Weight gain, sleep deprivation, love for junk food, incontrollable ordering in and hoarding habits; and to top it all the stress to stay in shape. Every millennial today can relate to these issues, and despite constant Google searches and trying every hack, the most important question here is – why does nothing work? Therefore, to answer all these questions, and most importantly to debunk some health-related myths, we spoke to Dr Siddhant Bhargava, a lifestyle medicine expert, nutritionist and co-founder of Food Darzee.
Dr Bhargava completed his MBBS from Nair Hospital in Mumbai back in 2017 and later started Food Darzee, with an aim to deliver tailor-made nutritious food and offer nutrition related consultation. Besides running a successful startup and managing a long list of celebrity clientele, he spends his time on Instagram, busting some of the most common health related myths.
1. Myth: Eating less helps you lose weight
The biggest reason behind weight gain is overeating because people munch on mindlessly, for example - at times while watching something they end up having 10 tablespoons of makhanas (foxnuts) instead of two. Another reason is undereating which makes your body used to eating lesser calories, as it starts thinking that this is its new normal. For example, after days of undereating, if on a 10-day vacation, you suddenly start hogging on pizzas, pastas, and doughnuts, it becomes unnatural for the body hence making it gain weight in that period. But here it's actually the undereating that's the culprit as it reduces your metabolism. Third is lack of protein, especially in a vegetarian diet, and lastly, eating things which are not required.
2. Myth: Ghee is extremely healthy
People fall into weird traps in the name of health, one such being eating just jowar ki bhakri (sorghum flatbread) with lot of ghee on it. Ghee is not magic. There is no proven research that having ghee will lubricate your joints and make them good. Eating 10 spoons of ghee is not good but applying it to your scalp, skin or lips is great because it is a good moisturiser and a good source of fat. It's okay to apply ghee on roti but doesn't mean you empty the whole bottle in the name of health. Eating high-calorie food which has been propagated as extremely healthy is another reason for people to put on weight.
3. Myth: Eating salads at night will work
Not just youngsters but even the elderly often complain that they are eating one chapati, a little vegetable, and lots of salads at lunch, and only soups and salads for dinner, but are still not able to reduce their waist size despite the weight remaining constant. Just to see the correct number on scale they cut the food quantity down. They think it's healthy to have a light dinner in the form of salad, but what they don't realise is that they are not getting any proteins, good fats, or enough carbohydrate, that in turn is making their metabolic rate fall drastically, damaging their body and making them age faster.
4. Myth: Blindly following someone's diet will work for you
The definition of healthy is different for different people. If for you getting healthy is to not weigh 100 kilograms, then having jowar ki bhakri with ghee will never let you lose weight. If your target is to lose weight the only thing you need to be concerned about right now is eating less than what your body needs. If it's to put on muscle and look toned, you need to eat more protein than what you were eating earlier. Similarly, if you want to age slower and have healthy skin and hair, you have to eat lots of healthy antioxidants and fats with anti-inflammatory properties. Understand what health means to you and work towards it.
5. Myth: You must have greens and fruits everyday
Your food can't just be potato and rice because that’s the most incomplete meal as you are eating only carbohydrates. So, replace one spoon of rice with greens and two spoons of potato with lentils, to make it a much healthier meal. Certain fruits have certain properties which are essential to us, but it doesn't matter if you don’t want to eat an apple or a banana a day, you can get those vitamins and minerals from something else. But if you are not a vegetable, fruit or a lentil person, it won't take you anywhere. It's okay to hate leaves, but certain greens are essential because your vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, fiber, all comes though greens for which there is no replacement.
6. Myth: You must start your day with lemon water
If you want to drink apple cider vinegar or your doctors have advised you, then drink it for its real medicinal properties but not for the wrong reasons. Similarly, just having lemon water and honey every day, doesn't help you lose weight, but is a great combination to have for vitamin C and to control acidity. In fact, age-old drinks such as, methi jeera paani (Fenugreek cumin water) and methi sauf paani (Fenugreek fennel water), play a role in regulating things within your body, and the Indian spices are extremely potent in reducing inflammatory levels in your body, as they have a lot of antioxidants. However, those who drink these thinking that they help in losing weight don't realise that it's actually because they are also dieting on the side. Therefore, as a result of Chinese whispers, myths like these degrade the real benefits of these wonderful drinks.
