New Delhi:We know that gorging on chocolates and cakes is unhealthy, we know we should sleep early, and we also know we should exercise to stay fit and healthy. Munmun Ganeriwal, Celebrity Nutritionist in her latest book 'Yuktahaar: The Belly And Brain Diet' portrays an example of "Pandava Gita, Duryodhana", on how we are unable to bridge the gap between 'knowing' and 'doing'.
From the book, "According to Pandava Gita, Duryodhana was once asked how, in spite of belonging to a great lineage and being taught by enlightened gurus, he did such horrendous things. To this, Duryodhana replied, 'I know what dharma (righteousness) is, yet I cannot get myself to follow it! I know what adharma is, yet I cannot retire from it!'"
Trying to bridge the gap between 'knowing' and 'doing' Munmun speaks about combining traditional Indian foods, ancient Indian Yogic practices, and Ayurveda principles with gut microbiota study to understand and fight obesity and other diseases.
Why is it so easy to gain weight and so difficult to lose it?
Munmun: I would beg to differ. If one asks those who desire to gain weight, then one can realise that it can be equally difficult for them, if not more. Weight gain or weight loss ultimately comes down to body metabolism. Once body metabolism starts functioning optimally, one can start to lose or gain weight effortlessly as a by-product.
You mention in your book that depression can be caused by an unhappy gut. What is the relationship between them?
Munmun: Well, our belly and brain interact with each other continuously without us having an inkling of it. The trillions of microbes in our gut-our gut microbiome-is at the centre-stage of this interaction, so to speak. If we don't eat right and fail to nourish these microbes dwelling inside us, then their unhappiness may manifest in the form of symptoms like anxiety and depression for us. In the public consciousness, depression is still treated exclusively as a mental health issue but in reality, it may be the result of an imbalanced gut microbiome.
How can I maintain a healthy gut?
Munmun: The strategy for maintaining a gut that is healthy is quite different from what it takes to repair or rebuild a gut that has gone awry due to our modern diet and lifestyle. Out of the many things that I have listed in the book, one is about food diversity. One of the best-known ways to maintain our gut ecosystem is to eat a wide variety of different foods. Even if you are eating a wholesome, balanced diet with whole grains, lentils, fruits, veggies, etc., but if they are the same few kinds all the time, the diversity of your microbiome and your health will get compromised. Variety is key.
Can you explain why everything we know about calories is incorrect?
Munmun: Counting calories is a very flawed and outdated concept. Modern science has proved beyond doubt that the calories we eat differ wildly from the calories we actually extract. Depending on the composition of their gut bacteria, different individuals yield different numbers of calories from a diet that is exactly the same, both in terms of food and quantity. This may partly explain why some people tend to put on 'extra' weight, even though they don't eat more than somebody else who is lean. Also, when one takes the calorie approach, they overlook the fact that calories are not equal; they differ in nutritional quality according to their source.
For example, all kinds of dietary fats carry the same calories per gram, but they can influence health in different ways. Trans-fats are known to increase the risk of heart diseases, whereas monounsaturated fats have the opposite effect. When you focus on calories and plan your meals thinking it will benefit you, you are actually riding on the wrong bus thinking that it will take you to your desired destination.
In a world of perfectionism, is slim is thought to be beautiful and fat to be ugly? What are your thoughts on the matter?
Munmun: In our world of perfectionism, we are losing objectivity. Objectivity is to take things as is, without superimposing extra value. Giving extra value to something and considering it more valuable often leads to chaos and disturbances of the mind. Are our body and health important? Yes.
It is important so that we can live a disease-free life, can accomplish all our goals, and can also enjoy the pleasures of life. That's its real value. Superimposition is when you think getting slim is going to solve all problems in life and will make you happy. As a result, you end up continuously chasing a slim and thin body and still wonder why is it that you are never happy with your physical self. Our bodies are mere tools that you should work at refining so that they can work for you vs against you. Anything more than that is the apparent or superimposed value fed to you by the media.
How does TBBD operate?
Munmun: TBBD is the only programme in the world that combines traditional Indian foods, ancient Indian yogic practises and Ayurveda principles with gut microbiota study to understand and fight obesity and other diseases. It is a three-phased programme spread across 10 weeks and focuses on improving the balance and diversity of our microbial community. This in turn leads to better metabolism, immunity, health, moods, brain function and yes, weight loss.