Why I call the Human brain an “Errant Teenager” when it comes to Food

How the Human brain manipulates our gastric system into eating without us realizing

There is an old saying that, “The mind has a mind of its own”, and it couldn’t be truer when it comes to the issue of eating food. I usually describe the Human brain to my patients as an “Errant teenager” or a person’s “1st Child” because of its ability to completely trample or throw a fit over you when you refrain from eating your favorite food or start a low calorie diet plan sans your usual favorite food.

WRECKER IN CHIEF & THE SIDEKICK

The Human brain has a side kick which is the stomach and it’s very easy for the brain to manipulate the stomach into eating as per its liking. The Human Brain has another major partner in crime which is the human tongue; the moment the brain thinks of its favorite food the tongue goes into hyper salivating mode and rests only when it is satiated. Similarly, the instance when the stomach experiences the growling sensation owing to hunger the tongue gets into its attention mode expecting food in return. The Human tongue is more of a catalyst between the stomach and the brain and the major benefactor between the tussle of the two. There are a few examples through which the above statement of mine can make more relevance”

Scenario 1: Imagine you have had a full body check up a few days ago and now you are at the path lab to collect your reports. You may experience butterflies in your tummy before opening the reports in anticipation. Though we are thinking (BRAIN involved) what the report might say we feel the reaction in the tummy.

Scenario 2: Imagine you are at a party and you have eaten till your stomach can’t adjust more food. Suddenly the host comes and offers you your favorite sweet dish like a brownie with vanilla ice cream/ Gulab jamun / Strawberry cheese cake, etc. Your stomach may prompt you to refuse the offer as the poor fellow has no space left but the mighty Human BRAIN will jump into play saying, “I have made a mental space. YOU EAT IT ❤.” The tongue gets into its active mode too expecting its favorite food to satiate it and the poor stomach becomes powerless over the might of the Brain and over eats.

At times, the stomach influences the Brain functioning too. For example:

Scenario 3: Imagine you are extremely hungry. In that case, you never experience stomach cramps, you usually experience mood changes like lack of concentration, anger, frustration, headaches etc.

Thus, the above examples effectively prove that both the brain and the stomach are partners in crime (highly interlinked at the neuronal level) and reflect in our behavior and choices respectively.

So whenever one engages in a new diet plan (low calorie) and simply avoids all of their favorite food because it is high in calories, the brain starts to think, “Let them follow it for a 1 month or two then I will see how they continue with the Low calorie diet plan. How can they not give me my favorite food? I shall get back to the old eating pattern in no time (evil laughter).”

People in most cases fail to comply with a new diet plan for a long period of time as the brain basically rejects any idea of change. It feels betrayed that the person is not giving the brain the satisfaction of having its favorite food.

Once the person has stopped practicing the new diet plan the brain goes into overdrive mode and prompts the person to eat every favorite food in excessive amounts to make up for the lost time.

So, then what is the way around for changing the diet for losing weight yet not let the brain derail you from your right eating? The Brain has to be simply psychologically manipulated into thinking it has eaten a lot.

I shall throw more light on this in my next piece. For now, dwell in the new found information that the human brain takes you for a ride regarding eating wrong most of the times without you realizing.

FROM NO FAT TO HIGH FAT – KETO DIET

How a keto diet helps in losing weight, blood sugar control and more.

Over the centuries, fat was treated as the untouchable product owing to its major role in Weight gain, heart disease, etc. Eating it with utmost caution was almost next to breathing for most of the people.

Then times in food tech changed! Fat which was, till the recent past, a major villain suddenly removed his mask and proved that he is not the villain anymore but a silent superhero who went unnoticed owing to the perception of the people (The boy next door as “Spiderman”). 

My reference here is to the recent trends of practicing the Keto diet which is being slowly and steadily picking up its niche in the health industry owing to the desired results it is able to achieve.

