Hello, Health

Why we need to stop living in fear of food

Make it your new year resolution to enjoy the food you eat instead of running after other unreachable fitness goals.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   12-01-2019
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It worries me that people are beginning to fear most foods, and are worshipping others. The foods in both these lists — the feared and the revered — keep changing at an alarming speed. 

The same food can be on the good list one day and banished to the bad list even before you get used to plating it enough.

Obviously this kind of food paranoia (or even obsession) — either eating too much of a food or completely avoiding it — is not doing any of us any good. The problem stems from the fact that we have more choices now than ever before, and a plethora of information about them from all quarters. This can be, and is, totally overwhelming.

Recently a client told me that she wanted to give up milk forever as it was making her bones weak.

I was aghast — "Hello, come again!"

main_milk_011219024534.jpgGiving up as it makes bones weak? Please think twice before you believe such detritus (Photo: Reuters)

She then told me that she had read somewhere that it makes our body acidic and that can lead to calcium loss from our bones. No,w this is news to a nutritionist like me. Milk only if consumed in absurdly excessive quantities may lead to a condition called milk-alkali syndrome, which doesn’t usually happen. Moreover, this condition is more commonly caused by overconsumption of calcium supplements — rather than drinking milk. In fact, calcium deficiency — because of avoiding dairy products — is far more prevalent than the milk-alkali syndrome.

main_woman-eating_011219024918.jpgEat food for nourishment — not for defying age or get a size-zero figure or achieve immortality (Photo: Reuters)

Half my time is still spent convincing nearly 75 per cent of my clients that egg yolk, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and banana are not their enemies. And that coconut water is not a high calorie, bad-for-them food. All the above mentioned foods are an important part of a balanced diet.

However, my clients are so blinded and sidetracked by what they have read or heard that convincing takes time.

It is the same case with those who blindly and strictly follow fad diets, intermittently fast for long hours, get on-and-off the keto wagon, eliminate gluten (without any allergy-issues), those who want to switch to cooking only in ghee and consume it in large quantities (since it is ‘good’ for us, right?), the wannabe vegans (who want to mimic certain celebs without even trying to figure out how they would maintain the diet with their busy lifestyle and resources) — the list of confused eaters is endless. Amidst this, their indecision, questions and doubts is driving them mad — and definitely not helping them with their health. 

This silly pursuit of pseudo wellness, 'obsessive clean eating', and following just any information from any source promising weight loss, turning to the internet for quick diagnosis and solutions, listening to people who talk about food without any scientific backing is turning many people really unhealthy from inside — no matter what they look externally.  

Also, this is fuelling a kind of paranoia that is messing up our relationship with food. The fear of food, or being dogmatic about any kind of diet, or considering a particular food (chia seeds for example) as one's only saviour is rampant.

This obsession with wellness and a herd-mentality of following a diet because one's friend/colleague/neighbour is stressing people out, giving them anxiety, and an ill-placed feeling of competitiveness (like the feeling to post something new and healthy on social media) and making them neurotic. It is fuelling a new kind of psychological disorder that is not really there in the text textbooks yet — but is very debilitating.

The solution

How does one eat responsibly?

I have just one advice — follow constructive self-care. I will say it again — the only rule that works is moderation and common sense eating.

No need to over (and over) analyse food. Consider food as nourishment — not as a means to some kind of an age-defying, super-thinning, beautifying tool.

Eat food to enjoy it. Only then will it work.

Also read: Three tricks to help you lose weight as you get older


Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer 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) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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