To Your Good Health
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In 2017, I weighed 160 lbs from taking a pediatric dose of an SSRI. I was grateful to Dr. Asha for prescribing the SSRI as I needed to slow down my thoughts, but it also had an unforeseen side-effect of slowing down my metabolism and causing me to gain 30 lbs in less than a year. If you’ve ever struggled with depression, weight loss, and maintaining a fitness program, then you’ll know how impossible it can feel at times.
But in the immortal words of Rhino the Hamster from Bolt: “The impossible is possible when you’re AWESOME!” And you, my dear reader, are AWESOME! “Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times,” as Maulana Rumi would say (repurposed ).
It took five years, but I am now 133 lbs and feel irrepressible. I’m sharing this to express what’s possible and would like to stress that the secret is finding what works for you, and only you know that! I began by experimenting with numerous diets like One Meal A Day (OMAD), Weight Watchers, The Hot Belly Diet, fasting, etc.
OMAD helped me lose fifteen pounds, but it was not sustainable. I love food, and restricting myself to one meal a day required way too much willpower. Weight Watchers taught me that all food has a value (let’s call it a health score). Some of the most inviting foods yield very little nutrition while giving sickening calories, thus creating a nutritional deficit. And that gave me food for thought. The Hot Belly Diet is a 30-day Ayurvedic plan, which entailed a castor oil cleanse (gag ) and having khichadi for lunch.
Like many diets that promise rapid results, it entailed giving up innumerable foods. These diets can work, but I doubt the results will be lasting because it necessitates willpower. And as per the latest habit research, willpower is the worst metric for engineering lifestyle change. It is not too surprising then that most diets fail.
I plateaued at 145 lbs for almost four years. It was good to be closer to my target weight, but still not quite what I wanted. In 2021, I changed my mindset from weight loss to health. I wanted to be in the best health of my life and made it a daily affirmation. (Cf. Louise Hay, “I have a happy, slender body.”)
I had perused Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not to Die and loved his stop-light approach to plant-based nutrition. He has a free app called the Daily Dozen that helps you never forget to eat your greens. In the spirit of this new resolve, I decided to add to my diet rather than subtract by putting most of the Daily Dozen superfoods into a blender! Admittedly it was hard to drink until I got the recipe right.
Then I began intermittent fasting in preparation for Ramadan by fasting every Monday and Thursday. This happens to be the most popular form of intermittent fasting, also known as the 5:2 diet or the Fast Diet. David Aspery, the author of Fast This Way, notes that “there is good evidence that people lose weight on this diet.” In this book, he mentions several ways to fast, which is helpful to discover if fasting is for you (see, “Fast Every Way: A How-To Guide”)!
Additionally, I took up jogging. When I was 20, I could run out the door and go strong for 15 minutes. Now that I’m in my early 40s, I found that my body didn’t want to go more than 2 minutes. So I asked my little sister, who enjoys running mini-marathons, what I should do. She recommended a walk-jog (2-minutes walk, 2-minutes jog, and repeat). This gradual approach got me back in shape. It got the happy hormones flowing and even resulted in runner’s high. This method puts you in the magical Orange Zone too!
Thanks to my productivity coach, I tried to Grease the Groove (GtG) and applied it to doing pull-ups. He also encouraged me to experiment with light therapy to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And using the Tiny Habits method, I started doing five squats every time I entered the bathroom.
But what happens when you get injured? After running for months, my knees started giving me trouble. I had to stop for several weeks, and it didn’t get better until I took Mykind Organics Maximum Strengthen Turmeric for joints and mobility. While doing pull-ups, I discovered that my middle-back acts up. I don’t regret doing it because it made me realize that the impossible is possible! And that I need to be kinder to my back.
Becoming aware of how we limit ourselves and recognizing what we are truly capable of is a powerful and exhilarating feeling. It is priceless. If you hit a wall, don’t feel discouraged. Just switch things up, rest well, check-in with your doctor, and try again when your body gives you the OK.
Another key is surrounding yourself with supportive people. It is helpful to have a cheer block, accountability partners, and individuals in your life who are happy for you and want you to thrive. Conversely, some seek to sabotage our best efforts. Such people will drag you down and discourage you from changing. Their reasons are their own, but you want to be around people who want the best for you.
The upshot of all this is results will come when you find out which method is attractive, easy, and satisfying. There are countless methods for achieving good health. Experimentation is fun. A positive and healthy mindset is better than one that makes you feel like a chronic failure. Slow, gradual change is lasting and superior to immediate, short-term results. Set SMART goals and give yourself time. A supportive community keeps one accountable and gives you good company. While eating more plant-based, nutrient-rich whole foods will prevent disease, reduce inflammation, and keep you energized.
Here’s to your good health!
PS. Let me know what you think? What works for you and what hasn’t?
“The best medicine is a pure diet, nourishing food, fresh air, regularity in action and repose, clearness of thought, pureness of feeling, and confidence in the perfect Being, with whom we are linked and whose expression we are. That is the essence of health. The more we realize this, the more secure will be our health.”
~Hazrat Inayat Khan