Trying to lose weight for the festive season ahead? Food coach, Anupama Menon shows the way

November 23, 2018

Nutritionist and food coach Anupama Menon splits her time between Mumbai and Bengaluru with her nutrition consultancy that is offered to both personal clients and corporate giants. She is also the Co-founder of ‘Right Living’, a nutritional counselling and education platform that offers food and lifestyle plans. In her nutrition plans, she customises food pyramids that allow three cheat meals a week, with a focus not just on weight and fat loss but also offers an in-depth understanding of supplemental science, correcting the body’s balance, healing and therapy that eventually curtails the process of ageing.

YS Weekender caught up with Anupama Menon for an exclusive interview on how to lose weight before the end of the year and what our health resolutions for the New Year should be.

Edited excerpts from an interview.

Most people are trying to lose weight for December parties and New Year. According to you, what is the best way to lose weight?

The best way to lose weight need not be the fastest. That is what we need to convince ourselves of, before we start off on a journey of fat loss. Realistic goals, a determined temperament, a will to gain health while you lose weight and the ability to understand that your lifestyle will have a new normal -- are essential partners in the journey of weight loss. The journey itself must be personalised, based on the specific philosophy of how your body can best lose fat. Supplementation, hormonal balance, anti-inflammatory techniques and stress relieving techniques must be essential cohorts of your unique health plan.

A regular exercise regimen should be a part of your daily routine

It is that time of the year when people begin to make New Year resolutions. What are the most important health goals that we need to make?

As I see it, with increase in stress levels, lifestyle lapses, increasing consumption of inorganic and processed foods, most people have compromised their digestive systems. The gut is the second brain, and the two are integrally connected. A well-functioning gut is most important for optimal absorption of nutrients from food, prevention of several inflammatory disorders, a good metabolism and desirable level of body fat.

So the most important health goal must be to create the right environment for a great gut, eat the right kind of foods, practise the lifestyle habits that we have practised as kids and laid to rest as adults and learn to relax, not overstress.

As the party season begins and rich food is a part of the festivities, how do we keep a check on our weight?

Regulate your alcohol intake, exercise daily (spare 40 minutes for this, even on the busiest day), limit sweets to a max of two times a week, eat and chew slowly at parties taking in flavours at leisure, make sure there is moderation in all that you eat and be mindful of your sleep. Vegetable infused waters are good appetite regulators.

What are the pros and cons of going on a strict diet during this season?

A healthy diet can help you lose weight too

Most fad/trend based diets limit sections of the food pyramid/groups of foods, leaving one craving for those very foods that have been restricted. This renders such diets unsustainable, resulting in a quick return of any weight you may have lost. This not only stresses one’s mind, but also one’s body leaving less chances of being able to lose weight in a second or third effort. Once you have lost the fat, it must be for always where you can sustain the healthy lifestyle you have practised to lose the weight.

Trend-based diets can also mess with your digestive system and bring in nutritional deficiencies. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional/qualified nutritionist who can personalise your plan, who understands what limitations your diet needs and what can be beneficial for your body.

Why do you not advocate fad diets? What are some of the dangers of following them?

Fad diets are not a good idea unless backed by scientific research

The Keto is highly restrictive diet and 90 percent people cannot sustain this as a lifestyle. The comeback weight after stopping the Keto diet is super high. Besides it could bring in digestive banes like constipation and requires a strict watch on blood parameters.

Other popular diets like the high protein-low carb diets also come with their own share of the unsustainable baggage.

The irony is that most Indians can sustain and metabolise a fair amount of carbohydrates and fats but we, as modern trend setting urbanites, derive most of our learnings from the West and from a genetic culture that thrives on proteins. So we torture our palate and clamp our food desires at the altar of western trends that give no guarantee of permanent weight loss.

If fad diets are not a good idea, should we follow a diet at all?

People must follow a healthy regimen and there is no alternative to that. But this regimen must be personalised to suit one’s body type and lifestyle. It must promote a healthy gut, it must invite healthy bacteria to party in our gut and it must provide for a great supplementation pattern that will reduce by far the risk of nutritional deficiencies, especially of common ones like Vitamins D, B12, iron and calcium.

What is your opinion of the Superfoods that are so popular today?

Superfoods are nothing but healthy foods that prove beneficial for a given health reason. For example: as an antioxidant, as a rich source of most B-vitamins or as a sea vegetable containing a host of iodine and other minerals. But no superfood can be so good as to replace the need for other nutrients, supplements and lifestyle practises that are essential for a healthy body!

Can you give us some anti-ageing tips via good nutrition?

Here are some simple tips:

* Exercise, intake of high fibre and low carb foods, and plenty of turmeric to beat the obesity gene

* Getting enough Vitamin D via sunlight, sea food, mushrooms and the right frequency and dose of Vitamin D supplements

* Regulation of alcohol intake.

* Reducing refined sugar to a minimal and replacing the minimal sugar with coconut sugar/jiggery/raw honey and maintaining the right fat percentage with foods that sit right with your body’s philosophy of fat burn.

What is your own health mantra that you cannot live without?

A very positive mind-set that is important for my happiness, important for a strong mind and a great gut. I keep my digestive system very strong as it is the core of my well-being and I never forget to cheat thrice a week as it dispels my cravings and allows my soul time to celebrate with family and friends.

Do you believe ghee and nuts are good for you?

Yes, completely! They help to keep your hormones in balance, are great for the skin and help in minimising inflammation. What’s more, they satiate you and keep a lid on your appetite.

What is the best morning routine of optimum health?

Lemon shots (just the juice of lemons), wheat grass juice, nuts, virgin cold pressed coconut oil in hot water with ½ tsp of raw haldi, 1 tsp chia seeds, ½ tsp methi seeds and two strands saffron soaked in water overnight, ½ a cup of yoghurt mixed with raw haldi and ½ tsp virgin coconut oil are great starters for your day.

Can you suggest some easy salad recipes for working people?

Cut salads are difficult to carry and store in the office. Besides, some salad leaves wilt, some raw veggies stale quickly at room temperature and others give off-flavours on keeping for even a short period of time.

It is best to carry cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks or even lightly seamed or tossed salads with the crunch of nuts and seeds. Lightly sautéed broccoli and mushrooms taste great with roasted and crushed peanuts. Carrot and cucumber sticks taste great with hung curd and steamed sprouts love the onion, tomato, chilly garnish.

Can you tell us how you launched your own company?

I have always been intrigued by the science of food and how it works on our body. My personal health journey has been one of discovery and evolution. Since I managed to lose around 34 kgs after my first delivery and 20 kgs the second time over, the challenge only excited me. Today I am completely excited about health, ever learning, ever ready to experiment and never ready to give up on any client.

Everyone deserves the best shot at health. I started my practice in a fairly small way, hinging off as a supplementary service in fitness clubs. Today I have two companies, “Anupama Menon” – my personal brand and “Right Living” – for corporates and establishments, which is a partnership with Subba Kasivishwanathan (who has been a corporate IT expert and is a coach in training and learning systems). We have worked with some of the largest names in the corporate sector like Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, Snap Fitness, E&Y, EMC2, Amadeus, First Source, Blue Jeans to name a few. It has been an exciting and fruitful journey for us.

What are your future plans for your company?

We need to grow and want to grow into a company known for its quality and ability to bring in a health culture into any organisation that we get into. We would like to hit the big “100” in the next five years, i.e., 100 companies under our belt of wellness, driving a practice born out of pure passion and dedication.

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