If you want to enjoy the festive season and at the same time minimize the ill-effects of dietary indulgence, begin by identifying your fitness category. Broadly, you can be very fit, moderately fit or very unfit.
You are very fit if you have optimum weight according to your height and good stamina. Also, if you are not suffering from any lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or high levels of cholesterol or hypertension, you are considered to be in good shape.
If you are moderately fit, you would be about 5-10 kg overweight, may need to shed a couple of inches at the waist, but you would still have good stamina (you could easily run up a flight of stairs). Chances are that you would not have diabetes, heart disease or hypertension, although you may have a higher risk of getting any or all of these.
If you fall within the very unfit category, then you would be more than 10kg overweight, you would have excessive body fat, a big waist, poor stamina, heavy breathing, a tendency to snore, and have one or more of the of the above-mentioned diseases, whether it is diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.
The very fit have earned the right to indulge. But be sure to resume your exercise and diet regime soon after; don’t allow Diwali to trigger an “unfit” lifestyle. Fitness routines and dietary habits that are abandoned for more than three weeks become exceedingly difficult to get back to.
For the moderately fit, it is important to have a deal-with-Diwali plan ready in advance.
• Adopt a taste and savour approach. Do not hog multiple pieces of mithai and greasy delights. Stick to single bite-sized servings .
• It’s a good idea to keep breakfast and one more meal a day as healthy and wholesome as is possible. This will balance blood sugars and help you resist temptation.
• Decide the mealtimes that you will indulge in Diwali fare, in advance. Say, only lunch or tea. This would keep a check on overall intake. It is better to consume mithai as part of a main meal than on its own, or in between meals. This will help you to avoid sharp spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Sugary foods, when had independently of meals, quickly raise blood sugar levels. This creates a sharp spike in insulin levels in order to stabilize these blood sugar levels. But what follows in reality is a sharp drop in sugar levels, which makes you hungry and leaves you craving sweets all over again.
• If for some reason you cannot avoid a heavy and rich meal, then ensure that you eat light for the rest of the day.
• Keep up the exercise and workouts as often as you can during the Diwali week.
• Get back to a healthy lifestyle the day the festivities end.
For the very unfit, Diwali is a time when they must exercise extreme caution with dietary indulgences. This is because they are more susceptible to a rise in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
• Stick to your healthy wholesome eating plan for most meals. Eat your meals at home before you party.
• Follow the taste and savour approach very strictly when faced with mithai and deep-fried savouries. Limit yourself to just a bite or two at most.
• Decide in advance to have just two types of mithai or savouries this season. Even with these choose the healthier options—dry fruits and sugar-free mithai would be less damaging than mawa barfi. Or a light chivda is healthier than deep-fried kachoris.
• Keep up with your exercise routines.
• And post-Diwali, abstain from festive-type food for at least two months.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org