Post-Diwali Cleanse

Diwali is known as a festival of lights. But essential to it is the Indian celebration of love that comes from food. From savory, fried samosas to sugary laddoos, there is no shortage of reasons to overindulge.

Due to Covid-19, Dr. Anjali Kumar predicts this year will be marked by revenge eating. “You’ve just let a population out that has been caged for two years,” she says. “Everybody’s partying harder, to make up for lost time.”

Unfortunately, the digestive toll of this can lead to water retention, lethargy, and acidity.  

After overeating, the stomach grows and pushes up on surrounding organs, causing discomfort and drowsiness. To break down excess food, the body also produces extra hormones and enzymes, including hydrochloric acid, which back into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

To restore the pH balance of your digestive system, Dr. Anjali suggests a shot of apple cider vinegar which will alkalize your body and provide immediate relief for acidity issues.

And over the next few days, she has four easy steps to get you feeling back to normal.

The first is to eat potassium-rich foods such as pomegranate, sweet potato, and salads, which will curb cravings. The second is to have more protein than you normally do: think nuts, cottage cheese, or hummus.  

The third step she recommends is to cut down on carbohydrates, to compensate for extra ones had when celebrating the holiday.

And the final one is to drink green juices, with herbs like parsley or coriander. The diuretic effect will remove excess water from your system and help clean up the liver. This is especially recommended if you’ve been drinking.

After a few days, Dr. Anjali says, you should be back to your normal self. However she warns, this only works for individuals who are already healthy and got carried away over the holidays.

For those who yo-yo diet, or struggle with their weight before Diwali, it’s more complicated.

According to the International Diabetes Foundation, India has an estimated 77 million people who struggle with diabetes, a chronic condition linked to insulin resistance.

“For them, eating is like comforting themselves,” she says. “Diwali just provides one such occasion.”

For such individuals, she suggests working with a doctor or dietician to address the underlying physiological problems that trap them in a cycle of craving and over indulging.

Dr. Anjali, who specializes in lifestyle diseases, says her patients struggle to take into account stresses and triggers that are unique to their body. Instead, they copy what those around them are doing. But just because something works for their neighbor doesn’t mean it will work for them.

Casey Dascher, a Diabetes Quality Coordinator at Temple University in Philadelphia, has tips on dealing with social pressure. “If you see somebody else eating,” she says “It’s okay if you don’t want to eat with them.”

“I” statements are also helpful when feeling pressured. Take offenders aside and tell them “My doctor told me for medical reasons and my health, I shouldn’t be eating this way,” she says. “It would really make me happy if you supported me.” This recruits loved ones to be part of your medical team.

It can also be helpful to go into parties with a plan, such as limiting yourself to two drinks—one before dinner and one with it. Or skipping appetizers if you want dessert. By focusing on what you’re going to enjoy, instead of what you’re missing, you’re less likely to feel deprived. 

“Make sure you eat your favorite foods,” she says. “But keep it to just that special day. After that, cut it off.” Don’t take the sweets home with you, and limit leftovers to healthy options.

“Listen to your hunger levels afterward,” she says. “If you are not hungry, don’t eat.”

Instead of using food to extend the warm, fuzzy feelings you get from the holiday, she says, you can even look for ways to celebrate that do not involve eating. Going for a walk, shopping, even the act of food preparation are easy ways to feel connected with those you care about.

Another worthwhile tip comes from Hasti Singh, winner of Mr. India in 2016 and founder of Hasti Transformation. He says he tweaks how his food is prepared to avoid in-the-moment temptation. “Instead of frying or grilling, make baked foods,” he says. “As an alternative to poori or bhatura, have kulcha with your channa.” As for sweets “you can enjoy custards, rasgulla, paneer kheer, or sugar-free ras malai.”

And if you feel guilty about overeating, remember Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

                                                                                                                                           - Samara Ahmed