In an ideal world, we would be walking around with that perfect figure, eating whatever we want, and still staying fit and healthy. Unfortunately, when you wake up from an after-binging-on-sweets nap, you realize it was but a dream and you are now several pounds heavier. But lifestyle and health coach Anupama Menon says there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t say diet
“Diet is almost a bad word and not without good reason,” says Menon. “The minute you are on a diet, you are pronounced an idealist. You become a saint who steers clear of sugar, fried food, gluten-filled food, carbohydrates, caffeine, and milk, and never misses workouts. And you achieve this mantle overnight.”
This does not lead to learning or imbibing the process as you just take it as a challenge. “The irony is that health must never be a challenge; it has to be a given—a non-negotiable that you can sustain and build into your lifestyle,” she adds.
A fine balance
Menon believes the path to health must be a low-risk one. “Build health into your lifestyle slowly and ensure it does not stop you from enjoying life, including the foods you desire to eat. Good food brings people together. Your path to health must never leave you feeling deprived or frustrated,” she says, adding, “We crave for certain foods that may not have the badge of health but we must still be able to eat these without guilt at least two to three times a week.”
In short, there must be a balance in our food routine. So it’s important to understand what foods leave minimum residue in your system and work well to be utilised to the maximum.
Follow your gut
“When you identify these foods and how to combine them aptly for your body, your body will allow you to cheat two to three times a week and eat whatever you desire while shedding or maintaining your weight,” explains Menon.
She says two key players influence the body’s ability towards minimum residue and arrive at the cheat meal concept—the kind of gut microbiome you house and each person’s enzyme efficiency. “Gut microbiome and enzyme efficiency are unique for each individual, possibly defined by ethnicity, lifestyle, environment, genetics, health history, and a host of other factors. Your trump card is to identify foods that work best with your gut for maximum absorption of nutrients and are best metabolized by your nascent enzyme system. If 80 percent of your diet includes these foods, your body forgives those few cheat meals a week,” says Menon.
Not a fad
Unlike fad diets, this is just pure science. “Your residual foods need not be only wheat or dairy or sugar. It could be nuts, fish or fruit. Healthy for one need not be healthy for all,” says Menon. Therefore, it is important to find out what suits you.
“Validating what you understand by mapping it against what works for your body is the key to understanding one’s food pyramid,” says Menon. The way to understand your food pyramid is by working towards evaluating how food groups work towards a good gut, what promotes hormonal balance, what reduces inflammation, and what regulates stress. This then keeps your blood markers, nutritional sufficiency, and health in order. “If you cannot do this on your own, invest in professional help, but an evaluation is important if you scientifically want to understand your body better,” shares Menon.
You cannot always be in doubt about your food and what you should eat and in guilt over every cheat meal. “That’s not healthy, that’s just mind-muddle. Mental wellness is as important as physical health. Being able to eat what you like, socialize, and have fun with food is all a part of feeling well,” says Menon. So, cheat meals need to be an important part of your life.