Adnan Sami’s phenomenal weight loss, Shah Rukh Khan’s six-pack abs and Kareena Kapoor’s new slim look might have driven scores of men and women to the gym. But if you think everybody is pumping iron to lose that unwanted fat, well, think again.
It might seldom find mention, but the fitness industry is not only catering to those who want to shed weight. The scales tilt both ways. So, while Adnan Sami goes all out to lose the flab, 23-year-old Saurav Ghai hits the gym to add some extra kilograms. At 5 feet, 10 inches, Ghai weighs 61 kgs and has a 28-inch waistline.
“It’s embarrassing,” says Ghai, who works at a call-centre. “No matter how much and what I eat, I cannot seem to put on any weight. People complain that it’s difficult to lose weight. I’d say it’s next to impossible to gain it if you’re naturally skinny,” he rues.
Priya Sehgal, 28, agrees. “My friends call me Tweety-legs,” says the Delhi-based management executive who has been visiting a dietician for the last year to gain weight.
Dieticians, gym and medical-store owners say they regularly deal with people desperate to add some fat. “Three out of every 10 people who come to me with weight-related problems complain they are underweight,” says Pooja Joshi, dietitian at The Nutrition Consultant, Sarojini Nagar.
While obesity gets all the attention, studies show that the number of underweight people in the country is far greater. The third national family health survey for 2005-06 found only 13 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women are obese or overweight. As compared to this, 34 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 are underweight, the study found.
Admittedly these figures include a large percentage of people who are underweight because they are mal-nourished. In spite of this, doctors say there are enough people who are simply thin even though they gorge on anything and everything.
Like obesity, Joshi says skinniness is a new lifestyle problem. “Life has become so rushed that people neither eat nor sleep on time,” she says. The body adapts itself accordingly and learns to live with the erratic routine. “It might appear that the person is going on an eating binge and still managing to remain trim, but that might be the only meal — and an unhealthy one too — that the person is consuming,” she says.
How thin or fat a person feels or appears might also be a matter of perception, says Dr Parul Patni of Diet Solutions, Faridabad. “This perception is based on the kind of group the person moves around in,” she says. “If the people in the group are towards the heavier side, they’ll probably tease the person for being too thin, even if he or she is absolutely fit. The person might start believing them and begin to worry about their weight,” says Dr Patni. Some people also appear thin because of their small body frame and bone density, she says.
Shruti Sharma, 28, says she is one of them. A media person with no fixed routine, she weighs 45 kgs and is 5 feet 5 inches. “I now want to put on some weight, though I’m not losing my sleep over it,” she says.
Recently, when her cousin joined the gym to lose weight, Sharma also decided to enroll, but for the opposite reason: to build muscle. It was for the same reason that Saroj Bala Chadha of Diet and Health Clinic, Panchsheel, put her 22-year-old daughter on a high protein diet and sent her off to the gym to build muscle mass. Chadha says that for every inch, a woman should weigh 0.7 kgs. For men, the figure stands at one kg per inch.
“Girls turn up, especially a few months before their marriage,” says K Narang of Santoshi Medicos, Preet Vihar. “We advise them to go for protein and carbohydrate rich salts and compounds,” he adds.
Gym instructors also come to the rescue. “Every month, 10 to 12 people come to us to put on weight,” says Chander Mohan of Matrix Fitness Academy, Preet Vihar. “A high calorie diet and light weight training works.” he adds.
With a number of men and women looking upon themselves as too fat or too thin, the body shaping industry has never had it so good. “If we were to work out a ratio, then about 60 per cent of products are meant to help people shed fat and 40 per cent cater to those wanting to gain weight,” says Anup Sharma of Apollo Pharmacy, Connaught Place.
Solutions are aplenty. But like Dr Patni says, “If you’re genetically thin, then your chances of gaining weight are… well, slim.”