Studies suggest that along with genetic vulnerability to these diseases, South Asian Indians commonly have a lower quality of muscles and HDL cholesterol — the heart-friendly good cholesterol. However, increasing evidence suggests that even the genes we are born with respond to simple fundamental changes in lifestyle. We can alter the script of these genes not only to benefit us but the following generations as well. Just as we can be one of the most educated and wealthy ethnic groups residing in the USA, we can also strive towards being the ‘Lexus’ of our health.
The good news is we do not have to succumb to these conditions as our destiny. We have control over these conditions, manage them effectively, and most importantly, we can avoid them as well. Just as we strive so hard to achieve excellence in education and careers, why can’t we excel at our health?
The biggest bane of our lifestyle is our carbohydrate-rich diet and sedentary lifestyle. However, there are many more aspects associated. We cannot overlook the increasing stress of urban lifestyle with fewer sleeping hours. Those who have immigrated recently are constantly dealing with the additional pressure of proving themselves in the new country and those back home who regard them as a ‘family’s hero.’ Often loneliness and emotional turmoil of ‘fitting into the new environment and missing family members back home accompany international relocation. If the family has young kids, dealing with the demands of a young family (with not much support) takes priority over one’s health. Seeking approval and getting help from the spouse and the rest of the family members is also vital. Often the extreme weather conditions can restrict outdoor activities year-round (something that we cherished in India). Under such circumstances, food and television provide us the most comfort — at least temporarily.
So the big question you might have at this time is where I begin from amidst so many seemingly insurmountable challenges. The answer to this question lies within yourself. Before you begin taking any steps towards a healthy lifestyle, I recommend you prepare yourself for the journey by taking the following three steps:
1. Self Investigation — Ask yourself the following questions
– What is motivating me to begin on this journey?
– What does my best self look like, and what would it take for me to get there?
– Do I permit myself to PRIORITIZE my health?
– Am I willing to invest some time, effort, and money to achieve a sound’ health balance’?
– What will I do exactly to get healthy? Have a plan in place. Get in touch with a certified and reliable health coach/nutritionist and or personal trainer who can walk alongside you on this journey and provide you with their expertise and support.
2. Involve family members — No matter how motivated you are, the family you live with needs to support you. Set aside some time to speak with them. Be clear about what kind of support you want them to provide — for example — “I wish to go to the gym on Thursdays from 6–7 pm and would like you (spouse/parents) to pick kids from child care on those days” or “I am planning to eat a serving of salad on three days a week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) for dinner. Will you be okay if I replace one side dish with salad on those days?”
3. Prepare to face the community — Be prepared for challenging situations like a party or dinner at a friend’s place. Don’t go to any party empty stomach. Being hungry increases temptations to eat unhealthy foods. Have some scripts prepared to politely and respectfully decline when a friend/relative insists you take a helping of samosa/gulab jamun. The script can be “I have been observing that some foods do not make me feel good / do not suit my health and this is one of them. Please do not insist that I eat it” or “I loved what you prepared/served (the name of a healthy dish available) and have eaten it to the point that I can have no room for more food. Thank you very much.”
Planning ahead of time is more important than implementing. Therefore, do take the time to prepare yourself for the journey before embarking on it. It will save you many surprises and make the venture less stressful and a great learning experience.