Monthly Archives: March 2012

What is RealFood really?

The future of health & fitness

Alright folks. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now but I’m not going to write a big story about how my life was super busy or how I enjoyed a great vacation forgetting to blog blah blah. The important thing is that I’m back and I promise to blog more frequently moving forward.

Let’s get practical

So in the last 6 months or so, if you realized, I haven’t written much sciency articles or anything that talks about the minutiae in nutrition and/or fitness. The reason for this is two fold.

1. Most of the important stuff about nutrition and training that applies to the health and fitness enthusiast, I’ve already covered. I’ve written about RealFood and saturated fat and grains and vegetables and protein requirements and macronutrient splits and superfoods and alcohol and overtraining and the best exercises and running and cardio and fat loss and much more.

2. That being the case, I’m trying not to force my readers into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ zone. I find that there are plenty of great websites/blogs that get deeper and deeper into nutrition (and fitness) resulting in (inadvertently) confusing the reader. While analysis is uber important, for the common man and for the health & fitness enthusiast whose profession is not nutrition or health or fitness, such in-depth obsessive analysis only results in paralysis.

What I have realized in the last 6 months to a year is that people don’t succeed in moving towards a healthier fitter lifestyle, not because they don’t know what to do, but because they don’t know how to do it. Let me explain.

Real-life examples help

I have an awesome online client whose goal was to lose some fat and get healthy. She was in the heavier side to begin with and had specific weight loss goals. As you may know, the heavier the person, the more the absolute weight loss you expect to start off with. So when we started, I expected her to lose about 1 kg per week. She started and saw a kilo (~ 2lb) of weight loss in the first 2-3 weeks. This could be attributed to reduction in junk food consumption and water loss and hence not true fat loss.

As weeks went by, she kept updating me with her weight and measurements and weirdly we saw no change. No fat loss. No weight loss even. Measurements were also the same. I checked with her and she said she has been doing everything required – eating only real food, working out per the plan, sleeping enough etc. She admitted that she had a few slips here and there but she had been sticking to the plan for 95% of the time.

This obviously, baffled me. I went back to her food log, again, and had a nice long look. It all seemed fine. When asked about how she felt otherwise, she mentioned that she saw improvements in all areas except weight and measurements. That is, her mood was better, energy levels were high, skin was better etc etc. So, clearly, RealFood was definitely doing its thing, but was not helping with fat loss. While I asked her to wait things out and give her body the time to heal I was concerned as to why this was happening.

My next suggestion was to get her thyroid checked. She got it tested and all her numbers were kind of normal. Her TSH was a little high but nothing too crazy. Again… baffled. We had a few calls back and forth trying to figure this out and then she sent me an email saying she was going to give this plan an honest shot for the next 30 days. If things went well, that’s great. If not, this plan didn’t work for her. I agreed and she said she wouldn’t contact me until the 30 days were over.

At the end of 4 weeks, she sends me an email saying she’s lost 5 kg.

Well… how did that happen? Did we change the plan? No. Did she eat any special superfood or pills? No. Did she go out and start working out 10 times a week? No. Then how did this happen?  Simple really. Initially, she didn’t do the plan as is. Now, in these 30 days, she did it. And why did this happen? During the initial stages, she was unaware of how to do this right and as a result did it wrong. In the last 30 days, since she set a hard deadline for herself, she was determined to find a way to do it and, well, she found a way and did it right.

What’s my point here?

Most people either take this too lightly or don’t put in enough effort to do it right. And why does this happen? Because most people are lost in the “how to do this” zone. For example, my client, from above, would’ve been able to do this right the first time if she had better a better understanding of the “how to” part of the concept.

To try and solve that issue, I’ve written in the past about how to create your own optimal diet and about how to design your own training plan. I’m know it helped a bunch of folks, but I still don’t think it is enough. So, moving forward, I plan on writing a lot addressing the practical aspects of RealFood, optimal training and lifestyle changes. In other words, my future articles will focus on…

  • Sample diet plans
  • Examples of training routines that can be done with little to no equipment
  • Ways to eat RealFood when traveling
  • RealFood recipes
  • Simple non-obsessive ways to include more RealFood in your diet
  • RealFood for kids
  • RealFood for older folks
  • RealFood with little to no meat
  • Motivation

In my dictionary, sustainability is more important, MUCH more important, than anything else. If you look at RealFood as another diet to lose weight, then it will only act like another diet i.e making you skinny, weak, unhappy, irritable and eventually, fat again. The point is to make lifestyle changes.

