Friday, January 01 2016, 06:54:23

Diet Consultant Aditi Mehrotra – The Wittiest Health Expert JWB Has Ever Met

  • JWB Post
  •  August 21, 2015


Who doesn’t need health related inspiration everyday? And when it comes for free, we are all ears!

Diet Consultant Aditi Mehrotra becomes our nutrition educator talking about how one can lose weight without being stressed. She also speaks about the side-effects of having a size-zero body. Ladies, pay attention.

By the way, if you’re wondering who this pretty-doctor-with-no-thick-spectacles-and-amazing-sense-of-humor is, here is an introduction from the expert herself: “I am born, bread, buttered and butchered (oops! married) in Jaipur. Work keep me away in Delhi & NCR.”

Sit with your notepad while you read our chat with Aditi. You are expected to come across many healthy tips. Many.

JWB: Introduce yourself to our readers.

Aditi: I belong to a family of Doctors with liberal views where women are encouraged for quality education. My first exposure to nutrition was when I was in grade 6. I was asked by my grandfather to help him tally the nutritive values of food groups for republishing a revised edition of his book. It was then that I noticed the real science behind even a single grain of rice we eat. So I opted for Home Economics in School.

JWB: How did your career take its first flight?

Aditi: The turning point in my life was in 1996, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, where I interned as a dietitian. It was then that I realized how important preventive nutrition is, and I had the awakening to implement diet and nutritional therapy to heal people and put them on the lane free of the wrath and agony faced in hospitals in terms of the dreaded diseases.

My mentor is Dr. Shayama Chona, a proud recipient of the prestigious Padmashree and Padmabhushan awards. It is here that I learnt a simpler and a more positive way to perceive life.

JWB: You yourself are a two time gold medalist having excelled in nutrition and dietetics. How easy is pursuing nutrition as a subject? Do you have any career guidance for aspiring students?

Aditi: For me, studying Nutrition was tough, laborious and required an in-depth understanding of food and human anatomy and physiology. When I opted for it, I had no idea that I will be engulfed in a sea of chemical formulas and biochemical cycles and food chain for the next 5 years. Though, my learned professors in Nutrition department, University of Rajasthan, helped me a lot.

One needs to opt for bachelors in Home science. Today a dietitian can specialize in nutrition in critical care, maternal and child nutrition, sports nutrition, etc. It is always better to take up a master’s degree instead of a diploma in nutrition. The formal training can be rounded off with an internship in leading hospitals with research centers.

Hospitals need registered dietitians. Specialists such as pediatricians, gynecologists and endocrinologists need diet plans for their patients. Companies are also on the lookout for nutritionists along with in-house doctors. Food chains and fine dining too are hiring dietitians for their specific therapeutic sector demands from guests. The budding athletes and players in their strategy to win the gold. The list is endless.

JWB: Is following a strict diet important or exercise alone can do wonders?

Aditi: A combination of both certainly. It may take more than an hour to burn off those 500 calories in the gym but it takes very few minutes to consume that many calories in a meal. When you exercise, your body releases the feel good hormone called endorphin, which keeps your brain calm and makes you feel better. Food in the right proportion and combination, blending exercise regime can be the key component of reaching your weight-loss goals.

JWB: Suggest few food & fruits that are healthy to people who are trying hard to lose those extra pounds?

Aditi: People are not ready to break out of the ‘daal, roti, sabzi’ mindset. Our diet is centered around wheat in the north, and rice down south. The second most important element is daal in its various forms. By weight, vegetables are not consumed much. The most important vegetable is the starchy aloo. Greens or any Indian vegetable are chopped way too fine and cooked too long on fire. By the time this so called ‘vegetable curry’ arrives on the dinner table, it is devoid of nutrients that were lost to cooking temperatures. In fact, at times it is difficult to comprehend the origins of that dish. Vegetables, if pan tossed or flash-fried, sautéed or steamed will ring in more nutrients to the dinner table. Salads, one meal baked dishes, Soups and shorbas with veggies-steamed pasta, lightly cooked grains and legumes vis-à-vis the rich Indian tadka curries are far healthier options.

