Fall in love with food, says nutritionist-author

Fear not, food is a friend not the foe that stalks flabby nightmares. The more one eats, the more one burns, says Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija.

Makhija, a food guide to the likes of Sushmita Sen and Himangini Singh Yadu, who was June 16 crowned Miss Asia-Pacific World 2012, said: “Today the perceived form of food is calories, fat, more fat and cholesterol.”

“Food has become an enemy, it sparks fear. Food has lost its root purpose of serving as fuel for the body,”  Makhija told IANS at the launch of her book “Eat. Delete: How To Get Off the Weight Loss Cycle For Good (Harper-Collins India)” in the capital Tuesday.

All of us try not to give in “to the love of food”, said the nutritionist, who has counselled nearly 15,000 people in the last 10 years.

About 98 percent of her patients are women and are young.

“Food drives us. The purpose of writing the book is to make readers fall in love with food again. The more one eats, the more one deletes. You can eat only that much you can burn off...It is a natural mechanism,” Makhija said.

Describing the dynamics of food, Makhija said the process of burning calories was linked “to something known the Basal Metabolic Rate or the BMR”.

“The more you eat, the more BMR fuels (burns). The process of digestion itself is burning of calories. I have taken the mind-body approach to food in my book with help from (leading psychiatrist) Anjali Chhabria,” Makhija said.

The barriers in guiltless eating are numerous, Makhija said.

“Many people don't want to disclose that they are in a weight loss programme. I have tried to get into the mind of a person who is trying to loose weight,” she said.

“We must learn to look at food before learning to cook,” the nutritionist said.
“It depends on the kind of relationship one has with food. You can have three kinds of relationship with food: the daily diet of dal-sabzi-roti-chawal (the regular Indian platter) is one's best friend. Chocolate and sweetmeats can be one's good friends to be visited occasionally while fried food and mutton are one's acquaintances to be met rarely,” she explained.

“Once a person gets the relationship with food right, eating is no longer troublesome,” she said.

Makhija also denounces the “quick fix approach” to food and losing weight.
In her book, she takes pains to remove misconceptions about weight loss and crash diets by guiding readers through the semantics of food.

Know your food, exert the mind on the platter, understand your mind, trust your body, eat and move to lose weight, the nutritionist advises.

There is an upside to this paranoia about food as well, Makhija said.

“I am seeing lot of people finally becoming aware of food; their relationship with food is changing. Indians have realised the connection of food to health,” the nutritionist said.
She says this awareness about healthy eating has been brought about by the media, books and the “spurt in lifestyle-related health hazards like heart attacks and diabetes”.
Unveiling the book, former supermodel and Bollywood star Sushmita Sen said: “Pooja Makhija is responsible for her current size 6”. Sen said she went to Makhija at a time when the media was abuzz about her weighty frame.

Makhija put her on small bowls of food once a day and a health juice - which she hated drinking. “But it improved my hair, complexion and my mind. I was able to think straight,” Sen said.

“Earlier I looked upon food as a temptation, but I now have a balanced relationship with it. I remember how I started with a bowl in my hand (with Pooja),” Sen told IANS.

As for her favourite platter, the Bengali inside Sen crept out: “I love anything with posto (poppy seeds- a traditional Bengali spice), sorshe maach (fish in mustard sauce) and nalen gurer sandesh (traditional jaggery sweetmeat). My father brings the traditional jaggery savouries from Kolkata...”

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