A diet has to achieve much more than weight loss. Weight loss, or rather fat loss, is just one of the many wonderful side effects of changing your lifestyle. Dieting that has only weight loss as its primary goal is a failure even before you go on it. It’s like some boot camp you go to, kill yourself at, and come back thinner. You are glad to be back home; and within four days of being back home you become healthy again. The challenge is to keep up with the routine you kept at the boot camp but it is impossible given your working schedule, sleeping hours, responsibilities, practical tissues. Dieting is not about ‘going on’ a diet.
Extreme diets just don’t work: the detox diet
Most diets are impossible to keep at because they always advocate something extreme. Besides being difficult to maintain, they’re harmful for you physically and mentally. Let’s talk about one of my all time favourites: the detox, weight loss and maintenance programme.
‘Detox diet’, the most fashionable term is dieting. So first you accept that everything you have fed your body is toxic, then you become a saint for a week and detox. And how? Using juices of course. And a punish yourself for being fat you use the yuckiest vegetables and make juices out of them: Karela, dudhi, turiya, etc.
Exercise and dieting are mutually exclusive – no they aren’t
A lot dieticians are popular because they guarantee weight loss without any exercise. And some advertisements even top that. No diet, no exercise, no pills, only weight loss! If you are a regular on the Mumbai local, you must have entertained yourself (with someone treading on your toes, an elbow in your breast and an umbrella poking in your back) by reading one of those ads: ‘No boss, no timing, no paper work, no travel, no selling – earn up to RS 100,000 per month.’ What do you think of these ads? I think the same about no exercise, no diet, no pills, only weight loss ads.
Any programme which discourages you from exercising in worthless. Being on a diet might help you lose weight, but without exercise we lose our muscles and bone density. And lose of bone density and muscle is ageing. The human body is designed for continuous activity. The least we can do is give it 30 to 45 minutes of exercise for 3 days a week to keep it in good shape and condition. The body works on the basic principle: use it or lose it. Humans were born with a tail remember? We lost our tail because we never used it. We might soon lose out on our muscles and bone density, as we just don’t seem to use either of these live tissues.
I hated maths in school. But loved one word: corollary. It’s used in algebra all the time. Ok, so here is the corollary to the above myth: as long as you exercise it’s ok to eat whatever you want. Really think so? Do you think as long as you drive your car it doesn’t matter what you put into it; Kerosene, petrol, diesel? (People are always so much smarter about their cars than the bodies.) Nope. Wrong! Now just because i use my body regularly doesn’t mean I should abuse it. So, exercise is a part of adopting a better lifestyle but it is NOT an alternative to eating right. In fact the more people get committed to working out, the more they usually care about how to get the right nutrients to their body.
When you start eating healthy and exercising regularly, you will initially see a drop in your body fat but not as much in your weight. However, when you crash diet, you lose a lot of weight because your lean body weight comes down while your fat body weight remains the same, and sometimes actually increase. Fat occupies a lot of volume on the body and weights very little. Muscle, is denser, so it occupies much less space but will weight a lot. (Compare fat to 1 kilo cotton and muscle to 1 kilo iron. Can you see what I am saying? Same weight but big difference in their volume or the space they occupy.) This is why people often look flabby after their ‘diets’. So stop holding your body for ransom on the weighing scale. Why do you need to know how much you weigh? It is no indicator of health or fitness levels. Know that the higher the amount of lean body weight you carry, the greater your fat burning capacity. Do you really want to go for ‘guaranteed’ wight loss (invariably attacking the LBW) and lose your fat burning abilities?
Why your scales lie
Your body weight is made up of 2 parts: the fat weight and the lean body weight. The lean body weight is the weight of your bones and muscles. The fat weight is exactly what it says it is. Never look at the weighing scales and judge your health. The thing to look at is the fat weight (and how much fat there is in your body, ie the fat percentage) rather than your total body weight. Serena Williams, for example, might have a high body weight (because of her high lean body weight) but has a very low fat percentage. The FTV models might weight less on the scale and appear skinny but some of them have fat percentages as high as 30%. The ideal fat percentage should be under 20% for men and under 25% for woman. This is also why you should never judge your health by BMI ( body mass index = weight (kg)/height because BMI is just about total body weight. BMI doesn’t take into account the contribution of fat weight towards your total weight. (2 people with the same BMI can look drastically different because of the difference in their fat percentages. THe person with high fat percentage will look flabby and weak while the one with low fat percentage will look lean and toned.)
