Are you eating well (or Is your Diet working?)
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Are you eating well (or Is your Diet working?)
Is your Diet working? The main purpose of this post is to outline some signs, measures and tests that can give you a clue as to whether your Diet is working (or not working as the case may be) and whether you are eating well.
Please note that the context here is more about Weight management, Obesity, Heart health, insulin resistance and diabetes. This post will not cover this from other perspectives (muscle building, mental health, sports, other diseases etc.)
For those of you who have not already seen, an evaluation of various diets and a suggested diet was discussed in the last post. Please click here.
The post cover three categories:
- First, we will cover some signs (physical and mental) that you can observe yourselves (and perhaps your family and friends). No measurements are required and no Blood tests are required for this category. No costs need to be incurred.
- Then we will cover some basic measurements that you can undertake within your home environments with a tape or a scale. Again there is no need for third parties or blood tests. No costs need to be incurred.
- Finally we will look at Blood tests – This would involve you providing a sample of your blood to a lab (most likely on a fasting basis).
1. Physical and Mental Signs
If your NOT eating well (or if your Diet is NOT correct), then you are very likely to encounter the following SIGNS
If you have strong cravings for a chocolate or snack or a something sweet within 3 or 4 hours of a meal, then it is highly likely that your meal was not very balanced (I see this in my office environment – people raiding the vending machine regularly between 3:30 and 5 pm every day)
This is what is likely to have happened – You have eaten a meal rich in easily digestible or processed/refined Carbohydrates (white bread, rice, pizza, pasta etc.) or Sugars. This would have raised your blood sugar levels to a high level which would have precipitated a high release of insulin. The sugars in the blood would have been removed and pumped as fat and the blood sugar levels would fall below normal thereby resulting in a craving.
1.2 Hunger and Irritability
You may also feel hungry and irritable if your blood sugar falls low as discussed above in point 1.
The situation would also happen if you have eaten a highly energy restricted meal (as part of a particular dieting scheme etc.) and this would also result again in a low blood sugar level precipitating hunger
1.3 Fatigued and Tired
Around 3-5 hours after a Carb/Sugar rich meal (or a very calorie restricted meal) and with blood sugars low, you could also be fatigued and tired unless you top up with a chocolate bar or a snack or a fruit.
I am told that Diabetics who take insulin do feel tired more often than normal healthy adults (again because the insulin removes the blood sugar very quickly thereby leaving you with low blood sugar levels).
This is also stated as one reason why people do not want to exercise because they are physically and mentally tired and don’t feel like exerting themselves – lethargy sets in.
One more general indication (more about stress levels and less related to Diet directly etc.) is whether you are able to have a good night’s sleep. Insomnia is meant to be a serious problem in western countries these days.
1.5 Other IMPORTANT Signs
The following are general signs that a number of authors and some doctors mention in relation to Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes. Though not all of them are scientifically proven (perhaps because people have not paid sufficient attention yet) , I STRONGLY believe the following are very early signs of Insulin Resistance leading to Diabetes at a later stage.
1.5.1 Rapidly receding hair line or hair loss – particularly in men
1.5.2 Receding gums and dental caries
1.5.3 Small skin tags and skin folds on the body
1.5.4 Signs of Cataract (eye) relatively earlier in life
1.5.5 Kidney stones
1.5.6 Mild to moderate hypertension
2. Body Measurements (also called “Anthropometric measures”)
These range from very crude to above average measures
2.1 Trouser or Dress size (very crude):
This is the simplest measurement. If your trousers and dresses (which were ok in the past) are getting loose (or tight) then you know very well which way your waist is heading. If you need punch more holes on your belt to the left then you are doing well (and not doing so well if you need do this on the right hand side) – I am not considering those people whose waist is becoming bigger because of additional muscle or kids here.
2.2 Weight (Crude)
Absolute Weight is a rather crude measure because this is dependent on your height, how well built you are (Frame), gender, how muscular/bony you are etc.
People place much more emphasis on Weight than is warranted and there is a large range of acceptable weight for a particular person.
A slightly better measurement is “Change in Weight”. But again this can be misleading – because research indicates that a lot of initial weight loss is due to loss of water.
If you are working out a lot (and eating a lot of protein) you can technically be heavier than earlier but also much healthier due to increased muscle.
A simple rule to follow while taking a weight measurement is: Always measure your weight early in the morning after you finish your ablutions. There can be a variation of up to 2 kgs in a person’s weight in a given day – during the day.
2.3 BMI (Body Mass Index) (Crude)
BMI takes into account the height of a person and the weight and is calculated as follows:
BMI = Weight (in kgs) divided by (Height in metres squared)
So if a person’s weight is 85 kgs and height is 1.75 m (approx. 5 feet 9 inches) then
BMI = 85 / (1.75*1.75) = 85 / 3.0625 = 27.75
The official BMI guidelines are as follows
|18.5 – 24.9||Normal|
|25.0 – 29.9||Overweight|
|30.0 and Above||Obese|
Though BMI is slightly better than just weight, it still does not account for the fact that some people are of bigger build and are muscular than other people of same height. In fact, most body builders and other muscular people will invariably fall in the over weight (and obese) range.
BMI is used as one of the measures to assess metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
There is some latest research that suggests that being slightly overweight is better than being under weight. I am not sure how applicable this is for Asians and some of the other ethnic communities. But less than 18.5 is definitely under weight.
Perhaps a range of 23-25 is good target for Asians and between 25-28 for Caucasians and African Americans. But remember that BMI is “crude”.
2.4 Waist, Hip and Waist/Hip Ratio (Above average)
Another set of measurements that are used by dieticians and researchers are absolute measurements of Waist, Hip and the ratio of Waist/Hip.
The reason these are used as risk factors for diabetes and heart disease/stroke is due to the fact that visceral fat is supposed to be risky and visceral fat mostly accumulates around waist for men and around hip for women.
These measures have been adjusted for ethnicity. The official guidelines are Waist are
Waist/Hip is supposed to be one of the better measures of the risk and the official guidelines are as follows:
If you’re a man and your ratio is more than 1.0, or a woman and your waist-hip ratio is more than 0.8, it means you’re an apple shape and at greater risk of health problems.
2.5 ABSI (A Body Shape Index) (Good)
This is a relatively new and unknown index and develops on BMI and Waist/Hip circumferences. The idea is to mathematically calculate the shape and assess the risk (if the shape is like an apple rather than a pear then the risk is higher)
Numerous studies indicate that carrying excess belly fat, or being apple shaped, is more risky for your health, than being bottom heavy, or pear shaped.
The formula is slightly complex (and hence I am not providing it here) and there is an useful calculator at the below link which will show your results in comparison to the population average.
3. Blood Tests
There are various blood tests that can be undertaken to assess the general health or health of various organs but the focus of this post is to assess potential diabetes risk and general cardio-vascular health.
This would involve tests related to measuring sugar in the blood and cholesterol in the blood mostly but I have added 4 more measurements that I think are very useful. I believe the official ranges are perhaps not as good as they ought to be so I have included both the Official range and an Ideal range. The Ideal range is based on my study of the literature and research.
Also please note that the units are different from Country to Country and hence I have included the two main measurement units (US/India and European).
Please click on the image to make it larger.
Please drop me a comment if you have any questions.