The other way of putting it is that the horse (Fat) which could never win the race (losing weight) suddenly became the underdog who won race after race – weight loss, blood sugar control and the list goes on!

What is a Keto diet?

Keto diets are generally very low in carbohydrates and high on fat content. There are constant revisions happening at the research level about the definition of a keto diet but in the general scenario it is a very low carbohydrate diet with moderate protein and high fat, involving consumption of less than 50 gm of carbohydrate per day. 75% of energy needs comes from fat, 20% from protein and 5 % from Carbohydrate respectively.

How does a Keto diet work?

The explanation with a simple example can be as follows:

We all have a particular set road to travel to work or home which we have been taking for many years. Imagine if that road is blocked due to an upcoming metro construction / flyover construction for about 3 months and you have to take an alternate road to travel to work or home. It is a road less travelled but it gets you to your destination before time. 

Our body works in a similar fashion. The Indian diet is traditionally a high Carbohydrate low protein and low fat diet which we have been consuming for generations. Once you stop or restrict the consumption of carbohydrate as the base fuel for the energy needs and replace the carbohydrate with fat, the body starts utilizing it as an alternative source of fuel for energy provision which comes from the break-down of fat.

This breakdown of fat in scientific terms is called as ketosis. During this metabolic state of ketosis the body becomes highly efficient at utilizing fat for energy. This is exactly what Keto diet is all about. 

How much restriction of Carbohydrate is needed?

As with any dietary approach it varies from person to person. Some may achieve the desired ketone levels by consuming 70 gms of Carbohydrate, while for some restricting it to further 30 gms or even 20 gms might be essential to get the desired results.

Why should one follow the Keto diet?

People who wish to lose weight, control their sugars (in case of diabetes) or improve the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOD) or simply wish to have a general better health can adopt the keto diet.

But as with any dietary approaches it has its own pros and cons too.

Pros:

Losing weight is easier: Many scientific studies are now proving the effectiveness of weight loss due to the adoption of keto diet. Though debatable amongst some experts, keto diet has shown to have increased fat breakdown (lipolysis), increased feeling of satiety and decreased levels of insulin  which seem to work in favor of the recommendation of keto diet.

Blood sugar control is better: The most crucial factor in the management of diabetes is Blood sugar control. Long term uncontrolled levels of Blood sugar have been associated with weight gain, Hypertension, Kidney disorders, neuronal problems etc.

Following a keto diet is an effective way to reduce post meal blood sugar response ideally associated with consumption of a high Carb meal. Scientific studies have associated keto diet with improved insulin sensitivity, reduction in oral diabetic medication consumption, higher probability of weight loss etc.

Improved lipid levels of your heart: Since the keto diet is high on fat the alarm bells instantly start ringing in our head as fat has been subjected to be the villain for centuries.

One doesn’t need to worry as you will be eating healthy fat options such as olive oil, walnuts, pistachios, coconut oil, avocados etc. Some studies have highlighted that keto diets may lead to a drop in the triglyceride levels (VLDL) and increase in the good cholesterol (HDL).

Cons:

The bad cholesterol (LDL) may increase a little: This fact is slightly debatable as in few studies the people experienced an increase in the LDL levels other few experienced decreased levels or no change at all.

Constipation is likely: Since there is very limited carb intake one may experience constipation sometimes. One way to avoid it is drinking fluids at regular intervals 

Limitation of food options: Since our diet has been, for a very long time, rich in variety of foods like rice, rotis, pastas, pizzas, breads, sweets, fruits, etc, a sudden change in the eating pattern to a keto diet may feel very restrictive. Though a lot of alternative options are available as replacement but the mind still craves for the original versions.

Nowadays people are extremely health conscious and taking extra efforts to be on the right diet. Many of the corporate working class find it difficult to manage their health goals due to lack of availability of healthy meals in their respective canteens. It is in such times that ordering food from a kitchen which specializes in keto food comes handy and offers you a lot of variety. 

