Diet is one of the most important constituents of our lifestyle. It is reflective of the our relationship with food. Like any other relationship, this one needs a thoughtful investment. Diet is not just about weight (fat) loss, but a lot deeper than that. Therefore, one must see food with an eye for nutrients and beyond the lens of carbs, calories etc. Diet is not about starving, or giving up on your favorite meals; for it is not what you eat but how and when you eat You can have your favourite ‘Aloo Paratha’ and still lose weight (fat). Crash diets are like a fling with a bad boy or girl; gives you temporary high but leaves you dejected later. They will only inflict more harm than good. Diet must be sustainable, healthy and lovable. Our food is the most intrinsic part of our being!
1. The number on a weighing scale is not the real status of health
Our body weight is made up of two parts – the fat weight and the lean body weight. The former is the fat while the latter is the weight of our bones and muscles. A weighing scale shows the weight of the body and not the fat. Let us take a small example to understand this. Suppose we have two identical bags of equal volume and we fill one with cotton balls, and the other with iron balls; which one will weigh more on the weighing scale? Obviously, the one containing the iron balls. To draw the corollary, iron ball is the muscle here and cotton balls is the fat. Therefore, the number you see on the weighing scale is not the right indicator of your weight. To get a detailed insight, one should know the body mass composition; essentially the fat percentage. Tests like DEXA (Dual - energy absorptiometry) are helpful in analysing the body composition. And even that is not the whole picture. Your health goes way beyond weight, body fat, etc.
2. Just as everyone is different, everyone’s diet must be different too Do not try someone else’s regime. A construction labourer may eat more than what you eat at one time. The reason for this is obvious; different energy needs. Only the principles of diet are common; not the diet itself.
3. Consciousness is the key Size of our stomach is same as that of our palm. At a given time, it cannot digest anything more than that. Most common question is how much to eat. Let's figure out why this question even exists in our minds. A lot of us take our food for granted. We eat just about anything, anytime and anywhere as per our convenience. We do all kind of things when we eat; use mobiles; watch TV, read and surf, talk and have discussions over the dining table. One of the most undervalued aspect of good nutrition is staying silent. When we are not in complete engagement with the food we eat, we will not know when to stop. What you eat is what you become. Something that nourishes you deserves your unfettered attention. When you eat, JUST eat. Savour every bit of what you eat, slowly and mindfully, and you will naturally find your threshold. It will actually put you in touch with yourself and then you will hear the voice of your stomach. Your stomach will guide you in eating the right quantities at every meal. It will slow down the pace at which you are consuming. It will make you feel lighter, younger,calmer with every bite. The space will reverberate with inner peace. When you establish that relationship with your food and engage with it at the highest level, your brain will automatically tell you to stop. Otherwise, you will always end up overeating or eating less but not right. When having meals, sit cross-legged (Sukhasana) on the floor, or if you are in office, raise one leg over the other. This improves blood flow to the stomach and aids digestion. Start with at least one meal a day in cross-legged posture and let it organically grow into your life. You will notice that meals in the sukhasana posture always feel lighter, tastier and even happier. After you finish your meals, sit in Vajrasana for at least 2-5 mins.
4. Five basic rules to increase nutrient intake from your food
Eat food that is prepared fresh. Consume your food within 3 hours of cooking. Never deep freeze your food.
The smaller the number of people the food is cooked for, the better its nutrient level. More the people, the earlier you start preparing the food and the greater the quantity of the food, the more oil and heat it requires.
Eat your vegetables and fruits whole instead of cutting them into pieces, because you lose vitamins from the surface. The larger the exposed area, the more the loss of nutrients.
Remain loyal to your genes and eat what you have been eating since childhood. Right from the time you are in your mother’s womb, your body is used to eating, digesting and assimilating certain foods.
As much as possible, eat local produce and seasonal fruits. Mangoes are great in the summer. Eat them just once a day as a mini meal in themselves, and they will give you a season’s supply of antioxidants.
