The pandemic and the resultant negative side effects, both physical as well as psychological have led to a big mess up of our eating habits.
Stress is a huge factor governing our lives these days, and unfortunately stress, a lot many times governs our choice of food too.
Emotional eating, comfort eating, more reliance on processed, packaged foods are common fallouts of emotionally distressing times (like now).
To confuse matters further there are omni present reminders from experts, multiple advisories in media and even self realisation about the need to eat healthy and lose weight to have a shot to avoid, and if not that, at least beat the virus with minimal damage.
This had led to a dichotomy, split thinking in the mind - where people are getting torn between both extremes (healthy eating vs comfort eating) and following both by rotation.
People are eating in cycles - eating poorly for a few days trying to beat stress, then guilt takes over and they eat insipid food (‘coz they mistakenly think that is healthy) for the next few days.
And the cycle goes on, only causing damage, no benefit at all, and probably a lot of extra pounds too.
Then there is another form of terrible eating that causes instant mess up. I know someone (actually a whole lot of them) who ends up eating a big bar of chocolate or a packet of chips just 20 minutes after a diet meal of say stir fried mushrooms and a watery soup.
Whatever she tries saving Calorie wise at the meal goes inside her doubled or tripled up sooner than later as a snack - minus the satisfaction (and nutrients) of a decent healthy and happy meal. Plus she gets burdened with a hefty dose of loaded guilt too.
I say why do this? Besides the calorie mess up, the damage the guilt does is best avoided. Guilt after all is a very negative emotion and can single handedly derail any (even well intentioned) weight loss regime.
I am seeing all this so often these days, and in so many people, that I felt this needed to be flagged and written about.
So What’s the Solution?
Simple! Eat sensibly. Prefer happiness over hunger. Follow a happy diet to lose weight and to stay healthy.
Truth is we are hard-wired to enjoy food–it’s a survival mechanism. So throwing down food that you despise is not likely to do much good. Human tongue has about 10,000 taste buds.
And unless you are a heavy smoker or have an allergy, a cold or the flu, all are functional 24/7! If you ignore the taste of your food, you’ll end up annoyed and still hungry, and searching through your hidden stash of junk food.
In fact it doesn’t make sense NutrientWise too! Foods that are deemed unfamiliar or unappetising (mush rather than solid food with textural, shape and colour variations) translate into less nutrition than foods that look, smell and taste good.
When you eat food that has appetising aromas and appearance the brain gets a message that the meal will be enjoyable.
So it responds by pushing the salivary glands into high gear and ordering the stomach to secrete more gastric juices, leading to better absorption of nutrients.
This does not happen with unappealing food (that you are dreading to eat any way), so those are less thoroughly digested and metabolised.
So follow these two basic rules to create your own ‘happy diet’ now – a strategy that’s guaranteed to work!
To Please Your Taste Buds
Stop trying to stay healthy through a tasteless diet. It won’t work simply because you won’t be able to sustain it.
Stop yo-yoing between eating dutifully (food supposedly good for you) and rebelliously (devouring a repeated servings of gulab jamuns to make up for that last insipid meal).
But of course…
This doesn’t mean you fashion your staple diet out of foods that do not even meet the minimum nutritional standards and cross over your calorie requirement mark by leaps.
Rather work towards creating a healthy balance, and carefully put together foods that you ‘do like’ into interesting menus.
It’s okay to enjoy all foods as long as you follow the moderation path.
And trust me the only way to lose weight sustainably is by following a good, sensible diet for a long term, not getting back to it every few days or weeks.
Plus if you’re finding your diet a bit tasteless, investigate and focus on keeping your palate happy, as only then will you be able to sustain the healthy eating plan.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)