Yoga is a natural therapy that is about fighting the fat with postures that burn calories. Image Credit: Rex Features

Eat, drink and be merry was a dictum of the Hedonist school, but when modern man embraced the live-to-eat concept wholeheartedly, the output was not mere pleasure. The unwanted growth soon became a conspicuous health threat, far outweighing the pleasure aspect.

Obesity is defined as impaired health due to the accumulation of excess fat, Dr Heather Eade, Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner at Dubai Mall Clinic, says.

But when fat realisation dawns, most obese people rush for quick-fix solutions, including surgical interventions, unaware of the healthy alternatives.

Naturopathy, for instance, is one of the alternative approaches that, according to Dr Eade, "focuses on the person as an individual, not only on their condition". It is a primary care medicine that focuses on treating the underlying cause of a person's condition, not just the symptoms, she says.

Most medical paradigms consider excess weight in terms of a simple equation: if calories burned exceed calories consumed, weight loss will result, she says.

However, for many people weight loss is more complicated than this. Naturopathic medicine offers a treatment model that examines some of the underlying functional problems that can slow down metabolic rate and make it more difficult to lose weight, including hormonal problems, exposure to toxins, difficulty in eliminating waste products, food intolerances and/or food allergies, dietary imbalances, prolonged exposure to stress and sleep problems.

Though naturopathy advocates around the world differ in their approach to treatment, the underlying principle is the same.

Diverse means

According to Dr Dinesh Kartha, Chief Consultant, Al Shifa Natural Treatment Centre, Ajman, naturopaths use diverse means to treat a person, including herbal supplements, dietary supplements, nutritional products, fasting, massage, hydrotherapy, mud therapy, chromo therapy, heliotherapy and magneto therapy.

Eastern naturopaths also use yoga, meditation, pranic healing, reiki, acupuncture and acupressure, while Western naturopaths are trained in homeopathic medicine, chiropractics and osteopathy, he says.

It's important to find out the cause of obesity, before starting on treatment, which include diet control exercise and herbal medicines, he says. "The treatment can be successful only if physical therapies [including massages] are combined with diet and exercise.

"But there are many dropouts due to work and family pressures. Those who stick to treatments for the suggested time period will enjoy the benefits. If secondary causes are ruled out [thyroid problems, physical immobility due to accidents], success rate can be as high as 95 per cent," Dr Kartha says.

According to Dr Eade, any sustainable weight loss regimen involves life-long maintenance strategies.

"Naturopathic treatment incorporates both short-term and long-term strategies. For example, some people begin on detailed detoxification programmes, but this approach is not employed longer than 6 to 8 weeks. In order for weight loss to be sustainable, the treatment programme has to fit into the person's normal life and routine," she says.

On the other hand, yoga, an age-old Indian form of exercise that involves both the body and mind, focuses mainly on an exercise regime.

"Yoga is more easily experienced than defined, for yoga is a process of synthesis, of joining and therefore its approach is not to dissect or deal with any problem in isolation," Bharat Thakur, a well-known Dubai-based yoga exponent, says.

Stretch receptors

"First of all, obesity has to be understood very well. The key thing is to fight the fat and not the weight. In all our joints there are stretch receptors. These receptors are connected to the ligaments and muscles of the body. Now, when a yogic asana or posture is practised, there is a contraction of the muscle, which leads to the burning of fat."

Yoga, in fact, does not help you to build big muscles; it just keeps you fit and strong, Thakur says.

And what about diet control? "I prefer my students not dieting at all. Whatever one eats, all one needs to do is to add exercise to one's life and assuredly, the body starts to change. However, for those who wish to be careful in their diet, I would tell them to avoid three things: rice, deep-fried foods and sugar," he says.

"For me, at the end of the day, yoga is the art of spreading happiness," Thakur concludes.