments from the society or family elders and consider themselves worthy. This could help resolve anxiety-related problems and help younger women become happier citizens.
Its’s Not Easy Being a Young Woman these Days: Levels of Anxiety Higher Among Young Women than Seniors: https://www.smh.com.au/national/it-s-not-easy-being-a-young-woman-these-days-levels-of-anxiety-higher-among-young-women-than-seniors-20191022-p53387.html
Women who Work After Office Hours are More Prone to Depression: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/work/women-who-work-after-office-hours-are-more-prone-to-depressive-symptoms/photostory/68579061.cms?picid=68579062
Why Women are Way More Likely than Men to Suffer Anxiety: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/08/health/women-anxiety-disorders/index.html
Mental Health: One in Four young Women Struggling: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46295719
Faces of Chinese Youth: Why are They Anxious? http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201811/15/WS5becd3c2a310eff303288d6e.html
Study Shows Women’s Health Worsened Since 1990: https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/study-shows-womens-health-worsened-since-1990-4955984/
Want to shed away those extra kilos? Planning to start dieting and workout? There are thousands of people around you who think on similar lines and are unable to keep up their goals or plans. This article is exclusively for those people who seem to be lost in search of their health goals.
We don’t forget to bathe, eat, go to school/office or sleep as these activities are long-established routines that have been injected into our minds since childhood. But physical activity or healthier meals are never included in our to-do list of daily activities. Old habits die hard. When you set your mind on exercise and healthy foods just like your brushing/bathing activity, things become simpler. But the process of change involves several stages and you may face manifold hurdles before you accomplish this change.
The Different Stages of Change
Initially, you might not even think of a change in your lifestyle or habit (precontemplation). Secondly, you might reach a stage in which you think about some change (contemplation). At this juncture, you start planning for all activities that help you achieve this change (preparation) and then start executing these changes one by one (action). Finally, you do what it takes to stick to the change (maintenance).
We are human beings and our memory and motivation might fail sometimes. Instead of just telling yourself that you need to follow (contemplation), it is better if you set a smart reminder (preparation stage) and link the new habit with an age-old habit. Just as brushing is a reminder to floss your teeth, you can plan your physical activity just after your morning cup of steaming hot coffee and make your meal healthier by eating a small bowl of colorful veggies during your lunch (action). This way you don’t need any more reminders to follow the recently added habit.
Once you start practicing your newly formed habit, you are sure to face numerous impediments along the way. These are testing times and you need to stay strong. When you feel demotivated or stressed out, think of the rewards:
These reminders are more than sufficient to bring you back on track. Practice rewarding yourself for your efforts after reaching a milestone. Choose nonfood rewards such as a new pair of sneakers, a workout device or a new dress to celebrate your lost weight. You can also choose to update your achievements in social media sites and this can motivate you further when people acknowledge your achievements. Never try to indulge in high-calorie foods or skip workout sessions as part of your reward system.
Make it a Lifetime Activity
Once you feel that you have become habituated to these healthy habits, try adding variety to them. You can opt for group workouts, attend healthy recipe classes or try new physical activities (maintenance). Never forget to check your weight at least once a week. The lost weight can also be a motivation for you to work out more and eat healthier food.
Setbacks are sure to occur during your change process. You may be travelling or dining out with your friends. In such cases, you can pack a small meal for yourself or choose between healthy food options available and stick to smaller portions.
Physical exercise and healthier foods are a lifelong activity and not a target to be achieved. It is essential that you follow the ‘maintenance’ stage throughout your lifespan.
Bribing kids to study in exchange for their favourite ice cream, targeting your elder sister to finish up some chores for you luring her with her favourite pizza or even getting your friend to come up with a project idea in exchange for your mom’s yummy parathas are in practice everywhere. If you notice, all the foods offered as bribes are mostly processed or fried foods that are loved by one and all. Vegetables or fruits occupy a place nowhere in this category of choices. Try giving your kid boiled broccoli as a treat for their good behaviour and all the goodness would evaporate into thin air immediately. Food, the very source of sustenance and nutrients has been made cheaper and cheaper (in terms of quality and health perspective) by using it as a means for procuring various other things. Angry, sad or happy we immediately reach out for a chocolate bar while there are some others who simply resist eating anything all through the day just to show off their feelings and unhappiness. Whom are we trying to punish here?
Science has never disappointed us and even the most ignorant of individuals must be aware of the fact that fruits and vegetables offer a plethora of nutrients helping individuals become healthier and fitter. Yet there are not many who try heartfully to fulfil the daily required five portions of fruits and vegetables consumption.
Advancements have made our life easier and simpler but the very same advancements have also ruined our health to a greater extent. Obesity and overweight rules the world, stress is omnipotent and depression rates are taking the uphill path. There might be several reasons behind depression including genetic origin, some specific event, certain circumstances and unavoidable happenings such as death or lifestyle choices. By lifestyle choices, it also includes the food we eat, the physical activity we do and the kind of life that we choose to live. There is no doubt that consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and proteins are essential constituents of a healthy life but upcoming data and research now show that healthy eating is advantageous not only to physical health but also to mental health. On the other hand, consuming unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fats increase the risk of depression as the brain is deprived of the essential nutrients and the gut also becomes the origin for bad bacteria.
