Jun 16, 2019

Book Review: The Magic Weight Loss Pill by Luke Coutinho and Anushka Shetty

I have been following Luke Coutinho's works for the past couple of years. His thoughts on wellness, nutrition and fitness resonate with me so much. Needless to say, I've become a fan and look forward to his videos on FB/youtube. When he announced his new book "The magic weight loss pill", I was pretty excited and I had pre-ordered a copy.

If you have been listening to his videos regularly (like me), you would definitely hear his voice as you read this book :-)
The focus area of the book is LIFESTYLE and it is prescribed as a magic pill, not just for weight loss but for general fitness, well-being and for a healthy life. The first part of the book covers the four pillars of good health - balanced nutrition, fitness, sleep and emotional detoxification. Many examples and case studies are covered, along with ailments-specific explanations. The second part of the book talks about 62 lifestyle changes, explained in an easy-to-implement manner.

What I loved about this book is the simplicity of the writing. Many concepts like detoxification, hormonal balance, acidity, inflammation, stress response etc are explained in layman terms by demystifying the jargon. The explanation of gut health and how nutrients are absorbed from the large intestine using the fishing net example was just amazing.

Apart from the 62 lifestyle changes, there are quite a bit of takeaways that one can implement in their life, by going through the first part of the book.

A few powerful phrases that made an impact on me:

"Less is more when it comes to the consumption of protein"

"All cravings could just be an unhealthy gut communicating with your brain in the wrong language"

"If you want to eat sweets and junk food, never do so immediately after a workout"

"Using exercise to lose weight or as a remedy to eating the wrong food is the reason why weight loss continues to be the most wanted and yet most elusive goal for most people"

"If I were given a choice between artificial sweetener and white sugar, I would pick the latter because the human body is not designed to break down aspartame."

"Working out for one hour everyday and then sitting for the rest of the days makes you just 4 percent more active than someone who doesn't work out."

The only thing I wish that was different in this book is the structure or the way in which the 62 lifestyle changes are presented. It could have been grouped under the 4 pillars or in some other logical group, so it would be easy for us to relate or remember. Nevertheless, the take-aways are plenty, that this lack of structure doesn't matter much. 

Do pick up this book if you are interested in nutrition, health, fitness and of course, weight loss.

Jun 11, 2019

What's inside packaged milkshakes?

Over the past year or so, there has been a rise in the number of packaged milkshake brands that are being launched in India. At the same time, I also notice the proliferation of milkshake outlets in every nook and corner of Bangalore - Frozen Bottle, Keventers etc. 

What are the factors influencing the growth of milk-based beverages market? What's the growth rate of milk production in the country? How is the local demand trending? Are people shifting from packaged fruit juices to packaged milkshakes/flavored yoghurts etc? Or is it because of flat or declining export demands? Something worth exploring.

As part of my daily news updates, I go through fnbnews to learn about new product launches. I came across this launch announcement a few days back - ITC launches dairy beverages SunFeast Wonderz milk in 4 variants. 

A Bigbasket search for milkshakes shows up at least 7-8 brands of milkshakes with many variants, all of them with the usual promise of "high protein / high calcium / added vitamins & minerals". But a peek into the ingredients list and nutrition facts will clearly show how every single brand is loaded with sugar. Here's a quick comparison of the popular brands.

1. As you can see, each brand contains around 5-6 tsp of sugar per pack. Do note that the nutrition facts table shows values per 100 ml whereas the pack size is either 180ml / 200 ml. We need to be conscious of this fact.

2. The shelf life of all these packs is close to 6 months. How does milk stay fit for consumption for 6 months? Obviously, there are various additives added to increase the shelf life - emulsifiers, stabilizers etc.
3. I have only looked at the vanilla flavors of these brands. The fruit flavors have hardly any real fruit pulp but contain many synthetic food colors and artificial flavors. For example, Sunfeast Wonderz fruit n milk mango flavor emphasizes "mango pulp and bits" in the front label but if you look at the ingredients, mango pulp is ONLY 4% and mango bits are 2.5%. The yellow color comes from synthetic food colors - INS 102 and INS 110.

