Are Thin People Required To Watch What They Eat?

Just like most Desi mothers, my visiting mother-in-law took over most of the cooking responsibility while she stayed here. My husband was delighted about getting to eat his mom’s cooking again! And I was pleased (touched, actually!)  for her readiness to eat completely plant-based, just like the two of us eat.

Now, that meant she had no  ZERO access to ghee, buttermilk and curd in our house – that stuff isn’t even shopped for! But she willingly came aboard. Fast forward six months, mom has gone back and here we are, savoring memories of her cooking and fun mealtimes we enjoyed together. Think baingan bharta and rotis, puliyogre with vegan thayir pachdi vegetable sevai with coconut chutney .. yummm!

And since I’ve gone back to being the Chef-In-Chief, old ways of eating are on again – baingan bharta is back to being oil-free, rotis are now zero-oil store bought tortillas, puliyogre has not been made at all yet, and vegetable salad – minus the curd – which is there e-v-e–r-y day, and vegetable sevai now doesn’t come with coconut chutney anymore! 🙂

My husband studiously looks at the food, takes a bite and wonders aloud, “we’re still well within the limits of ideal body weight, we don’t qualify as even being fat, why the hell are we watching what we eat??”

Hmm .. isn’t that a wonderful question. I bet you may have thought it too. I know a part of me still toys with this question when I see some of my favorite fried foods!

Here’s what the research says about it –

What we eat hugely determines how long we’re going to live (longevity)

It also determines whether or not we’re going to die of disease and disability (quality)

And this is true regardless of whether you are thin, heavy or well within the healthy range of weight for your height.

In our desperation to cling to the foods we like, we make very fundamental errors in understanding the basics of Nutrition. This happens not just with lay people, it’s unfortunately seen even in trained professionals. Sad but true.

Somehow, we’ve gotten to believe that only calories matter to our health – to the point of excluding everything else there is to Nutrition!

So, how does this belief or “understanding” play out?

Examples – “Reasoning”:

1. A low fat cheese or paneer sandwich made from brown bread and skimmed milk smoothie/coffee/tea – cheese or paneer is labelled low fat, brown bread is rich in fiber, and the beverage contains low fat skimmed milk – all well under 400-ish calories, therefore “healthy”.

2. One boiled egg and water – plain boiled egg is a maximum of about 100 calories, no salt, no oil, not even pepper – very very “healthy”.

3. Only ONE gobi paratha and simla mirch tomato sabji – made with whole wheat flour, no starchy vegetables like potato or anything, sabji is made of simla mirch and tomato – again, watery vegetables, using only about 3 tbsp of virgin olive oil in all – completely vegan, therefore “healthy”.

4. Skipping a meal or multiple meals and going back to eating one of the example meals described above, in STRICTLY custom-tailored amounts.

Studies have shown how even when people with diabetes were fed enormous amounts of food, their diabetes was reversed! Some studies were designed such that participants were not allowed to lose any weight, and in the process some of ended up gaining weight, but still they experienced significant and lasting disease reversal. Gives you an idea of how beneficial this kinda eating must be to those without the disease burden, isn’t it!

Are you curious what type of food was used in the studies?
It was an unrestricted amount of green leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit. These just happen to be low in calories too, that’s all!

When you eat the right type of food, you never have to worry about starving yourself and skipping meals. You don’t have to count calories and restrict quantities. You can just eat till you’re comfortably full, meal after meal and day after day – yet lose weight!

When people mistakenly assume –

body weight (“I am underweight, I can afford to eat x, y or z”)

and calories ( so long as it’s not exceeding 1000 calories per day gimme anything! )

to dictate their food choices, they’re in essence assuming the tail of the elephant to be the elephant itself! It’s really no different than that.

Did you find this post useful? Are you feeling angry or sad upon reading it?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Nobody Ever Explained To You About Protein

Let me tell you a story of some guests we had, when I was growing up in India. The man and his wife were both medical doctors and they were visiting, with their two little children. And they lived abroad. Ours was a vegetarian household, by which I mean dairy was the only animal sourced food we made at home. If and when we wanted a treat, it was pastries and that sorta thing. And we (including my orthodox grandparents) pretended that cakes and ice creams did not contain anything more than just dairy 😉
 
Well, coming back to the story – this visiting family would hurriedly go shopping to buy a mid-sized box of protein powder to last their stay – to add to the milk the kids would drink religiously three times a day. Three big glassfuls. Those kids were such willing milk-drinkers. So strange! And their mom would talk endlessly about all she did to meet their protein needs. Breaking the family “rules” to cook eggs at home, buying the super expensive protein-biscuits for the snacks and whatnot. For the little girl in me, this got registered in my head as protein was a very precious part of food. And that we had to make effort to get plenty of it, if we cared for our health. And those that did not do it, were somehow less than! Either they were poor and or did not know enough.
Ouch.
How it hurts to admit even if it is to ourselves that we cannot afford something or that we may not be knowledgeable, no?! 
 
Then fast forward to about 15 years in time …
 
Now, I was a dietitian. I worked at a hospital. I belonged with a team of medical doctors. And I engaged with clients as part of work. And I was privy to literally thousands of people and their stories about food. It was just so insightful to me how, we – you, myself and all of us for that matter – come to place the value on different foods. 
 
It is not all about the science and/or nutrition. Often, it has very little to do with nutritive value. It is so much about what our food choices say about us, to the world. 
 
It spoke volumes when a client said, ‘we make our ganji with water .. and softly add, not milk’. Or when someone said, ‘ We eat egg-bhurji or paneer-bhurji with rotis, we need not make do – you know!’ One can never discuss foods in isolation with feelings tied to them. 
 
It sounds so good to say, you made a paneer-something to go with the rotis.
 
Or that, Maharaj served you some egg whites with brown bread.
 
Or how you bought your ailing elderly in-laws some protein powder to add to the milk.
 
We all do things that make us feel safe. That make us look good to others. And it is okay! But, only so long as you don’t attach a justification – especially the ones that don’t make sense. And go one step even further and believe it to be a fact! Nooo, don’t do that.
 
If you like paneer, eat it because you like it. And say so! It needs no further props.
 
DON’T say or believe that you need to add paneer or egg whites or a special protein powder to your regular food as if there’s a shortage of protein in what you eat.
 
Here’s what  nobody ever explained to you about protein:
 
Protein is the widely and abundantly found in nature. 
 
If you are eating enough to satiate your hunger, you are extremely likely meeting all your protein needs.