Fit and Fine

Clinical nutritionist and fitness expert Suman Agarwal

Having learned that diets fail when they become boring, qualified clinical nutritionist and fitness expert Suman Agarwal conceived SelfCare to make a difference. She set about looking for a solution in which weight loss and a fit body are synonymous; in which the individual can stick to her choice of food after becoming aware of healthy choices. You & I caught up with the innovative lady to find out all about her work.
 
So, just what is SelfCare all about?
We aim for overall well-being. This includes establishing a healthy eating regimen (no crash diets), understanding medical history, genetic predisposition to certain disorders, reasons for weight gain, a good balance of vitamins and supplements, blood reports, exercise schedule, nutrition counselling, weekly follow-ups, anti-ageing tips, and realistic options for sticking to the diet while dining out or travelling.

When you prescribe a diet, what factors do you consider?
We take into account a range of factors, including lab reports, current medical condition, meal timings, portion control, different weekly options so that a person does not deviate, options for fillers, lifestyle and occupation.
 
What about the duration of a diet?
We generally aim for weight loss of around five kilos in two months. Losing weight slowly and steadily is a good idea in order to maintain that loss. We have maintenance plans that go up to six to twelve months, in which a person has an opportunity to lose and maintain their weight over the period of a year.

You’ve also written some books. What inspired you to do so?
I wrote “The Don’t Diet Diet Cookbook” because I felt the need to tell people that dieting is not boring. Our clients should know that they can lose weight by eating delicious, healthy, home-cooked food. Boiled vegetables, soups and salads are not the right way. Vegetables cooked with oil and spices will also help you lose weight, but with right balance of protein.

I penned “Unjunked” since we all have the desire to eat junk foods, yet at the same time shed those extra kilos. The book helps you eat these junk foods as they are ‘unjunked’ (healthily modified) via the addition of other healthier ingredients. It includes a weekly meal plan that you can follow.
 
How do you make healthy food taste good?
Season your food with spices such as chillies, cinnamon and lemon. Add one teaspoon of oil and cook it well. Oregano, paprika, and garam masala can add tangy flavours to your meals.
 
What are the healthier snacks out there?
Nuts, roasted chickpeas, fruit and green tea.

Tell us what to eat for an immunity boost.
Protein does that, so such a diet should be rich in protein, especially for vegetarians (milk, yoghurt, pulses). Add foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables, to improve the body’s fighting ability.
 
What is a digital diet?
The digital diet teaches you how to use the latest technology and focus on your health. Most smartphones nowadays have diet diaries, pedometers, and weight and height indexes. At SelfCare, we also do online consultations; clients get soft copies via email and can refer to them at any time through phones and tablets. They can also track food and calorie intake. We have personal software with details of all our registered clients, and this is accessible from any of our clinics in Mumbai and Kolkata.
 
You’ve been in the business for 12 years now. What changes have you seen?
There’s been a shift in lifestyles, eating patterns and hormones. Earlier, it was mainly women who were more into diets; today, everyone is aware. One would have never thought back then that men would show more interest in eating healthy. Today’s youngsters are also getting into it because of their fascination for flat stomachs. Most people think that eating less (or nothing) will do the trick. Obesity in children has become very common, but parents are becoming aware of the importance of teaching them good nutrition habits from a young age. There’s great fear of chronic diseases; so much so that people have become more health-conscious as a result.
 
How do your clients’ lifestyle choices contribute to their overall health?
Work schedules, travelling patterns, exercise schedules, eating patterns, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns are all related to weight gain, weight loss and other medical health issues.

Tell us about detoxification.
Detox is only needed when there is lot of indulgence. The best way is to have fruit and milk as a meal (either lunch or dinner) twice or thrice a week. Rice or dal-khichdi with yoghurt for lunch also helps.

Give us some basic tips for weight loss and calorie-cutting.
Eat enough protein, control your portions (eat until 80% of your stomach is full) and exercise regularly.
 
Speaking of which, do you also advise on physical activity?
We do suggest low-impact cardio to burn fat naturally, as well as certain toning exercises such as the five Tibetan rites,
stair-climbing and air-cycling.
 
What foods are best to avoid?
Fried foods, sweets, potatoes, sugar substitutes, processed cheese and paneer.                                     ..... as told to Anahita