7. Myth: You must give up on junk food
You can lose weight without giving up on junk food, just by moderating it a little, because having junk food every day won't let you lose weight. But it's fine to have it once a week as it is simple mathematics. The entire game of weight loss has nothing to do with meal timings. If every single day you eat lesser than what your body needs, you will lose weight, but if you eat more than what it needs you will put on weight. So, it's important to calculate a weekly average of consuming calories minus burning them. The bigger the difference the faster the weight loss, the smaller the difference the lesser the weight loss.
8. Myth: Ordering in is the main culprit
You need to create a simple routine for yourself, ordering in doesn’t mean you have to order in from the best Chinese restaurant there is because their job is to make food tasty, and fat makes food tasty. So, if you are staying alone and don't have time to cook, instruct your house help, but have some home cooked meal in a week. You can make do with ordering a Subway sandwich or salad everyday if it has low calorie sauces, and chicken breast filling, but make sure to avoid cookies or soda. Similarly, if you are having the oiliest gravy from outside, just pull out the chicken pieces and eat it with roti and avoid the gravy.
9. Myth: You need to eat timely
Meal timings and eating five times a day both are not important. It's okay to eat just eat three times a day. If you skip dinner five times a week, you can put all those missing calories in a different meal through the day. If you have had a heavy breakfast and heavy lunch, it's fine to skip dinner. It's just another way of doing intermittent fasting. So, there's no issue with skipping meals, you just need to compensate in a different meal, because skipping meals without compensating on the lost calories reduces your metabolic rate.
10. Myth: Stop satiating your sweet tooth
Having homemade mithai or buying ones with lesser calories and sugar is one way to lose weight. But if any of this is not possible, then understand the game of mathematics. For example, if you want to eat two gulab jamuns on Sunday evening, then don't go for the Sunday buffet breakfast. If you want to eat chocolate pastry at a party, then don’t drink that one extra glass of alcohol or on the flip side if you know you want to get drunk that day, don’t overeat. You can lose weight eating everything as long as you are compensating in the right ways, but don’t stretch this compensation too far as it's not going to take you anywhere, eventually it's going to hit you back.
11. Myth: Pepsi, Coke, a complete No
The only problem with sodas is that they are really high on sugar and give you unwanted calories. So, it's better to go for Diet Coke or Pepsi Light, which you can consume in moderation, but don't get addicted because that's when it becomes an issue. A little bit for fun is fine but don't be dependent on it. It's important to have distractions, but you need to ration it out and learn from it.
12: Myth: Working out for hours is a must
You need to spend 20 minutes everyday building muscle and then whatever you do is a bonus. If you don't have time, you can still do some kind of resistance training like 50 pushups and 50 squats, walking uphill, walking on a treadmill or incline, cycling, going to the gym, or using resistance bands,. Whatever extra you do is only going to benefit you, but you don’t need to workout for two hours every day in order to achieve fitness. From a long-term point of view, you have to choose something that is sustainable for you. There is no denying that sports people are healthy, but just playing badminton every day doesn't help you build muscle. Though it does help you burn calories and makes your heart muscles healthy.
13. Myth: Early to bed early to rise is the key
There is no evidence that people who work through the night are in reality unhealthier than people who work through the day. However, being associated with an unhealthy lifestyle such as drinking a lot of coffee is a different case. Sleep timings don’t matter, do whatever makes you happy and satisfied, and fits into your schedule. It's important to sleep for seven hours because you recover when you sleep, and your circadian rhythm resets based on what part of the world you are living in. But there is also something known as REM and non-REM sleep. If you have completed a cycle of REM and non-REM sleep and woken up after they have ended, no matter how many hours you sleep you will wake up fresh. Some people can sleep for five hours, complete their cycle and wake up fresh whereas some can sleep for six hours and wake up groggy, because their cycle of sleep has been interrupted.
14. Myth: No sleep at night is equal to insomnia
Clinical insomnia is real, but many people have brought upon themselves a feeling of pseudo insomnia because they are not listening to their body. The fear of missing out on talking to a friend at 2.30 am because that’s the only time they have free after a hectic day does make one compromise on sleep. So, when people say they have difficulty in sleeping, it's not because their body is not tired and is not wanting to sleep, but they have pushed it to get tired at a later time due to which they are not able to have enough sleep.