5. Eat fat to burn fat You read it right. To burn fat, you have to eat fat. Fat is digested slowly, so eating it can help reduce appetite. Eating fat enhances your metabolism and increase the rate in which fats are broken down. Fat are of two types: Saturated (solid at room temperature) and Unsaturated (liquid at room temperature). In saturated fats, ghee and milk products is the best of all as it contains short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which are easy to digest and promote good health. SCFA are the world’s top-performing fats. Alongside the usual functions of fat, they promote fat burning from stubborn fat areas of the body, healthy bacteria in the gut, the health of your heart and even buddhi, the brain’s ability to discriminate. Long chain fatty acids as found in animal fats damage cardiovascular health and are hard to digest.
Unsaturated fat is further of three types: Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA), Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) and Trans fats. MUFA are in olive oil, rice bran oil and peanut oil and is great for moisturizing skin. PUFA comes in two forms – omega 3 and omega 6 and we all know the benefits of these. Lunch is a good time to add fatty acid supplement (flax seed, omega-3) as it improves insulin response Trans fat is the fat that is used in preserving food and gives it texture. This is to be avoided.
6. Use Ghee- The superfood
Desi Ghee, also known as clarified butter is the best fat. Benefits of Desi Ghee are manifold. Ghee—clarified of impurities, strengthened with all the essential fatty acids—is a miracle worker. It increases the strength of our joints, improves the texture of our skin, hair and nails, works wonders for our insulin sensitivity, helps to burn fat efficiently and keeps the brain alert.
The addition of ghee to your meals reduces the glycaemic index of food.
PCOD, diabetes and obesity arise out of insulin-resistance and one way of making it better is to eat meals that have a low glycaemic Index (GI). The reason why there are such combos as dal-chawal-ghee, roti-shakkar-ghee, ghee-ladoo, etc., in our culture is that ghee reduces the glycaemic index of these meals. The addition of any fat to food reduces its GI and ghee is brilliant in this regard. The magic of ghee isn't just that it's the world's most high-functioning fat. It's also that it's a wonderful partner to other foods, complementing them to work better and harder for us.
Ghee regulates blood sugar and that reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This ensures that there is a slow, steady rise in blood sugar and better energy levels through the day. Feel that afternoon slump? Add ghee to your lunch. Ghee won't just help combat diabetes and obesity but it will prevent heart diseases too. And if you are already affected by these conditions, then know that ghee will still come to your rescue.The slow, steady climb in the blood sugar also makes it easy for the body to effectively assimilate the herbs and spices that these meals carry. Also, as a cooking medium, ghee has among the highest smoke points (measure of how quickly a fat oxidizes, or goes bad, when heated).
However, there are a lot of myths that revolve around Ghee, lets address them:
7. Eat fruits at the right time
As the first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or immediately after physical exercise. Any time aside from this, the body converts the fructose from the fruits into triglycerides which is not good fat. Try to have fruits as whole and not as juice. This helps in retention of essential fiber. 8. We need proteins On an average, our body needs at least 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of body. After the age of 30, our body loses around 500 grams of muscle every year. Therefore, proteins are of paramount importance. They ensure holistic growth of muscles (Muscle synthesis) and primarily responsible for muscle recovery. They provide our body with adequate amino acids.
Whey protein is one of the best protein for the body. It is easy on the system, has zero sugar. If you weight train regularly or run long distances, whey protein will become a necessity. (It also comes in all flavours: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and many more.) These are easily digested by the body within 20 mins of consumption. It has the best biological value of protein; which means that almost every gram of whey you consume gets used for its intended purpose and is absorbed by the body. Whey isolate, made from whey protein is a boon for lactose intolerant vegetarians like me as it doesn’t irritate the stomach or the intestines. However, lot of people are apprehensive about its consumption. It is usually mistaken as an artificial source of protein. Whey protein has been accused of affecting the kidney, liver and heart but this isn’t true.
One of the best way to have whey protein is to take it post-workout within 20- 30 mins. It helps immensely in repairing the muscles. Word of caution: Whey protein is a supplement. It is not supposed to be used as an alternative to eating correctly. Consuming adequate protein, carbs and fat by means of a well-balanced diet is a must. Only then can whey protein be of any help. Like with everything else, if you overdo it or depend on it alone to provide you with protein, you stand to lose out on its considerable benefits.