4. Paperboat uses this tagline "drinks and memories" but I don't remember our mothers/grandmothers adding xanthan gum/guar gum/carrageenan to our milkshakes. Let's not fall for such emotional traps (nostalgia, guilt, fear) being used extensively in marketing these days. 

Most of us have a mixer/blender at home. Let's make milkshakes at home IF we want to drink them. Totally not worth buying these tetra packs of sugar, synthetic colours, artificial flavors and additives.

May 31, 2019

Strawfit Milk Flavouring Straw with Colostrum Review

 A friend of mine messaged me about this product - milk flavouring straws for children who hate milk. One search in Insta shows me how mommy bloggers have been promoting it with such impactful videos showing kids who say no to milk and regular foods but gulping down milk with this straw. Do see a few videos for yourself. Unbelievable! Professional ad makers can go on a sabbatical !! 

What irks me the most is that in all these posts, these mommy bloggers say that these straws are sweetened with stevia. Guess no one bothered to see the ingredients list. 

1. The very first ingredient is sugar. Yes, over 50% of the product is sugar.
2. The selling point "colostrum" is only around 4% in powder form.
3. Maltodextrin is the second listed ingredient. Why is this artificial ingredient needed in a toddler's diet?
4. The pack says no artificial flavours but nature identical flavours are present.

Each pack comes with 30 plastic straws and servings recommended is 2. The pack costs ₹350. Though these straws are portrayed as BPA free, reusable and recyclable, how many straws will be reused? How many will be taken to proper recycling centers?

We are reaching new heights of ridiculousness day by day.

May 21, 2019

Why I write about what not to eat

I have received 3-4 DMs in the past few days asking me to prescribe diet plans for weight loss. And there's one more question which I'm often asked is "Why do you always talk about what not to eat? Why can't you write about foods to eat? Why not talk about healthy packaged foods?"

Since all these questions are related, I thought I would address them as a post.

First and foremost, let's NOT ask random strangers on social media for weight loss diet plans. I believe that diet plans SHOULD only be recommended by qualified medical professionals. These days, a person loses 5 kgs and becomes a fitness influencer. As I wrote earlier, someone who does a nutrition course in Coursera calls himself/herself a certified nutritionist. So let's be extremely cautious of such people who are sprouting on Instagram all the time and not fall for the flat-abs/skin show that they unabashedly "curate" on their feed.

Yes, we can take inspiration from people whose posts/thoughts resonate with us. But we cannot BECOME them. Let's appreciate our individuality and choose foods/diet plans based on what works for us. 

Choosing what to eat is completely up to you, based on numerous factors - your genes, your native cuisine, where you live, foods that agree with your palate and tummy etc. 

I try to post at least one meal pic of mine on Insta on a daily basis. My intention is to spread awareness on the importance of eating fresh, local and traditional foods. Millets, indigenous rice, local veggies and traditional recipes feature regularly in my diet. I'm a South Indian and so my weekly meal plan looks approximately like this - 80% South Indian cuisine, 10-15% North Indian cuisine and 5-10% Non-Indian (pasta, pizza, soups etc). 

Choosing what to eat is quite simple, in my opinion. Eating fresh, homecooked, local, traditional and seasonal - this is the mantra I believe in.

Choosing what to NOT eat is becoming a complex task these days, given the numerous junk-masquerading-as-healthy options prevailing in the market. Also, a crucial part of eating right is NOT to add more and more new foods to our diet, but removing the wrong foods from our diet. Something I spoke about in detail in this post.

"Healthy packaged" foods is an OXYMORON. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. Having analyzed numerous packaged foods available in the Indian supermarkets, I couldn't find any so far. There are small/upcoming brands that are coming up with healthier options, but compared to food corporations, these small brands don't yet have the distribution or production capacities to meet consumer demands at scale. 