Well-being has until now been measured in terms of economic stability, personal achievements and social interaction and food as a resource for well-being has been given little attention till date. A study of more than 12,000 Australians showed that the advantages of eating a produce-rich diet extended beyond physical health. The study showed that for every added daily portion of produce consumed the happiness level increased slightly. When an individual consumed 8 portions of fruits and vegetables a day they gained as much satisfaction in life as someone who had procured a job after being unemployed.
The future is not far off when depression patients not only are recommended to visit a therapist for clearing out their mental illness but are also requested to meet a nutritionist who can correct their lifestyle and impart knowledge on the foods that must be consumed for mental well-being. There is a study on 67 depressed patients each of whom were split randomly into two groups-one group received nutritional counselling and the other group received one-on-one support where individuals were assigned to keep them company. At the end of the study period, it was seen that the group that changed its diet felt significantly more happier compared to the other group (https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2019/01/26/food-makes-you-happy-a-healthy-diet-improves-mental-health/#11e3361226f8). There are imaging studies that show that brains of people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet seem to be younger, have larger volumes and are metabolically more active than that of people who eat a Western-style diet. They are at a 33% decreased risk of suffering from depression compared to others due to their increased intake of fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds.
So, even though you might not need the superpowers of all the fibre and protein the effect of nutritious food on happiness quotient is more than enough to make individuals take better efforts to eat their daily share of produce. Refrain from indulging in doughnuts, baked goods and other processed foods for both short-term and long-term benefits. This will help to increase the nutrients that go to the brain and the good bacteria that grow in the gut!
Can What We Eat Affect How We Feel? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/well/eat/food-mood-depression-anxiety-nutrition-psychiatry.html
Here’s How Food Can Influence Your Mood: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/how-food-influences-your-mood/articleshow/70788338.cms
Boosting Happiness Through Fruits & Vegetables: https://www.readersdigest.co.in/health-wellness/story-news-from-the-world-of-medicine-124371
For someone habituated to gulping down three bananas, a bowl of cornflakes with nuts, some toast with butter and some freshly brewed coffee, cutting off butter or nuts from your diet schedule affects your mind greatly. You feel dissatisfied with the intake routine, your mind prompts you constantly to eat more and you find yourself with lesser energy to do your chores. Most individuals who cut down on their calorie intake ignore these cues and pacify themselves that the body needs sometime to adapt itself to the latest dietary patterns. Logically this seems to fit the bill but practically we are only partly right. Weight loss clinics and techniques have revolutionized the world bringing in people across borders and different parts of the world to places that flourish in achieving weight loss. None can forget the Egyptian woman Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty who flew down to Mumbai for a bariatric surgery and lost more than 300 kg of her 500 kg but sadly died due to other health complications. Crash diets are popularized in the Internet where people give positive feedbacks soon after slimming without knowing the long-term effects. Such is the weight loss craze of this modern world that seeks to lose weight by hook or by crook.
Weight Loss is Not the End but the Beginning
For those who cringe with pain and disdain after looking at the diet chart for weight loss, the positive results that follow this excruciating weight loss regimen brings upon sheer joy and confidence. This does not stay long and you find yourself hungrier than before after the weight loss journey but the one good point here is that you are not battling this alone and there are thousand others who feel similarly. A study shows that decreasing calorie intake is likely to spur your hunger hormone ghrelin and boost your appetite. Doesn’t this remind us of our early ancestors who sailed through frequent periods of famine and overfed later to compensate for all the lost energy intake? This ancestral effect might deviate long-term weight loss efforts which has been proved by a long-term research.
The study involved 35 morbidly obese patients who underwent a 2-year strict weight loss program. There were 22 women and 13 men who weighed around 125 kilograms on an average and marked as ‘highly obese’ by their physician after which they enrolled themselves to this weight-loss study. The first three weeks of the program involved inpatient training where the participants were put on a rigorous nutritional education, psychological counselling and daily exercise schedules. Four more such 3-week sessions were organized over the entire tenure of the program. All the participants consumed 500 calories less every day than what they were otherwise consuming to maintain their current weight. The calorie-restricted diet was composed of 50% carbs, 30% fat and 20% protein.
Participants lost around 5 kilograms within the first three weeks of commemorating the program and about 11 kilograms by the end of the two-year study. One general notion that united all participants included increased hunger sensation after the weight loss effects. That’s mainly because of increased ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels that increased post the weight loss efforts and the decreased energy needs to perform everyday functions such as eating, walking, breathing and even sleeping following a drop in weight measures.
A Never-ending Battle
The research shows that all fingers point towards regaining lost weight over time making weight loss maintenance a great struggle. Weight loss programs that boast of achieving sharp weight loss in limited time are mostly incapable of maintaining the loss in the long run. Reputed RDNs suggest reducing calorie needs by 200-300 calories per day and exercising regularly to achieve a lower ‘set point’. By adhering to such criteria one can be ensured of long-term weight loss maintenance without much struggle. Dedicate an hour every day to exercise your way to good health. This can include anything that you are passionate about, maybe swimming, tennis, dancing or even kick boxing. To do it right, get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com who can help you achieve weight loss and also ensure that you are equipped to maintain the weight loss in the long run.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.