Mumbai-based Namita Jain is a wellness expert who was felicitated with a PhD in Wellness from Young Scientist University, America. Celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Saina Nehwal and Hema Malini have endorsed her books. She was a nutrition partner for the Miss India pageant of 2012, and a celebrity nutritionist on the Food TV channel. Today, she works as a wellness specialist at Bombay Hospital and is a consultant to the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI). She is an author of 12 books and has just launched her new book, Low Fat, Low Guilt.
Namita Jain spoke to YS Weekender about the diet and fitness landscape in the country today.
Namita Jain: My new book, Low Fat, Low Guilt, is a recipe and lifestyle book, which is all about making food palatable. Whenever I tell people that they need to eat healthy, they always ask for recipes of low fat food. Despite the fact that there is so much information on the Internet today, there are many contradictions online too. All this can be very confusing if you are trying to lead a healthy life. You need to connect with a professional to know the difference between myths and facts. In my new book I have written about different kinds of low fat foods you can enjoy without any guilt.
NJ: The first thing to realise is that there is no shortcut to losing weight. That is the biggest secret of all. Also, remember that anything drastic or magical will not work. Only diet and exercise will help but it is a slow and steady process. You need to train the body and mind to be consistent. Watch what you eat and burn enough calories with exercise.
Make sure that you do not eat less than 1,200 calories in a day and aim to lose not more than one kg per week. If you lose more than that, it is not good for you. Your body and mind have to adapt to the changes you are making in your diet and the way you exercise.
NJ: No foods are really bad so I cannot categorically say that there are foods you should not buy.
Instead of the phrase ‘foods you should never buy’ I would say, ‘foods you must limit.’ But the mind does need occasional indulgences. For instance, fried starters are an indulgence, as is cake or samosa. But we cannot say – never buy cake or samosas. I would prefer to say, ‘limit, but not omit’. Limit packaged foods, mithai, creamy, cheesy foods and anything that is high on sugar. Never eat anything that does not agree with your system. Also – make sure that you do not overeat. It is very important to watch your portion sizes.
NJ: When you face this kind of scenario, it means that you have reached a plateau and what you are doing is not working. You need to do something different to break out of this plateau. Change your exercise routine by adding something like power walking, jogging or taking up a sport. It is also important to revisit what you are eating and once a week you could reduce the amount of food you eat. You need to break out, both in your exercise routine and your diet.
NJ: So many food manufacturers use the word ‘diet’ these days on the labels of various food packets in order to sell their products. It is important, therefore, to read the labels to see how much of a diet product it really is. Secondly, don’t make the mistake of thinking that since it is diet food you can eat as much as you want. People also feel that diet foods can help them lose weight but it could do just the opposite, if you do not watch how much you eat.
NJ: I would suggest that you eat real, fresh foods. Eat natural and wholesome food or fruit. Don’t get carried away with labels like ‘diet food’. An apple, an orange or some watermelon can be much better than a diet-snack that you picked up. These snacks can be useful when you are travelling but try and find baked foods that are healthier. Also, make sure that you eat mindfully and know why you are eating a certain snack.
NJ: A lot of diet fads involve leaving out a certain food groups. But all nutritionists know that the body needs carbs, proteins, fats, water and minerals to survive. If you omit any one of these, you will slip into a state of lower immunity. Each is necessary for various functions. Even if you want to follow a way of eating like Intermittent Fasting, you need to consult a doctor and check whether it is right for you, as it could be dangerous for diabetics or someone who leads a very active life.
NJ: One of the most common mistakes I have seen people make is doing too much too fast. When you do that, you will find that you cannot cope, nor can you sustain it. You need to phase out things and go slow on diet and exercise. If you suddenly exercise for two hours, it is much too ambitious and soon you will stop exercising altogether. If you go on a sudden fad diet, you could end up binge eating. It is best to go to a nutritionist and find out what you can and shouldn’t eat. Another mistake people do is that they eat healthy food through the day but in the night, they go on a binge and eat a very heavy dinner. This is not good for you. You should always keep dinner as light as possible.
NJ: I would not say this is better or that because everything depends on what you choose to eat. If you eat home food, but if it is always fried or over-cooked, then healthy food from elsewhere would be a better option. So many restaurants today offer healthy food too. It is all about making the right choice.
NJ: You should imagine your plate in the form of a square divided into four parts. One of the parts of your plate should contain protein like dal, chicken, sprouts and paneer. The second part should comprise veggies like spinach, and the third part your complex carbs like bread or chappati. And, lastly, you need a bit of fat too.
NJ: I would say, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Go back to the basics. There is no magic method to lose weight. When you go grocery shopping, plan ahead, decide what you need and follow your list. Also, I believe that one’s attitude to food is very important. It is best not to say, ‘I can’t diet or I can’t exercise’. Start small – make tiny, doable goals and take baby steps towards healthy living.