The Beginner’s Diet Guidebook

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If there is one word that can evoke strong reactions – negative or positive it has to be diet. While so much has been said about diets and dieting plans, the first time dieter is still confused and has many questions. We speak to some experts to get their take on what is the best way to start a diet.

Address the Cause

People gain weight because of internal issues like thyroid imbalances, hormonal fluctuations, water retention and metabolic disorders because of which their bodies have a tendency to gain weight. “Weight gain is a symptom; the root cause for it is inside the body. If we just focus on treating the symptom without addressing the root cause the weight will always come back once the ‘dieting’ ends. If we instead focus on healing and cleaning the system from inside so that it is overall functioning and efficiency improves, one sees an improvement in overall good health along with a significant and sustainable weight loss. It is also important to remember that our mind controls our bodies. It continuously tells the system what is possible or not possible; what will give results or not give results. Training your mind to pass on only positive messages to the body consciously and subconsciously significantly improves your chances of getting the results you are looking for,” advices Smita Sundararaman, Founder & Managing Director, NatureHealz.

Choose Wisely

Be gentle but firm with your diet regime as consistency always pays. Focus on overall good health and weight loss will follow by itself. There are no shortcuts to looking good and feeling great so develop a routine and stick to it. “The body does not give up fat so easily as it is very important for survival. The more we try to skip food the more difficult it is to lose fat. We lose the muscles to save energy and feel very hungry, so never skip your meals and choose your food wisely,” advices Nutritionist cum Dietician Nikhil Chaudhary. Mehar Rajput, Nutritionist and Dietitian, FITPASS adds, “an effective first step is avoiding heavy and fattening foods like junk food, burger, pizza, chips and heavy desserts. Dairy products, beverages, soft drinks and sugary drinks are high in calories and low in nutrition. Instead of soft drinks opt for fresh coconut water, lemon water, green tea, lemon tea and other similar alternatives. Instead of packed juices and soups; homemade tomato soup, cucumber soup or fresh fruits with lemon and black pepper are healthier alternatives.”

Weighty Issues

For those who want to lose weight it is important to balance diet, exercise, sleep and stress. “Never stay hungry as that will only lead to binge eating later followed by guilt and depression. That in turn makes you eat more and makes you obese. Aerobic exercise for 12 minutes is when the body starts to break fat for energy. At least two sets are good enough to start and the more you exercise the faster you lose weight. If you deprive yourself of enough sleep, that will lead to enormous stress and putting on weight. Studies after studies have linked less sleep with gaining weight in individuals. Stress is a big contributor to weight gain. Some people lose weight drastically when stressed but most don’t and in fact gain a lot of weight. Stress makes us crave for fatty and sweet foods all of which makes us obese. Definitely a big no when you are dieting,” advices Chaudhary. Remember not to be in a hurry to lose weight as that will only lead to complications.

Food Matters

When you are on a diet it is important to eat more vegetables and include sprouts in all your meals as they help you lose weight, make you feel full and provide a lot of nutrients with least amount of calories. Fruits, veggies and dry fruits are a powerhouse of nutrition. These should make up at least 70% of what you eat every day. Choose healthy options like grains, seeds, curd, paneer, fish, chicken, sprouts, coconut water, lemon honey water, fresh juices, etc to make up the remaining 30%. Likewise, fats are important and should not be skipped. “Ditch the oil, processed fats, trans-fat, animal fats and fried foods and go for whole unroasted sand unsalted nuts and seeds. Eat whole and natural foods avoiding processed foods especially refined carbs like sugar, white flour (maida) and white rice etc. Eat whole grain flours and red rice instead and avoid taking milk and dairy products as they are loaded with growth hormones. It is also important to get some sun as Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked with weight gain,” advices Chaudhary. Likewise keep revisiting your food plans need regularly for the body to keep losing weight. “If you eat salads and soup for the rest of your life you won’t continue losing weight forever. Our bodies get used to a diet or exercise routine. So, mix it up and keep your body guessing. Keep your food simple so that it is easier for your body to digest and process it. Mixing too many different food items in a meal makes things difficult for the body. Listen to your body and eat only when you are hungry,” advices Sundararaman.

Take Care

Depression makes you put on more weight because you tend to eat sweet and fatty food during stress and depression. So, never stay hungry. When you deviate from diet for any reason, make sure you control yourself further. It has been proven that when we deviate, we feel that we have lost it today so why not enjoy today very well and start dieting again tomorrow. That does a lot more damage than we think. Always eat before you go for a gathering, function, events etc. That will help you make healthy choices and you will avoid binging. Always be watchful of what you eat during socials. When hungry you have less willpower to choose what you should and instead end up doing what you like. Keep well hydrated, especially in the heat. “Fill a jar of detox water like ginger water, watermelon water, pomegranate water and many more. Treat yourself in a healthy way by making sure you consume less calories and more with nutrients,” says Rajput.

Counting Calories

A common mistake made by first time dieters is to get obsessed about calories as they are at best an indicator. A burger and a bowl of dry fruits can both have 400 kcal but they are not equatable in terms of nutrition.  Again, one tea spoon of oil is not equal to 5 almonds though they may be same in calories. The thought that you can exercise and remove the ill-effects of a bad diet is wrong. You might burn the calories but the damage done to the body cannot be undone.  Again avoid crash diets as they rarely give sustainable weight loss results. Losing weight is not difficult but needs proper strategy and science. Calorie counts do not work as all calories are not same. So take the right route to diet and see the positive changes for yourself.

This story appeared in the June 2017 issue of New Woman here:

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