Click here for all links

Social media links

From diets to lifestyle changes: Being in the driver's seat
- Sathya Nagaraj

September 18, 2016

I've recently embarked on a journey of taking back control of my body, and the results have been rewarding. I'm here to share some of those secrets, tips and recipes with you, so like me, you can begin to see the advantages of a change in lifestyle, rather than a new fad diet. Many of us women have tried at least some of the trendy diets, such as the Israeli army diet, Cabbage soup diet, Atkins diet, the 5:2 diet and so on and so forth. But our body is mostly in the yo yo mode and a very small percentage of us have succeeded in shedding any weight at all and, more importantly, keeping it off.

For decades, I have done the same. Until my daughter, a Bharatanatyam dancer, introduced me to the concept of body nourishment. Pitted against a diet that leaves you feeling deprived, she encouraged an intake of wholesome, nutritious and delicious food that alters the way you feel. She introduced me to the LOW CARB HIGH FAT (LCHF) lifestyle, and I managed to make incremental changes over the weeks and introduce healthier habits into my daily living. By not paying attention to the weighing scale, but to holistic health and nutrition, I lost 6 kilos in 60 days and have managed to keep it off for 6+ months now.

Our staple Indian diet is full of carbohydrates and we eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We do not expend that amount of carbs each day and it increases the production of insulin, which results in the prevention of fat burning and the storage of excess nutrients in fat cells. We think we are dieting but crave back for the carbs after the diet, sometimes leading to weight gain after a period of weight loss. We really do NOT need so much carbs and we just eat because this is the way our society, schools and families have taught us about the consumption of food. Little do we realise that we do not quite engage in the same level of physical activity as our ancestors would have when they worked on the fields, commuted everywhere by foot, laboured to get water from the wells, washed clothes by hand and reared their own cattle.

India ranks amongst the top 3 countries globally with high diabetic population. Prevalence of diabetes among men is 9.1 per cent and among women is 8.3 per cent. The disease currently affects around 62 million Indians, which is more than 7.1% of India's adult population. Alarmed by the statistics? So was I. An estimate shows that nearly 1 million Indians die due to diabetes every single year. The average age of onset is 42.5 years. Never has it been more pressing to take matters into our own hands.

I'm sure most of us are well-versed with counting calories, now it is time to start counting our carbs. Start with 30-50 grams of carbs a day. Maintain it at about 30 grams a day once your body gets used to it. Why such low carbs? Because your stored fats will be used and your body will transition into a state of Ketosis. This is when your body does not have enough glucose to sustain energy levels and creeps into your stored fats and breaks them up to convert them into energy. Fascinating stuff! A lot of stored fats gets used up and you reduce drastically, especially in the abdominal region. Further, blood sugar levels become easy to maintain in healthy brackets.

The main reason one stops dieting, is because of craving for food when you are on the diet. By definition, diets aren't sustainable. The beauty of LCHF lifestyle is you eat well, you don't feel hungry, you are filled with energy, you don't have mood swings and you are able to maintain a healthy weight range. You avoid starches and sugars, you can eat meat, eggs, fish, vegetables (avoid root vegetables) and eat good fats like butter, ghee and coconut oil. Take this advice with a pinch of salt if you have high cholesterol though, as high fat may not be medically suited to your conditions and I'm no doctor.

Carbs have a way of entering our foods, they are cheeky buggers….Not only are our Idlis, dosas, pongal, vadas full of carbs but also seemingly healthier options such as cornflakes, branflakes, breakfast bars, fruit juices etc. are all carbs. We make salads, and add tacos to it which is carbs, we may drink salted lassi and add a few boondhi to it which is carbs again. Without your knowledge the total carbs shoots over the roof and your body begins the process of breaking it down to simple sugars. Bad news. So, keep a food diary and do not cheat. Record every morsel you put into your mouth in the early days to understand personal patterns of food consumption without prejudice. Many apps help you do this these days, including MyFitnessPal, Noom Coach and Lose It!

