Get diet hacks for the New Year from grandmothers: Kavita Devgan

January 4, 2019

Did you know that your cravings originate in the mind and are not linked to the hunger pangs in your stomach? Or that changing your habits is the best way to lose weight? Kavita Devgan, nutritionist and author speaks to YS Weekender about her new book on 'Grandmother hacks' and her views on diet and health

Kavita Devgan is a well-known nutritionist with over 20 years of experience as a weight loss and holistic health consultant. She offers practical, customised programmes that deliver weight loss techniques, through modification of habits to ensure long-term results. She is also a popular journalist and health columnist who has been writing regularly for various publication. She also gives lectures and conducts workshops on the right way of eating and new research-based health trends.

In an exclusive interview, the author speaks to YS Weekender about her new book, ‘Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You.’

Kavita Devgan

YS Weekender: Why did you decide to write a book on grandmother hacks?

Kavita Devgan: I believe like fiction writers, non-fiction writers too tend to write about things they are familiar with. This is why the first book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People was actually a compilation of the lessons I had learnt from my patients during my practice. And this one – ‘Ultimate Grandmother Hacks’ is a compilation of habits that I have grown up with and consider super-healthy.

The book compiles time-tested food habits to help us develop a cohesive and healthy lifestyle and rediscover the joys of eating. It lists many nuggets of wisdom and discusses the various foods and habits that our parents and grandparents followed that are still relevant today. I basically did not want us and the next generations to forget them. That was the motivation behind the book.

YSW: Can you tell us about yourself?

KD: I am a very liberal dietician. I don’t believe in the ‘all’ or ‘nothing’ approach; rather I believe that the answer lies somewhere in between. For me, practising moderation is the answer to everything. ‘More of the good and less of the bad’ - that’s my mantra and advice to everyone. In the beginning when people come to me they find it difficult to wrap around their head that I let them eat everything, and worry about actually putting on weight instead of losing… but slowly they understand that this is the right way.  

I have also been writing extensively and sharing my ideas with people for close to two decades now. My first book ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’ that released in 2016 went on to become a bestseller. Its Korean, Australian and New Zealand rights have already been sold.

My second book: ‘Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You’ released recently and it compiles time-tested food habits to help us rediscover the joy in eating. It lists many nuggets of wisdom and discusses the various foods and habits that our parents and grandparents followed that are very relevant today in order to gain all-round health.

YSW: As a nutritionist, what are some of the things that you see people are doing wrong, food-wise?

KD: The dependence on highly processed foods is bad for our health. These foods are stripped of their nutrients and flavour. It is time to go back to traditional diets that celebrate an abundance of natural products and highlight local and home cooked food. With home cooked food we rarely go wrong as everything, right from the ingredients to the seasonings to the method of cooking are under our control. Our obsession with fad diets is also harming us in a big way.

YSW: At the beginning of every year, people resolve to lose weight. Any advice?

KD: I would say ‘never think short term; always keep long term health goals in mind. You only get one body (like one life), so don’t be irresponsible with it. Focus on nutrition and weight loss will happen naturally.

YSW: What are some yesteryear habits that we should bring back today?

KD: As mentioned in my book, besides bringing about changes in the way we eat, it is also important to focus on our habits. Some habits like walking first thing in the morning, using traditional pots and pans and being careful of what we eat can make us healthier. The scientific basis behind all these facts is astounding. I believe that Nutritional science, as we know the subject today, is simply trying to catch up with many age-old nuggets of wisdom and observation-led beliefs that we have been following since yesteryears. It will do us good to keep following the healthy way of living that our elders have taken pains to outline for us.

YSW: What is your advice to those who crave junk food and sweets? How do we keep ourselves full longer?

KD: Most of our cravings originate in the mind; they have more to do with desire rather than our appetite. Basically, when you crave something, the desire is not from the stomach, but your brain (you don’t need it – you just want it). So you need to understand this.

But that said, sometimes cravings are also due to a nutritional deficiency. When we are short on magnesium or B complex, the body often craves for chocolates. Here having a small portion, or having a trail mix of almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds (all super rich in magnesium), and pumping up the leafy greens in your diet for the B’s is a good strategy.

YSW: On an average, what kind of exercise is a must?

KD: I am a huge fan of non-structured exercise - like long walks to go pick up groceries, listening to a meditation app when walking, washing the car, gardening, going up and down the stairs at every opportunity or playing with children in the park.

YSW: What is the best advice you have given to those who want to lose weight?

Walking is the best way to lose weight

KD: I have a very non-diet approach towards seeking wellness. My focus has always been on making habit changes. I feel the only sustainable way to gain health is to live a life where your good habits outnumber the bad ones. This is what I write about in both my books.

My advice always is: Follow your common sense and only believe information that comes from a professional with recognised medical and nutrition qualifications. Finally and most importantly, take up a new programme only if it agrees with you enough for you to be able to follow it for the long term.

YSW: How can you ensure that you are healthy during the winter months, especially with colds and cough viruses in the air?

KD: Here are some ways to stay healthy:

Healthy meals in winter can keep diseases at bay

Switch to complex carbs: like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.

Score some allicin every day by eating two raw garlic cloves early in the morning and having some raw onions with your meals. Both have allicin, which boosts the circulation and warms the body naturally.

Focus on keeping your immunity in good shape.

Add a warm crunch to your meals by snacking on nuts like walnuts, peanuts and almonds and by sprinkling seeds (like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame) on salads and soups.  

Change the way you cook. Step up the use of whole spices like cloves, cumin and peppercorns in your curries. Sprinkle some dried coconut flakes to dishes and have a lot of green, leafy vegetables as they are naturally warming.

YSW: Which is your favourite hack among the ones you have suggested in your book?

KD: My favourite hack: Eat some foods in their pre-digested forms to help the stomach — for example, consume almonds that have been soaked overnight.

YSW: What nutritional ideas are you planning for your next book?

KD: My next project is also on health and I am hoping that it will be out this year. It is too early to talk about it.

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