Updated: May 19
Growing up in an Indian household, my parents showed their love through food. My father would wake up earlier than usual every now and then just to make my favorite chicken curry before going off to work, just so that in the middle of the day I would be able to enjoy a craving of mine. Nope, I had no problem bringing curry to school or work! He would make the most exciting dishes that one usually finds in Indian restaurants (read: butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chole bhature). On the other hand, my mother took on the task of making staple dishes that always made one feel at home. They would cook for the whole family and maybe even a village, always ensuring we had some leftovers for the guests, emergencies or… you know those late-night munchies after a night out. And since they both cooked, it meant we always had a variety of choices in the kitchen counter- some daal, some sabzi, some rice, some chicken curry, some raita, some salad, and some dough ready to be turned into some phulkas.
Naturally, I was very confused when I stepped into the world of diets having come from a home that basically had a 24/7 buffet service. There are just so many to choose from! On top of that they all have their “scientific research” and their influencer army backing. Seeing the “what I eat in a day” of fitness gurus made me want to cry, quick fixes made me skeptical and weight loss teas made me laugh. So many influencers turning their meals into drinks or breaking down recipes into maths just seemed concerning. Eating should be an enjoyable experience, not a punishment.. Right?! I wondered if authentic chicken curry is paleo-friendly? Is paneer tikka keto approved? Is it really chai if it’s plant-based? Is a low-carb diet sustainable? So many questions and so many misleading articles that either proves or disproves a study depending on how you plug in the keywords into Google search.
Pushing any specific diet or brand as a one-stop-shop for weight loss or weight control really started to worry me considering there is so much bio-individual data that is overlooked. For example, sometimes sudden rapid weight gain can be caused by an underlying illness (at least that was the case for me) that goes beyond what’s on your plate and so treating symptoms without knowing the problem might be counteractive. The best diet for you is the one that fits your lifestyle and provides long-term health benefits. If you've been struggling with weight loss, it's important to look at the root causes of your reluctance to lose weight rather than focusing on a "fad diet." The following are my two cents on how to go about it:
Consult an expert: Nutritionists are the real MVPs who will know whether a trending diet is advisable for you or not depending on your health records and family history. I know it sounds daunting, but a consultation with an experienced professional will go a long way in guiding what types of nutrients are good and which ones aren’t! They will also be able to help you create meal plans that are customized specifically for your needs so you have a guideline to follow until you get the hang of things. A nutritionist can help you make the best food choices for your body and lifestyle.
Experiment with variety: Try new recipes and meal plans (keeping in mind what has been advised by the aforementioned expert). Experiment until you find what suits your taste buds, lifestyle needs, or budget! Remember, sometimes certain foods don’t taste good just because of how they are cooked, so try making them in a different recipe. As much as I love Indian cuisine, I’m not a fan of seafood-based curries. However, I really enjoy grilled or baked seafood when made with simple ingredients. Try changing things up and see what works for you!
Take it slow: We all know that change is difficult. To make the best of a bad situation, give yourself time to slowly adjust a few items a week instead of feeling overwhelmed by pulling a 180. 180 success stories are great for motivational videos but they are not sustainable for the masses. You are more likely to stick to changes when you make them bit by bit over time, using that time to understand how best to incorporate them into your daily life in the long run.
Look at things from an overview: Not everything on your plate has to have a higher purpose or contribute to your fitness goal. Take your tastes and preferences into account. If pizza is your favorite food, it’s okay to eat it but try to make it a Sunday treat in lieu of a daily staple. Or if you can’t resist chocolate, have a small piece in the evening to end the day on a good note. Don't beat yourself up if you slip up or "cheat" from time to time, as long as the overall dietary pattern is sound and healthy. Guilt is not a good motivator, perspective on the other hand is.