You must not be eating anything", people still say that to me with a smirk. If you look in shape then you must NOT be eating. And this is exactly what the weight loss industry wants us to believe—that not eating makes us thin. But then they won’t have any food to sell us. And since you need a commodity to mint money, how about this? Eat, but not what you cook at home, eat what we sell to lose weight/lower cholesterol/prevent heart attacks, etc. (hey! Look we just created a market for low-cal food).

Not filling: The body needs nutrient-rich food to burn fats

But nothing, absolutely nothing, can be further from the truth.

Eating foods with lower calories will lead to weight loss is as true as a politician’s garibi hatao promise. All gas (and, in this case, literally too). Eating food that has been processed to a point where it loses all its nutrients (and, therefore, calories) is the stepping stone to ensure that you remain fat forever. There is nothing wrong about consuming calories. We know this, we come from a country where people die because they don’t have adequate access to food and, therefore, calories (more than two million children die every year in our country before reaching the age of 5 because they don’t have access to calories, i.e., enough food. Many more don’t reach optimum physical or mental growth because of “restricted or low-calorie diets"—not enough food again). Are we really an indifferent race? Or are we plain gullible when it comes to “weight loss"?

Anyway, before we go any further, I believe weight loss should essentially mean that you lose fat weight and gain lean body weight (that of bones, muscles). Now, since your weighing scales can’t track whether you lost fat or lean weight—throw them out as step one and read further as step two.

Let’s understand the term calories. Calorie is a unit to measure energy.

Food is integral to our life, it nourishes our being, allows us to exist, grow, thrive, achieve, think, respond, decide, act and it does this by providing us with energy, i.e., calories. Now, to lose fat weight you need energy. Where is that going to come from? Calories. Where do calories come from? Food.

Now as sensible people all we need to do is choose the right food to get our calories from. Let me give you three “lifelines", or hints, to choose the RIGHT food.

•It should be easily accessible—and should be from your kitchen.

• It should be reasonably priced and not ridiculously expensive.

• It should be yummy to taste.

Now let me ask you a (no brainer) question—between dal-chawal (lentils and rice) and lettuce salad, what will lead you to lose fat weight? If you are confused, use these lifelines.

And here’s another question. Does dal-chawal have more calories than the lettuce salad?

Of course!

And that’s exactly why it will help you lose weight. Calories come from nutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat. A calorie-dense food has all the essential carbs, protein, fats and along with that water, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, bioflavonoids, etc. (they add further nourishment and enable you to use the calories or energy without adding calories of their own). A diet low in calories is low in nutrients and without nutrients, your body is ill-equipped to spur its fat-burning processes.

Fat burning is not like a mathematical equation—the less calories you consume, the more weight you’ll lose. It is, instead, a multifactoral process involving the molecular chemistry of the food consumed with your enzymes, the history of your last meal and last workout (hope it was not in the last century), the geography of your location, the biochemical processes in your brain, etc.

Now you know why people who don’t eat battle the bulge forever, they simply oversimplify the fat-burning process. So here’s the really BIG question—when are you putting this gyan to practise or are you just gonna spend calories discussing this in lunch break?

This is the first of four-part essay series that nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar will write for Mint. Her new book Women & the Weight Loss Tamasha(Westland, Rs200) will be out in January.

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