My go to place for ordering keto special meals is 3SqrMeals as they provide a wide variety of options for both vegetarians and non vegetarians through their customized meal provision plans. One of my personal favourite from their menu is the Keto Palak khichdi with Tofu and cauliflower with mixed seed crackers3SqrMeals provides timely services that takes care of minute details of nutrition and curates menus to suit your fitness goal.

Keto Andhra Chilly Paneer & Cabbage Porial
Keto Non veg Lasagne

Meals are delivered to you for Lunch / Dinner, ensuring the freshest ingredients, the right portion control while ensuring great taste and have an extensive variety of cuisines. You even have the liberty to pick from a plan to suit your fitness goal and enjoy nutritious meals everyday. 3SqrMeals offer a variety of subscription plans – BalancedKeto (High Fat, Low Carb, Adequate Protein)Low Carb High ProteinZero Carb High Protein, & Personalized 3 meals per day.

Since you might already be salivating due to the above mentioned dishes here are a few “Do It Yourself” (DIY) recipes which you can try in your kitchen and make taste for keto plans:

Chocolate Almond Milkshake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Almond Milk
  • 1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 -3 drops of Stevia
  • 2 Tbsp chia /Sabja seeds (Soaked in water for over 2 hours)

How to Prepare:

  1. Blend the cocoa powder with almond milk and put the chia seeds at the bottom of the glass and pour the blended shake into the glass.
  2. Drink it with breakfast or post workout

Almond Flour and Coconut Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour (easily available online at flipkart/ amazon)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of shredded coconut
  • 3-4 drops of stevia
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or any other liquid oil)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

How to Prepare:

  1. Preheat a pan over medium-low heat on the stove. As it heats, take a bowl and mix in together the almond flour, eggs, shredded coconut, olive oil, baking powder, vanilla, and salt. The consistency of the pancake batter may appear slightly thicker than the usual pancake batter.
  2. Grease the preheated pan with butter or olive oil, and then pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of the batter into the centre of the pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter out into a round pancake shape, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.
  3. Cook until little bubbles start to form around the edges of the pancake, and flip the pancake once you feel it has decent browning on one side (about 3 to 4 minutes of cooking time), use a spatula to flip the pancake and cook the other side, about 2 to 3 more minutes.
  4. Repeat the same process for the rest of the batter until all of the pancakes are cooked.

In summary, having a keto diet is a matter of personal choice. The benefits of it certainly supersede the drawbacks. And just as in medicine, never self medicate (random crash diets), always adopt it under expert advice (Doctors/ Nutritionist). It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Happy eating!!

This write up was 1st published on 3Sqrmeals

My journey from Flab to Flab-u-less

How my struggle to become slim lead me to be the guiding force for people like me who are struggling with weight issues.

My Weight loss journey

Being a consultant Nutritionist, the majority of patients I come across are the ones struggling to lose weight via any means owing to different reasons, namely:

“My wedding is in 2 months I need instant Weight loss”, “My Doctor recommended me to lose weight for better sugar control”, “I want to get pregnant and my Gynecologist has advised me that I need to lose weight”, “I wanna fit into my designer dress so I need to drop my inches”, “I have an upcoming international vacation need quick weight loss” and the list goes on.

Weight loss is an extremely close issue to my heart as I have faced the consequences of being over-weight and hence easily empathize with my patients’ struggles and psychological issues.

Each time I hear a reason to lose weight, I am transported back to the year 2005 (like the time heist in Avengers Endgame movie) when I was fat. In my early teens, I was a chubby girl (somehow being “fat” was found to be “healthy” as per the thought processes of my near dear ones).

When it came to eating, I never had a large appetite but somehow, it felt as if even the air that I breathe is making me fat. For me, when I saw myself in the mirror, I felt like a buffalo or a wine barrel (sans curves).

