There was a time when a dietician was consulted by the patients after they’re hospitalized due to an ailment or for surgery. But with the change in lifestyle and celebrities endorsing and inspiring everyone to stay fit and have a toned body, people are resorting to dieticians and fitness trainers. But an ideal body is what we feel comfortable in and it is all about living healthily. While we have heard and read a lot about what the dieticians and the fitness trainers have to say, let us introduce you to Dr. Ria Banerjee Ankola, who is a food therapist.
Never heard of a food therapist, right? Fret not as Dr. Ria is here to introduce you to this specialization and will help you understand what being fit actually means. Dr. Ria had lost 60 kgs in 2 years and is here to help us understand the real meaning of staying fit.
Explaining what is food therapy?
“Food therapy is not just about sharing diet but to make people think about food in a non-stressful way. I have been working as a Food Therapist for more than a year now. With the various diets like Keto and all, people are confused about what eating ‘right’ actually is. One needs to find out what living, which food suits them. For example, jaggery and ghee are good for health, but does it suit your body? That is what one needs to understand and find out. There’s a reason being some food being available in abundance. I always suggest my patients pick up local food and not run behind all those exotic food in the market. The transformations people have experienced after consulting me is because they have understood the benefits of going back to being simple.”
How are you different from the fitness instructors, health consultants, gym trainers, and dieticians?
“I am not skinny, not size zero, or I’m not full of muscles. I work out in my own capacity and though I have lost 60 kgs, according to my weight and age, I still need to lose 15-20kgs more. But I am not running behind it, I just workout and eat right. That’s what my life is about. The biggest thing is that I am not attached to a brand. I am not commercial, and I don’t go out for any conferences, because I love my piece of mind. I love staying at home, working from home as I have set up my clinic here. I only take 5 patients a day. I tell people to eat as per your body requirement and you don’t need to eat everything that is there in the world.”
How life has changed from 2019 to 2020?
“For me, on the professional front it hasn’t changed much because just like earlier, my work is online. Because of the economic situation and financial crisis due to the pandemic, I have voluntarily slashed down my charge to half. People are at home so why not help them stay fit. The pandemic has made people value everything in life. Food, relationships, money, house, house helps and everything that we had taken for granted, we have started valuing life more now.”
“Mainly I get questions like ‘I am scared to go on a diet because I can’t follow it for long’, ‘I can’t follow a diet because I am a foodie’, ‘Is your diet difficult to follow?’ – what I have been saying to my clients is they DON’T have to cook a separate meal for themselves. The key to a healthy life is eating what everybody at home is eating, make your family eat a healthy meal. Obviously if your child is having sugar, you can avoid that but rest everything remains normal. Being a doctor, everyone asks me to suggest a diet to build immunity. Even though there are immunity boosters, pills, drinks, food in the market, it doesn’t happen overnight. Immunity boosting is a long process for which your core strength needs to be very strong, you need to be fit. It takes time.”
“I have patients, who were tested positive with the virus and have recovered, from over the world. I am working on a lot of factors, their blood report, and everything before suggesting them a diet to help them gain back their immunity. I think people are fooling people when it comes to immunity as it takes time and doesn’t happen in a day. If you are having Vitamin C, it shouldn’t be for a month or so but for a long time.”
“Due to the pandemic, some people are only eating junk, and some are trying to follow a healthy diet. I tell people that this is the perfect time when one can work on themselves, eat healthy so that once life gets back on track, you’re ready for it. A lot of people, including my family, are working out and eating right, of course with the cheat days assigned per week. Food has connected the world right now and I am also trying to help people with recipes during the lockdown. But at the end of the day, giving too much gyaan doesn’t work. If I only say dos and don’ts, then nobody would care and listen. I try penning benefits of food in every post on my IG profile, but I try to post more of healthy and easy recipes that people can make and eat. It’s important to stay happy and eat well.”
