What is your food pyramid? (article as it appeared in the Afternoon DC, Mumbai)


What is your food pyramid?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tilt the balance of your fat loss story by identifying the foods that your body finds difficult to digest, says Anupama Menon

It’s an age-old battle. The weight won’t come off. There is a reason why we are struck by people who look like they have lost a whole person off themselves; it’s so rare. It’s a miracle we all want for ourselves—to lose weight, get fit and be the envy of another’s eye.

You lose the weight to gain it back and a second attempt is unbelievably difficult. The resolve melts like it was never there and then we tag it with a name, the ‘Yo-Yo’ effect. Acceptance follows.

There has to be an easier way, because no problem was ever born without a solution.

The Food Pyramid

Over time, every individual develops intolerances to certain foods. It could be towards wheat or towards rice, milk products or nuts (generally touted as healthy fat) Surprisingly, sometimes this could even be towards fruits, which are advocated as signboards to health!  The intolerances may not necessarily precipitate as allergies becoming apparent in external signs. It purely means the inability of the body to digest and burn a particular food/food group most efficiently, leading to a slowdown in the metabolism.

The reason for this compromise in efficient burning of certain foods could be because of the insufficiency of certain enzymes responsible for digestion of specific food groups. For example, you may not be able to tolerate proteins too well because of low secretion of the protease enzyme that digests protein. While the world goes serenading high-protein diets, you wonder why it doesn’t work for you in any way other than giving you a headache at the end of the day.

On the other hand, grains may be your driver or accelerant. Hot phulkas at night and a simple khichadi in the afternoon works not just in your kitchen but also on your preening waistline! It could simply be because you have a wealth of amylase (carb-digesting enzyme) in your system desperate to mash all that carb down. So while the health elitists and modern-day research undermine high carbs and steer warning signals even if you go as much as close to a grain, you wonder why things work differently for you.

Hence, it’s important to identify your ‘Focused Food Pyramid’ or your customised food pyramid. The food pyramid should guide you towards eliminating those food groups you cannot efficiently burn 80% of the time and including larger portions of the foods you know will help you run the long race, will burn most effectively in your body.

The consequence: When you apply the rule of the Focused Food Pyramid, automatically your body’s absorption of nutrients is more proficient. You are less likely to overeat; a smaller portion of food keeps you satiated. All of this sets your body’s ecology right, restoring the balance that was long overdue.

The hypothalamic part of your brain that signals hunger and thirst is largely responsible for sending out fat-burning signals. It also controls significant hormones that can alter your state of fat loss and storage. The hypothalamus switches on that fat-burning button, allowing you to lose and maintain weight naturally, as a consequence of your food and habits—not because you are forcing your body to lose weight through heavy calorie restrictions and nothing less than a two- hour daily workout!

The advantage

Cheat two or three times a week, vacation, party and don’t worry about it. There is no guilt, because the excess weight won’t come back in a day. It will stay away because you have learnt the rules of your Food Pyramid. You have tilted the balance of your fat loss story.

No one size fits all, nor is one rule made for everybody. Each individual is unique. And so should be your diet. Our eating practices should be defined not only by what we read and what is ‘supposed’ to be but largely by what our body needs.

Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach

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