HOW A CLASSICAL DANCER TURNED FAT

When I weighed 60 kg (132.3 lbs)

I was a Classical dancer of the Indian Dance form “Bharatanatyam” from the age of 8 till the age of 14. But when I entered my 10th standard in school (aged 15) considering the due importance of the board exams year I quit my dance classes owing to obvious reasons.

As most of us are aware, quitting any form of exercise leads to weight gain over a period of time and my case was no different. Slowly and steadily year by year after 2000, I started gaining pounds and without much realization, voila, by 2005 I was 60 kg (132.3 lbs) standing 156 cm tall; a whole 9 kg (19.8 lbs) overweight for my height.

BEING CONSCIOUS AND LOW ON CONFIDENCE

I started to get conscious about the extra flab everywhere. My jeans size went from 28” in 2000 to 34” in 2005. One can imagine my shock when the realization dawned upon me that I was FAT with a whole lot of flab oozing out from everywhere.

I started wearing loose clothes, quit wearing pants with short tops to avoid judgmental/snide remarks on my body type. Body shamming is a very common phenomenon among peer groups and relatives when a person is overweight, which I certainly wanted to avoid.

TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT — FIRST ATTEMPT & HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

After a lot of deliberation, I finally came to the conclusion that its time to hit the gym and knock off those extra pounds. I was in for another shock when I went to the gym to register my self for a year. My mom, back then in her early 40’s, checked her weight and she weighed a freaking 4 kg (8.81 lbs) lesser than me (My 1st Heart break as I recall).

The tryst with the Gym (Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash)

So my daily tryst with the gym started and like everyone else, I did not have the wisdom to visit a Nutritionist thinking it’s unnecessary as I can simply knock off the extra flab by going on a salad diet.

It killed me everyday to see my family eating a sumptuous Indian meal while I sat like a rabbit nibbling from my bowl of salad. Though my mother constantly pestered me to eat at least 1 Chapati (Indian bread) with some vegetables but the stubborn teenager in me didn’t pay heed to her valuable advice. So a year passed by in the gym and all I lost was 12 months of my life without losing any weight or inches. I was like the cow which never lost weight by eating only grass.

Going on a salad diet ( Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash)

WHAT ACTUALLY WORKED FOR ME

Post this experience, I had hit rock bottom and told myself that it’s no use losing sleep over your weight, just concentrate on your studies. Luckily, I was studying Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics and slowly it became clearer to me that starving would never get me my weight loss results. The trick behind a good weight loss was:

1. Stick to home cooked food (Mom’s are the best Nutritionists in the world)

2. Don’t touch any junk food or colas (save it for a later date when you can freely consume it without feeling guilty about it)

3. Walk more (You save money on transport which you can later use to buy new clothes) and take the stairs whenever possible

4. Don’t binge eat; remember once on the Lips forever on the Hips

5. Learn to say “NO” to food offered by peers/relatives if you feel it may deride you from your healthy diet (May seem rude in the beginning but trust me this mantra works like magic)

6. Lastly and the most importantly, don’t give Weight loss “Bhav” (Importance). It’s the one that worked most for me. The moment you stop obsessing about something, things start falling into their place naturally if you just go about following the right eating practice and increased activity.

So all off the above things became a part of my routine and over a period of 18 months, I lost 15 kg (33.08 lbs) !! And to my embarrassment, I never realized I had lost weight until my friend commented on my clothes one fine day saying, “Your clothes seem like they are on a hanger”. Alas, I had finally lost weight!!

45 kg (99.2 lbs) for the last 11 years!

I had come down from 60 kg (132.3 lbs) to 45 kg (99.2 lbs) and there could not have been a better feeling than going shopping for new clothes as I no longer had to hide behind loose fitted clothes. Weight loss also gave me a new aura of self confidence, better self esteem and positive outlook towards life.