JWB: We skip food during fasts. Most of us even think some miracle may happen in one day making them look thinner. Do you have any smart eating tips for such people?

Aditi: I think in our country we eat more during fasts than in normal days. Fasting is a body cleansing process. It not only takes away the greed but teaches us a great deal to exercises our will power. Fasting if done properly cleanses our system off toxins and other ills which we have gobbled down mindlessly. While Fasting, nourish your bodies with ‘alive’ foods such as dairy, fresh tender coconut water, bael juice, include full color spectrum of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds. That is pretty sufficient for a day.

JWB: At that, we want to hear tips for those who party out a lot.

Aditi: Simplest tip is the ‘behavior modification technique’ – brush your teeth and then step out for any party. This psyches your brain to not reach out for fizzy drinks and fried snacks. The second is to dive into the salads and grilled starters and skip dinner or just eat 1 dish out of the thousands and nick into some dessert too.

JWB: How do you help your patients handle stress while they are dealing with their bodies and health related issues?

Aditi: How you look at stress is the question. I tell my clients to eat your stress away, especially those with eating disorders! If you accept stress as a challenge, you can handle it. When I am in stress, I listen to ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus. It reminds me that there will always be another mountain and an uphill battle, followed by yet another mountain but at the same time it is not about how fast I’ll get there, it’s about the climb! Tread on! I tell the same to my clients. Also, I am a fan of Barack Obama.

JWB: Do you follow a strict physical and healthy eating regime yourself?

Aditi: I take a high cereal and fiber breakfast, a wholesome Indian or a continental lunch, fruits throughout the day, and a very light soup and toast or grilled vegetables for dinner. I do not have food cravings. Where physical exercise is concerned, I go for a brisk walk every alternate day. Being on a spin for nearly 15 to 16 hours a day is my daily cardio. For mental health, since I have to deal with a variety of people, finding balance amidst the crowd is tough. But I’ve learnt it the hard way that mental peace is the result of retraining our mind to process life as it is, rather than as we think it should be.

JWB: What’s your favorite healthy snack?

Aditi: My layered Fruit-muesli nutty yogurt tops my chart of favorites, followed by jhal muri, prunes with cheese and Tibetan Thukpa soup. A blend of cranberry and cherry flavored Japanese tea is what wakes me up every day. That cuppa works like a Mind Spa for me!

JWB: We want to know about your cheat-food that you can’t live without?

Aditi: Luckily, I have trained my mind into not having any cravings. But I find myself ‘uncomfortable’ to the extent of being insecure if I don’t have fruit flavored fruitella tucked in my laptop bag. Craving for a midnight snack is fulfilled with a big bowl of buttered popcorn which, by the way, is not unhealthy. And not to forget meri maa ke haath ke til ke ladoo!! Alcohol is not taboo for me, I do have an occasional red wine or the celebratory champagne at family functions. I guess all this explains there is no cheat food as such.

JWB: Did you ever face any weight issues?

Aditi (laughs): You are asking the wrong person. One, I am like any other woman who looks into the mirror and shrieks, and two, being a dietitian by profession I always weigh myself to milligrams and find myself overweight.

Jokes apart, I always preened with pride on being in the ideal weight – BMI category for many years. Just recently I see myself battling to drop some 5 kilos accumulated due to age related hormones and the steroidal course of medications I had to take. But I am certainly not a diet snob. I just need more discipline in my work routine to push in a regimented exercise routine.

JWB: These days, pregnant women want to go on diets so that they don’t become a victim of body shaming. What do you have to say to such women?

Aditi: Expecting mothers in their early pregnancy feel that it is now time to put your feet up and give in to your cravings and the extra calorie allowance. Health conditions like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and postpartum hemorrhage are increasing. In-utero diet high in fat or sugar can lead to the child growing up obese.

A a FICCI event

I recommend pregnant women to follow a healthy, well structured diet pattern to nourish their bodies. Some are highly figure conscious who will omit ghee and oils from their diets. It is to them that I counsel that there is life growing inside your womb waiting for the right nourishment.