Other sources of protein-rich food are; Paneer, Soya, Lentils, Eggs, Almonds, Nuts, Milk, Broccoli, Curd, Cheese, Oats, Peanut butter, Non-Veg food.
9. Carbs are very important Carbs are important for day-to-day activities. You should not cut down on carbs. In the absence of carbs, fat can not be utilized for energy. Point is to choose low carb food. Low carb foods are fibrous in nature. For eg. brown rice, jowar, bajra etc. For carbs that are high on GI (glycemic index) for eg. white rice, sugar, potato, you must reduce the load. The best time to eat high GI food is post exercise.
10. Indulge If you have to eat a dessert or a pizza slice, have it as a meal in itself and try to have it as the first thing in the morning. They are bracketed amongst food with highest GI and lowest nutritional value. Remember that you should have it for just once or twice a month!
Drinking (alcohol) is not bad, but it puts your fat burning process to halt (Even red wine!). Because the body treats alcohol as a foreign agent, and tries to digest it first. Only time the alcohol is healthy is when it is not consumed. But if you must drink it, here's what you can do -
1. Eat dinner before you drink 2. Drink water between 2 drinks 3. Start the next day with a tsp of gulkand
12. Four GOLDEN RULES to follow:
1. Always eat the minute you wake up. Never start your day with tea or coffee
Never wake up to tea or coffee in the morning. Instead eat real food within 10 to 15 minutes of waking up. When we sleep, our blood sugar levels drop in the night. In the morning our liver stores are almost empty. So our blood sugar is low and it is essential to bring this up to an optimum level. Low blood sugar is also a reason why we feel ‘low’ in the morning. Eat real food. This kicks in the action of insulin, which is secreted by the body as a response to an increase in blood sugar levels. The stimulants provided through tea and coffee increase blood sugar levels but provide zero nutrition to the cells that have been starving for the last 9-10 hrs. Fruits and soaked nuts are the best food to start your day. You can have a protein shake in case you are headed for a morning workout. After having fruits, within in an hour, have a wholesome breakfast.
2. Eat every 2-3 hours during the day.
Eating in itself is a thermodynamic process. When you eat, the body burns calories. Interesting, isn’t it? This is one of the reason why a 6-meal plan is more effective than a 3-meal plan. Eating every 2-3 hrs will enable the body to burn fat more effectively. Also, you will notice that your intake per meal will significantly decrease. You will eat less at any given time; but more frequently. This does not mean you have to take a full meal every 2-3 hours. You can initially start by splitting your meals into two. For example, if you have 2 chapatis for lunch, you can split it into two meals by having one at each time. The idea is to eat more frequently than eating more at one time.
Some examples of meals you can take in between your main meals: - Nariyal Pani (with malai), Channa/ peanuts/ Singhdana, Cheese (Cube or a slice), Milk/ soy milk, Carrots/ Cucumber, Boiled eggs, Sprouts, Protein bars, Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, Cereal (without added sugar), Dry fruits like Almonds, walnuts and cashews.
3. Eating (quantity of the food) should directly be proportional to your activity levels. Eat more when you are more active and less when you are less active. We need to up our eating during high demand periods and cut down when relaxing. No food is fattening. You have to be just smart enough to choose the right time to eat it. Eating more when you are more active will make your body an effective calorie burner which will increase the metabolic rate of your body and helps you to lose weight more effectively.
4. There should be a minimum gap of 2 hours between the last meal and bedtime. In the night, cells are naturally not very sensitive to energy or nutrients as they don’t really need much so if you overload your stomach most of it will get wasted or converted to fat. If you want no stretch marks or want to reduce the ones you already have, eat 2 hrs before bedtime. Before you sleep, you should be as much hungry as you were before the dinner. You can have a glass of milk with turmeric (Haldi vala doodh) before sleeping.
Example Meal plan: