Battle of the bulge

The Diet Doctor: The Scientifically proven way to lose weight
Ishi Khosla
Penguin
2013, pp 215
250

What sets Ishi Khosla’s The Diet Doctor apart from a whole horde of books on the subject of food, dieting, weight management and the like?

That was the first question that crossed my mind as I flipped through this slim volume that claims to provide insight into “the scientifically proven way to lose weight”. Amongst various pieces of advice, some from published sources and others hearsay, which float around from ear to ear, Ishi Khosla’s voice stands out because she isn’t just telling you what to or what not to eat, but rather, how to eat: to understand your body and body type, set realistic goals, and not altogether do away with food groups, but limit intake where necessary.

In her book, Khosla first determines how much weight one ought to lose by calculating the Body Mass Index or BMI, body fat percentage and distribution, waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio and body shape. It is only after determining what category he or she falls into — normal, overweight, obese etc — does Khosla proceed in giving context, with particular reference to the Indian body type, and its propensity to gain weight and lean more towards obese on the weighing scale.

Some key take-aways from Khosla’s book: It isn’t necessarily the case that the more vegetarian your diet, the healthier you are! Given that the Indian vegetarian diet tends to bring high carbohydrate glycaemic foods (sugars, polished rice, wheat, potatoes etc) into the plate, a diet-conscious person needs to load up on veggies (raw vegetables especially) and combine high glycaemic index foods with low glycaemic index foods such as whole grains, lentils, beans etc. Khosla also suggests that one pre-plate one’s food and follow the ‘half-plate rule’ (where at least half of your plate is filled with vegetables).

Khosla’s book is also accompanied with helpful meal plans detailed to the ‘T’, thus helping one to plan one’s eating schedule through breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food group charts help in determining the exact quantity of each food group required to trigger or initiate weight loss. There’s even a sample meal plan for rapid weight loss — up to 5-6 kg in 2 weeks — that comes with a disclaimer that the diet plan’s success could be rather short lived, given that it is one that rids the body of water and muscle, instead of fat. Once normal eating is resumed, Khosla says, the body fluid is immediately replaced, leading to weight gain.

Khosla is best known for her work on celiac disease — a condition that arises out of wheat intolerance — something that went widely unnoticed till recent years. Aside from her clinic, Khosla also runs a health-based food chain — Whole Foods India — and an online weight management programme. Having authored two other books, her third treatise — The Diet Doctor: The Scientifically Proven Way to Lose Weight — takes a look at the Indian diet, analyses the Indian body type, explains the major food groups and portion control, offers various samples on what she considers to be a balanced meal, and most importantly, teaches one to lose weight in a healthy manner. So, what does the diet doctor finally prescribe? A strong dose of awareness with respect to what’s on one’s plate. Regardless of whether you eat to live or live to eat.

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