There are MANY who write about what to eat, but there's hardly anyone who writes about what NOT to eat. I stopped eating all forms of packaged/junk foods for the past 5-6 years. And this ONE change has brought in a lot of positive effects on my health. And my goal is to spread this message - first eliminate all processed/packaged/junk foods from your diet, then choose foods based on what you believe is healthy.

May 19, 2019

The lost practice of do-nothing

I have been pondering about this topic for the past few weeks, mainly fueled by the books I have read and the people I have met over the past 2 months. 

In Apr, I read this amazing book "Digital minimalism" by Cal Newport, where the chapter on solitude and contemplation left me speechless. I could relate to that chapter so much as I'm someone who keeps jumping from one thing to another all the time. There were hardly any minutes during my day where I did "NOTHING".  I deprived myself of solitude through various distractions. 

Cal defines solitude as

"a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds."

"Being alone with our own thoughts" used to be possible every day around 12-15 years back, while we are waiting in a queue, walking to a nearby store, taking public transport or taking a leisurely stroll in a park. Many times, I have been able to get new ideas/solutions to problems I have been working on while taking a shower or while I cook. 
How much time are we allocating in a day to be with our own thoughts without any devices these days?

When I decided to cut down my smartphone usage after reading Digital Minimalism, I was hoping that I would savor those "do-nothing" moments. But I took to reading big time and all the free times in between my daily responsibilities went to reading new books. Nothing wrong in reading as a habit, for it has given me opportunities to read some interesting books lately. But it is also a form of "Consumption", where we are engrossed in the opinions and thoughts of the authors ("inputs from other minds").

In "The One-Straw Revolution", Masanobu Fukuoka writes,

"Originally people would look into a starry night sky and feel awe at the vastness of the universe. Now questions of time and space are left entirely to the consideration of scientists"

How true this statement is! While in college days, I used to lie down on the terrace floor and just look at the night sky, feel the gentle summer breeze, stare at the moon and think about nothing. I haven't done this for many years now.

I'm sure it is not just our generation who has lost this habit of do-nothing. I see many family members from my previous generation who are hooked onto TV big time. The TV has to be running in the background the whole day. For some reason, it keeps them calm is what I hear. If it is the TV that ruined it for our parents, it is our smartphones, Internet, TV, iPads, books, Kindle, video games etc for our generation and our children's. Yes, it is becoming worse as days pass by.

As I was attending a session on "decoding present-day economics" yesterday, the topic of discussion was about materialistic consumption. As we were watching the documentary "The century of the self", this particular passage caught my attention.

The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs..."

One of the reasons why large economies push for over-consumption in people's minds is that it helps to keep people docile and not question anything. This is such a relevant point in today's times. We slog during weekdays and indulge in mindless consumption during weekends. 

Last weekend, we went to see a children's movie in a multiplex. Let me state upfront - we don't go for movies in a movie theatre often, this is a rare family outing. The overall experience left me shell shocked - a movie experience for a family of 3 costs around Rs.2000. A cup of coffee was Rs.160 which tasted yuck and so unpalatable. Both my husband and I discussed about these mall expenses and decided such movie outings are totally not worth our hard-earned money. 

On the other hand, we had been to a nearby small restaurant yesterday where a small glass of coffee that costs Rs.10 tasted so good and fresh.

 I'm digressing here, but as you can see, it is easy to indulge in mindless consumption these days - the ones that cost us money (materialistic) and/or time (devices, social media etc). Such consumption is only making us docile and not allowing us any time or mind space to question anything around us.

We don't ask any questions about why things are the way they are. Why do we buy so many things? Why do we spend so much during weekends? How is our consumption impacting others, other living beings and our planet? Why are we hoarding many things at our home? Why are we okay with spending for a popup "curated" meal experience that costs Rs.3000 per person per meal? Why do we buy so much junk foods? Why are we not reading food labels? Why do we support fast fashion?

I don't have answers, but what I'm realizing is that I need to invest time doing nothing. It is easier said than done, but will consciously make efforts towards it. Hopefully, I might find answers to these questions during those moments of solitude.


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