The truth about low fat and sugar free alternatives
Low fat snacks like baked chaklis, fat free ice creams, fibre loaded biscuits, etc are nothing but junk food coated with misinformation and some sharp marketing brain trying to sell them to a gullible audience which will bite onto anything that’s fat free.
Now try a fun experiment. Just look at who is eating the low fat or sugar free variety. You will find that people who are already fat are eating this junk. They would actually be better off eating full fat ice cream, fried chaklis and cream biscuits. Because at least then you are aware that what you are eating is junk, so you limit the quantity that you consume. And seriously if you have just 1 or 2 chaklis or 1 or 2 cream biscuits once or twice a week, this won’t get in the way of your losing weight. But eating this fat free or sugar free junk daily surely hampers your process of weight loss. No wonder than that all people buying fat free or sugar free junk are struggling to lose weight.
So should you not eat them at all? Of course you can eat them, but eat them knowing that they are just as harmful as the full fat, full sugar, fried items. Sometimes even more. When we eat these products, we invariably don’t exercise caution because they are low fat. But low fat doesn’t mean it won’t convert to body fat. Also, most low fat foods are barely 1 or 2 grams lower in fat than full fat versions.
The worst thing is that most of these products use trans fat, which provides the right texture to food, makes it last longer and at the same time make you fatter and clog your arteries; also making you prone to heart diseases.
If you must eat chakli or chips make them at home and fry them. You will use good oil and eat your goodies hot, so they will taste better and also be nutrients. Since this is a long process you will land up doing this may be once a fortnight or once a month. Baked products, on the other hand, can be easily bought and stored so you have access to them almost daily. The choice is yours: get rid of repackaged junk food from your house.
The bitter truth about sweeteners
Should you be replacing sugar with a sweeteners? Especially if you are diabetic or trying to lose weight? The answer clearly is NO. Why? Isn’t it calorie free, a blessing for diabetics, and a great way to maintain a good figure? Yes, if you believe the marketing an advertising surrounding the sweeteners. No, if you are asking me to be straight up.
Sugar free chocolates, sugar free mithais, sugar free drinks, and almost every product that has the suffix diet attached to it has these sweeteners; as in most ‘diet’ drinks, ‘diet’ ice cream, diet yogurt, the list is endless.
One time use of sweetener will not harm you, but regular use is like a slow mo way of harming you body. (Another way of punishing ourselves for being fat?) Regular use of all sweeteners is associated with certain type of cancers, thyroid malfunction, memory loss, acidity, obesity, etc. And really, 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar (even regular use) is not going to harm you as much as the sweetener.
Is it really so difficult to understand that the only way to lose body fat is to eat right and at the right time, and to exercise regularly? No pill or powder, much less sweetener, can burn body fat or miraculously melt your fat away. Use your brains, stop living in the bubble.
So aspartame or no aspartame, get that sweetener out of your tea. All sweeteners will help you in only one way: in gaining weight.
All food is good
Glorifying or demonising any food item might be glamorous (and bread and butter) to many, but it’s just not correct to do so.
A lot of ‘experts’ think fruits are great and will recommend that you have loads daily. Many of you must have been advised that instead of a dessert post dinner you are better off eating fruits. I know families who routinely cut apples post dinner and eat them thinking that it’s the best thing they can do. Among fruits too, some are deemed evil and some angels. Almost all dieticians in India tell you that bananas, custard apples, chickoos and grapes are fattening, and orange, papaya, watermelon are low fat. Sometimes, when a myth has been around long enough it becomes the truth. Like the jhoppad pattis in Mumbai. Illegal- yes. Land grabbing – of course. But if they are around long enough, the slum dwellers own the land and politicians fight to get them legal status, water, electricity, ration card, etc.
Cut to fruits. Updating ourselves with the latest development in nutrition science is something all of us nutritionists owe to discovered that fructose (the sugar we get from fruits) get converted to triglycerides (especially when eaten on a full stomach), a type of fat which circulates in our blood stream. High levels of triglycerides are responsible for heart disease, insulin insensitivity and of course lead to bigger fat cells. And our body is truly secular: it treats all fructose equally. It doesn’t matter which fruit you eat, it will surely give you fructose. So eat your fruit, but don’t think that it’s safer than eating a dessert. Its nutrients only work for us if we eat it at as a meal by itself: as a morning real of after exercise, and not as a dessert after dinner.
The other example is soy. There was a time when soy was the ‘it’ food, the miracle cure for everything from mood swings, weight gain and heart disease. There was such a soy craze that one doctor slash dietician made a killing selling everything from soy chakli to soy atta, soy cake, soy biscuits, soy milk, soy curd, soy water, etc.