Friday, August 12, 2016

References Matter!

I used to follow Rujuta Divekar quite ardently. I read both of her books and at the time, tried to follow her strategy and quickly became disillusioned with it. I realised that for me and my situation in life, her strategy does not work. But I still respected that approach. Basically Rujuta's strategy can be summarised in just two words: Portion Control.

She advocates eating everything. She does  not demonize just a single ingredient. She advises against shunning fats. She advises eating fruits like mangoes and jackfruits. All of this is amazing. However, in all her open lectures she almost never mentions that you can eat all this (in small portions) to lose weight.In this interview, her advocacy of mango and jackfruits borders on disturbingly nationalistic. She opens with a statement (which I am translating from Marathi, video is shared for verification):
"The farther your food travels to you, the farther it will take your belly from your spine". She uses this statement against apples and kiwis, which typically are imported, and tries to promote mangoes and jackfruit.

Giving her the benefit of doubt and considering that the statement is metaphorical, I still have a lot to say against this statement.

Firstly, eating (Indian) mangoes instead of (imported) apples because we have looked down on our own fruits in the quest of Western practices, sounds just nationalistic. Mangoes are mangoes and apples are apples. They don't travel with passports.

Secondly, it would be great if they are compared in context. It can be presented as: "Instead of having 1 apple and depriving yourself of mangoes, have two slices of mango, which is equivalent to one apple." That's how any non-famous dietitian would explain it. .

Eating local food is great. And it is commendable that Rujuta's lectures have made people realise that you don't have to eat quinoa, chia seeds and almond milk. You can always substitute western ingredients with something local. However, if you eat the right amount of food and aid your diet with a work out, any kind of food, Western or Indian, should give you the same results!

After I watched a couple of her open day talks, I went back to the sample diet plans she recommends in her book "Don't lose your mind, lose your weight". I am not going to give the diet plan here as I don't want to make that information available for free, But it would suffice to say that her claim that you should have 8-9 meals a day to lose weight is a bit misleading. In many of her diet plans, 1 slice of cheese is considered as a meal. If you count the overall calories of the entire day, the total would not cross 1000, which is the equivalent of about 2 complete meals (Rice, dal, roti sabzi, salad and buttermilk)  spread over the course of a day.

In most of these sample diets she recommends eating mango. However, it is taken as 1 meal with nothing else along with it. One mango can be a really healthy snack. However, when you say that people are scared of mangoes, the implication is not the fruit but its quantity and form. How does a normal Maharashtrian eat his/her mangoes? As pulp (Aamras) with fried puris! That's what we are scared of when we are trying to lose weight! On an average one mango would add 200 calories to your diet. So having a mango by itself as a meal (or having 1-2 slices with hot breakfast) would do no harm. But how many of us have it that way? And how long can we sustain considering a slice of cheese and a handful of roasted peanuts as "meals"? Only until we have professional supervision. The moment we let go of our dietitian, we also let go of the diet.

Let's assume that apples and kiwi which have a huge carbon foot print make you fat. Where are the references? Who has proved it? All of us have been gobbling up "rujuta's gyan" in good faith. We are taking her advice on eating ghee and fats. Some of it has already been proven by western science. However, it would be great if her claims about the mechanisms in which indian foods promote weight loss come with references. If there has been no research which proves that indeed eating a mango in Maharashtra is better than eating an apple for your weight loss, then it should not be claimed on a public forum and used as a click bait!

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