I will introduce you step by step into the lifestyle, so that you don't feel a drastic effect of the change and so that you can stick to this change for a prolonged period, maybe even for life! If you are ready for it, do try and get access to a blender which is a necessary component for the lifestyle change. A blender with a glass jar is preferable as you can use it for hot and cold drinks, soups, smoothies etc. Blenders can range anywhere between Rs. 2500 to Rs. 8000 depending on quality, but remain a valuable investment in yourself and your health.

You need to do some vegetable shopping and step into healthy/organic stores like Browntree, Vaer Organics, Gormei Market, Eco Nut or Nuts & Spices to pick up food items that you may not already have on your shelf, such as chia seeds, psyllium husks, cinnamon powder etc. But remember, these are small additions to your pantry that will remain useful for a long time to come.

Let me introduce you to my breakfast, this is possibly the best alteration I have made to my lifestyle to date. It is a small and sustainable step and it helps start the day on the right foot. Yes, your favourite breakfast foods you can eat at a later date but only by choice as an occasional indulgence, not as a craving. I humbly suggest making this transition and sticking to it for about a month, so that it becomes easy to slowly make this a lifestyle change and not a temporary fix. The first 3 days will probably be rough, as old habits die hard. But do persist to reap benefits!

Now, I must warn you that this may seem like increased visits to the grocery store as there will be a lot more fresh, perishable ingredients on the LCHF lifestyle. Sometimes, they may seem a bit more pricey than previously made choices. But, it is safe to say that you cannot put a price on good health. This is going to be permanent.

Exercise and meditation remains good practice for a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and add this in too in small and sustainable doses when embarking on a big change (unless you are a dancer yourself, then please disregard my advice on exercise). For the rest of us, maybe a 20 minute Power Walk or a 30 minute Hatha Yoga session is a good place to start?

Without further adieu, here is introducing the Go Green Smoothie!

Go Green Smoothie

Palak, Lettuce, Celery juliennes -1 cup
Cucumber diced -1/2 cup
Almond milk -150 ml
Water -150 ml
Ice cubes - 4 (personal preference, but the concoction always tastes better when chilled)
Psyllium Husks -1 tablespoon
Chia seeds -1 tablespoon
Plant Protein Powder -1 heaped scoop, available in health and fitness shops and/or through online retailers like Amazon, Amway, Healthkart etc.
Spirulina - 1 teaspoon (optional), subject to availability

Blend all for 90 seconds in a blender. One full serve is anywhere between 500 - 600 ml. Drink your liquid breakfast every morning.

My recommendation
Around 6am:
A glass of warm water with a spoon of fresh lemon juice, chopped ginger, a pinch of Himalayan salt & teaspoon of honey.

Around 8am:
The Go Green smoothie.

Around 10am:
A glass of Herbal Tea with no sugar. If you must have a cup of coffee, then do so with no sugar. A handful of nuts serves as a good accompaniment.

Do this for a month lovely ladies. Trust the process for you are going to be feeling better than ever in a matter of weeks. Try and be mindful of your intake of carbs over lunch and dinner, but don't look to make massive shifts in one go. I will be back with more interesting information on food and lifestyle choices, and suggestions for a scrumptious and wholesome lunch.

Let's make our plate colourful!

Sathya Nagaraj is part of the scanner tribe, with many interests and no pressure to filter down to one. In her time, she has worn many hats - NGO founder, Summer camp co-director, travel agent, real estate entrepreneur and film producer happen to be a select few. However, a Chef and Mother would be her top picks. Having an educational background in Catering and Hotel Management and work experience with groups like The Taj, The Sheraton and Safir hotels, Sathya is well-equipped to design eating plans with meals that tantalise the taste buds. She has more recently embarked on a health-kick and decided to take the driver's seat on controlling her health and body image.

Sathya, I just loved your style of writing and more importantly the content. I've personally witnessed your weight loss and so can vouch for the advice you've imparted via your blog.
Looking forward to more of your blogs. Well done!
- Sharmila (Nov 10, 2016)

Post your comments
Provide your name and email id along with your comment. All appropriate comments posted with name and email id in the blog will also be featured in the site.

Click here for all links
Health and fitness column | Home | About | Address Bank | News | Info Centre | Featured Columns