“I don’t want to be dependent on someone when I grow old which is why I take measures to stay fit. What use will be all the materialistic things and relationships if I am not fit and healthy to enjoy them? I want to stay fit for my family, my husband, my kids, my dog, and also my patients, because how can I ask them to follow something which I don’t believe myself. Being a doctor, you need to set an example, you can’t be like saying something and doing something else. If you are not fit, there are people, who are looking up to you will follow the same. If you’re unwell, you won’t be able to do anything. That’s the mindset we all need right now. Women, who are solely managing everything, say they don’t have time for themselves. That is where I tell them to take 15-20 minutes for themselves, workout, and eat right otherwise you won’t be able to do what you’re doing today, in future.”
“If you feel there’s something abnormal going on in your body, then you can consult an expert. Not everybody needs a clinical psychologist or dietician. If you can’t handle it on your own, you should go for expert advice. As far as eating right is concerned, your body will give you a hint. You need to find which will solve deficiency in your body. I suggest people seek help if required and rather than putting their patients on sedatives, I prefer counselors/doctors to talk to them if they’re suffering from mental issues. Being an allopathic doctor, I against taking any drugs, unless it’s an emergency.”
With the rise in the work from home culture, any suggestions for workout or diet that one can follow?
“Minimum 30min four to five times a week one should give for work out, one hour is ideal. Do whatever you like or is sustainable but don’t overdo it if it can’t be done later when life gets back to a normal routine. Work on more of core strength, unless there’s a medical issue. Related to food, keep it simple. Don’t go on and off the diet plan. Don’t be confused about what your body wants. Do what you can do forever. If you’re eating right, make sure you follow it forever otherwise think about it because there are repercussions. If you don’t think now, you’ll bounce back later. Do not keep junk and instant food ready-to-eat on the shelf. There’s food everywhere so choose wisely. Hydrate yourself well.”
A quick healthy snack that one can grab easily at home when hungry, instead of having junk.
“Makhana with flaxseeds, keep a seasonal fruit handy, nuts, mixed roasted channa and peanuts, puffed rice, chuda, coconut, roasted daal. Another myth that people have is going low-carbs. For me, three meals of rice work so it all depends on what your body requires. We need to understand how to cook it well and in what quantity your body requires it. Stick to things that are available.”
Tips for pregnant or lactating women
“Pregnant and lactating women, elderly, people with low immunity must assure they don’t gain extra weight, which will lower their immunity even more. They should be certainly aware of the problems their body is undergoing. You need to be careful while planning what to eat. Make sure to be active. For elders due to the pandemic, it is advisable to stay at home because they’re at risk.”
“Listen to your body. If it’s hungry, eat food. Workout. That’s where you need an expert who suits you. I suggest eating is something we should not stop. I tell my patients that if you’re being told to eat one roti but you’re still hungry, then eat one more. Because half-an-hour later, you are anyway going to pick a biscuit or chocolate and eat. So, eating right is very important. Don’t skip your meal and eat according to your body requirement. Some are okay with something, some are not. Whatever the body requires. At least 3 to 4 hours, try to keep a gap between your dinner and sleep. If you get a hunger pang in that span then drink milk but not a major meal. Don’t eat just before your sleep as you won’t be able to digest.”
“To stay fit, refined processed food is something you should stay away from on a regular basis. Once in a while, everything is okay. But no energy bars, no protein shakes. Seasonal fruit is very beneficial. No such fruit is harmful but of course, everything in access will have an unfavorable outcome. Also unless you have a medical condition, which advises you to avoid fruit. Try not to have a fruit with cooked food as it will make you feel bloated. I don’t suggest smoothies as breaking down fruit into a mixer means breaking down fruit into sugar, all the fiber is dead. What matters the most at the end of the day is how many calories you are eating and how many you are burning. But don’t be paranoid about calorie counting, just have a general idea.”
“Early morning as when you wake up or early evening is the best time to work out. But late-night walks are not advised because you inhale a lot of carbon dioxide. If you do a high-intensity workout, then you need to have something for energy before starting.”
Stay happy! To stay fit, understand what you want from the body. Eat right and work out because either doesn’t work and it has to be 50-50.