MAINTAINING WEIGHT AFTER WEIGHT LOSS

It’s been 11 years now that my weight has never drifted from 45 kg (99.2 lbs), come what may. Now my near and dear ones have a new issue — that I am too thin. They keep telling my mother, “Isko kuch khilao” (feed her something).

So my advice to anyone looking to lose weight is that you take ample time to lose weight as the longer you take to lose weight the better chances of maintaining the lost weight. 

Lastly, If I can lose my inches/weight, then anyone can. Be careful not to fall into the trap of instant weight loss plans which may give you quick results but the weight may come back soon again and you would, in the meantime, lose your precious time and develop a big hole in your pocket. 

You simply need the right guidance and motivational support to get you to your goals.

Eat your way to health this Monsoon

Do these things to avoid falling ill.

The advent of the cool showers of the monsoon becomes a welcome change after a bout of the blistering heat of the summers. But the change in the weather also comes along with a host of health issues such as typhoid, dengue, conjunctivitis etc.

Thus most monsoon-related health issues can be avoided by making healthy food choices and making a deliberate effort to not eat from outside. It is extremely important to maintain hygienic habits in order to prevent the unlikely event of falling ill during the monsoons.

So, be it from drinking water to avoiding eating raw veggies for a few days, these corrective measures can ensure that you remain healthy.

Vitamin “W” –Drink Boiled Water

Though drinking boiled water might seem extremely difficult for many people it is one of the steps towards ensuring your system is clean and free from any kind of water born bacteria. Boiling kills any waterborne bacteria and keeps your system clean in turn helping oneself from succumbing to any waterborne diseases.

Drink Soups and Herbal Teas:

The human mind automatically associates monsoon with getting to eat something piping hot. The sight of watching the rains while sitting by the window side and sipping a hot cup of Ginger tea or a hot cuppa of soup has been everyone’s dream. Soups are a quick and healthy meal snack choice for monsoons. They are highly nutritious, easy to digest, and good to derive strength.

If you are consuming milk based soups it not only increases the protein content of the soup, resulting in providing one with ample satiety, but also aids in losing weight. Adding ginger, garlic, and black pepper to your soup can be an excellent idea as these spices improve the taste of the soup and are excellent immune boosters for the system.

On the other hand, drinking herbal teas boosts your immune system, helps in reducing pain and soreness, improves your digestive system, helps in preventing chronic diseases and stimulates brain function.

And the best part of it is that it is calorie free thus one can easily consume up to 5–6 cups of herbal tea per day without worrying about the calorie intake. Some examples of herbal tea are Chamomile tea, Peppermint tea, Ginger tea, Green tea, Hibiscus tea, Echinacea tea, Sage tea, etc.

Consume seasonal fruits and vegetables as they are rich in Antioxidants

Eating seasonal fruits and veggies like pomegranates, plums, pears, carrots, radish etc is highly recommended as they extremely rich in antioxidants. It’s important for the body to eat seasonal fruits and veggies to get accustomed to the climate change and accordingly build up defense mechanisms to prevent one-self from falling sick. Moreover, your body is more likely to get essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from having seasonal foods.

Wash vegetables and fruits well before consumption

Fruits and vegetables are extremely susceptible to developing harmful bacteria during the monsoon season hence it becomes of utmost importance that they are washed thoroughly and then consumed. Stay away from consuming anything raw such as salads or even sprouts, eat something properly cooked instead. Steamed salads can be a preferred option if one is on weight loss regimes.

Avoid Street Food

The site of hot street food like onion pakodas, samosas, aloo bhajjis or for that matter bhelpuri and pani puri is extremely luring for one during monsoon but they can be breeding sites for harmful bacteria which may lead you to fall sick. Thus, keeping yourself away from street food is extremely important from the viewpoint of prevention of falling sick.

Though this advice might be difficult to follow, one can try compensating for it by making the same foods at home under hygienic conditions to prevent any kind of diseases yet enjoying the foods at the same time.

Happy Monsoon!!!!