We live in an age of information overload. The problem is not lack of information but over abundance of it. The future of health and fitness is sorting through the BS and finding a way to make sustainable lifestyle changes. And that’s exactly what I’ll be focusing on.

If you guys have any thoughts on this or any suggestions as to what you’d like addressed talk about it in the comments section and I’ll be sure to address it.

Peace out.

Superfoods – Are they really that super?

Every once in a while my mum comes up to me and says that she read it on the paper (or some reputed magazine) that some food item (horsegram or honey or turmeric or some vegetable etc) is extremely good for some health aspect or disease condition. As I nod along, she usually goes on to say that it apparently has magical powers and that we need to make it a part of our diets.

I’m sure you’ve either been in my shoes or my mum’s at some point of time either reading about how eating something will fix your health problems or telling people about what you read. Some examples are…

Coconut oil hailed as a cure for Alzheimers.

Horsegram helps cure type 2 diabetes.

Cocoa found to contain most anti-oxidants.

Honey = health!

So are these claims true? Should we start looking for such superfoods and add them into our diets? Will that fix our problems?

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

The answer to these questions, like most questions in nutrition is, yes and no. Let me explain.

While it is true that these superfoods contain nutrients (possibly in abundance) that are beneficial to health and that eating these foods along with an anti-nutrient free diet will help fix certain health problems, there is absolutely no benefit in eating these superfoods if you’re basic diet is fundamentally sub-par or inferior from a nutritional standpoint. I don’t think this needs more explanation, but just to be safe, I’ll break this down further.

Let’s say food X is rich in mineral Y and vitamin Z and hence helps in controlling a particular disease condition or improving a certain aspect of health. Now let’s assume that you eat a diet that is dominated by grains, rich in polyunsaturated fats and frequented by sugars. Adding in food X will not help in anyway whatsoever since the abundance of anti-nutrients in your diet will either overshadow any benefit that might result from eating the food or will render the nutrients in food X non bio-available or produce a benefit so trivial (compared to the constant damage from the anti-nutrients) that it is impossible to quantify/monitor progress.

Let’s talk specifics for a minute. Honey is healthful in its pure form and there is no question about that. But adding 2 tablespoons of honey to a diet dominated by wheat, vegetable oils, rice, processed food, sugar etc. will do you absolutely no good. As a matter of fact, this will only hurt you because this addition of honey, implies, not an increase in micronutrient consumption, but only an increase in sugar intake. So is the case with horse gram or spinach or strawberries or coconut oil or ghee or jaggery or any other food that is claimed as a superfood or a ‘health fix’.

On a side note, it is even funnier (actually sadder) when people try to fine tune their cooking methods or cook only using certain metals like copper hoping to reap some health benefits. Seriously? If you’re loading up plastic bags with money and throwing them away, does it matter if the plastic bag costs Rs 10 or Rs 5? If you’re eating a diet filled with junk, does it matter if you cook it in earthenware or eat off a copper plate?

Get your mind right

I’m sorry to burst your bubble folks, but the addition of one food item or cooking a certain way or using certain cooking/eating utensils will not magically convert a nutritionally inferior diet to one that is healthful. Or in other words, topping your cereal/biscuits/oats with honey and almonds won’t make it healthful and neither will eating them off a copper plate.

So, once again, stop looking for shortcuts or magic potions and focus on fixing your diet as a whole. Addition of specific superfoods is something you need to do after your basic diet is legit. It is the icing on the cake… the minutiae as I’d like to call it. Cutting out wheat, vegetable oils and sugars for the most part and basing your diet on real foods is 90% the battle! These changes will have HUGE positive effects on your health and are like money on the table. They’re right there for you to pick up. Make these basic changes first and cnce you’re able to do that, you can then think about focusing on adding in specific foods with specific effects/benefits.

Realize – there are no superfoods. Food, and by that I mean real food, is super! So just eat real food and as always, keep it sane, keep it simple and keep it real.

Peace out.

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