Naini Setalvad’s philosophy of good food shuns fad diets in favour of fresh seasonal items which nourish our body and promote overall well-being
These days, we have different diets surfacing all the time! It is so frustrating that it has led to people forgetting how to eat simply. On top of it, I am seeing a rise in the number of people who have such negative concepts about food that they fear it. I am constantly interacting with people who are scared that the food they eat will make them fat, sick, or unhealthy, and they land up missing out on major food groups completely, which contributes to their ill health. It makes me sad because I love food; I think of food, I dream of food, and the cause and effect of food on the body are very important to me.
I am fed up of people coming to me and asking me “Can I do keto?” or “Can you cut out gluten from my diet?” or “Can you give me a low GI diet so that I don’t feel hungry?” or telling me they want to turn vegan. And my personal favourite is “My body needs more protein, so can you increase my protein and remove all carbohydrates?” All I want to tell them is “If you would just eat normally, then you can live well!” Human beings have completely forgotten the art of eating! Sitting at the table peacefully is a thing of the past. They are always obsessing about whether or not a particular food will make them fat or thin, help them build muscle or have a flat stomach, or help them lose body fat or cause them to gain it.
I have observed that many people are eating unconsciously, either because they are busy talking, reading, texting, or they just have their eyes glued to a screen. In the process, they completely fail to absorb the satisfaction that food is meant to give you.
They are not even eating regional or seasonal food, so balanced eating is a completely foreign concept to them. I actually had someone call me the other day to ask me “Can you tell me what a plant-based diet is?” It is at moments like these when I just want to pull my hair out and scream “ARE YOU SERIOUS!” We have grown up in a country where a standard meal is roti (flatbread), sabji (vegetables), daal (lentils), and chawal (rice). Surprise, surprise! These are all derived from plants. They are not made within four walls but out in the open, in sunlight and natural air.
Let me run you through the forgotten art of eating which will help you conquer your fear of food and eat the way Mother Earth intended for you to eat. Please stop being afraid that the food you eat will make you fat, sick, or unhealthy. Eating is really a magical ritual via which we take in various forms of energy from the Universe, which make up our bodies. Let’s sit down with our food in front of us and silently thank the Universe for this food and all the beings that helped to provide this food including the plants and animals, as well as the people that grew it for you. Observe how it looks, its fragrance, and then take a bite and relish the taste. Eat slowly—the food isn’t running away but it will run you!
My philosophy of good food is that one should eat seasonal and regional vegetables and whole grains and pulses that are cooked in good quality fats and lightly spiced. In the last 20 years of having a practice and helping people combat their issues with weight and health through food, I have realised that people have drifted away from good food. They are overeating fatty and processed foods that are full of chemicals. They are too busy supporting foods that are made in plants rather than foods that are made from plants, and all at the expense of their own health and well-being. Aerated drinks, processed foods containing large amounts of sugar and salt, alcohol, as well as the hormone- pumping meat and dairy industry are causing and spreading a wide range of diseases that we do not know how to cope with. Genetically engineered foods, pesticides, and artificial colours are bombing our bodies and minds. Think about it like this: “If the food grows from a plant, eat it; if it doesn’t, don’t!” Fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and pulses grow, which means you can eat them. Factory-made foods simply cannot sustain us.
Jaisa ahaar, waisa vichaar! (We are what we think and what we eat.) So let’s start paying attention to what we put in our bodies because self-care is truly the best care. By the time I was 32 years old, I had reached 160 kilos by abusing my body and filling it with absolute garbage. The first step that I took to fix this was to fuel my body with good food. For me, the results of my new outlook on food reflected very visibly on my total being. My body, which had shifted completely out of balance, was starting to regain wellness. And this is the crux of how I treat my clients and guide them towards a healthier lifestyle. So what I’m really saying is to eat fresh, unprocessed food. It is really delicious, and it satiates you. Deprivation of any food group will cause you to binge with a vengeance.
To be fit, we don’t need fad diets. What we really need is to go back to the art of eating, whereby you feed your body with pure foods because you love your body. Remember, you are great and you deserve to feel wonderful all the time, and food is one of the key ingredients to support life.
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