JWB: By the way, what are your views on the trend of ‘perfect body shape’ that is catching up with modern women?

Aditi: We are now living in a media-saturated world. As I keep an eye on the trending infographic on body types, women certainly want a slim Emma Watson or a Deepika Padukone look. I also appreciate the fact that plus-size models are, on the other hand becoming increasingly mainstream. To sum up in few words, you have to be comfortable in your skin and need to stay fit even through the aging process.

JWB: Does skipping food help? Young generation is all praises for the GM diet.

Aditi: I am totally fed up with these ‘miracle’ or ‘crash’ diets making tall claims. They tempt far too many dieters. Many just switch over to a gluten free pattern – they will give up milk and wheat – both which have been our diet essentials from times immemorial. Many tell me how they are trying to lose weight on a Crash diet. It is very hard to reason out with them that such diets may certainly help to shed off a few kilos at first by muscle and water loss, but will not help you to stay at a healthy weight in the long run. Moreover, such diets will ring in vitamin deficiencies, leach out calcium from your bones and teeth, and drain you off your energy supplies. Funniest are the Mono diets made out of single foods like cabbage soup or water melon only. They are so restrictive in nature and low in nutrients.

JWB: You are considered as one of the top Nutrition Advisers and Dietitians. What do you have to say about that?

Aditi: The 18 yr long journey wasn’t smooth. While the family physician and doctors commanded great respect of the general public, dietitians were unfortunately not considered in the same league. If an egg is broken from outside force, life ends but if it is broken from inside force life begins. I think, I broke the egg from the inside. I courageously went on to set up my own diet clinic ‘D.I.E.T.ED’ in 1996, leaving a handsome salary in one of the renowned food companies of India. You got to have the ability to swim with the big sharks and still have the courage to reach your shore.

JWB: What do you consider your milestone has been so far?

Aditi: I had the privilege to be the Diet Adviser to Ms. Deepa Malik, a Para-athlete and an Arjun awardee. She is currently preparing and training for the Olympics next year in Rio, Brazil.

JWB: That’s wonderful.

Aditi: I felt so happy when one of my clients after dropping 8 to 10 kilos no longer needed the knee replacement suggested by doctors. Such experiences are rewarding. I feel empowered. My current mission is the Fit kids = Fit India initiative. I am investing most of my time into it to make a difference in the lives of our children.

For me, my dietetics is not limited to those who come to me to seek help for their weight, rather it reaches out to those who need help but cannot approach dietitians. I volunteer at orphanages and the old age homes. I am now on a mission to help the acid burn victims with nutritional and diet therapy as I am told there is a need for a good supply of nutrients at the time of skin grafts surgeries.

JWB: And finally, tell us a little more about your initiatives.

Aditi: My 1st venture D.I.E.T.ed. (Develop Intelligent Eating Traits) offers nutritional counseling to individuals and conducting nutrition and health education workshops for parents, women groups, corporate executives and senior citizens. With this, I want to get to the root of lifestyle related diseases starting early in life.

My second venture Arney’s Backyard (Promoting Healthy Child Development) took shape in 2008, an idea conceived with my husband. We introduced healthy eating concepts through an animated character named ‘Arney’ a diet guru, specially created for children who can relate to animated edu-learning. This dream project strives to help children adopt a life-long habit of eating healthy and being active. We have flagged off an Arney’s I AM A FITKID School Nutrition Initiative aiming at FIT-KIDS = FIT-INDIA. It is running in Delhi NCR and Chandigarh, launching very soon in Jaipur.

Nutrism, Indulge Guilt-Free is another vertical with Anubhav Sawhaney, a leading Delhi based Chef. We organize live cooking demos to give a healthy makeover to the regular & classic recipes that are otherwise calorie-laden while retaining the original essence.

Next is my volunteering at Tamana NGO for special kids and old age homes. Here, plan their daily menu and assess them nutritionally. I reach out to the orphans and help the HIV patients and those suffering from cancer patients free of cost, planning diets that will help them recover faster from the chemo therapies.

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