Monday, August 07, 2006

Eating right

To continue on the theme of how the West has changed us here are some observations on the way our eating habits have evolved over the last few years.

I married into a bloodline of gastronomically strong people. There are stories surrounding the consuming capacity of the household that have reached legendary proportions. The story goes that my great-grandfather-in-law passed away one night after having consumed an insane amount of luchi (puris) for dinner. The males in the family, right up to the generation of my father-in-law were quite accustomed to sitting down for lunch with food being served in a huge silver thali and accompanied by atleast eight to ten bowls of various vegetables, fish and meat, while someone would stand by and fan them with a pakha (hand fan) while they ate.

So when I got married and moved to the States the expectations were high to say the least. Needless to say I had never done any cooking prior to tying the knot, so my entire knowledge was dependent on the three cookbooks I had brought with me from India. And I fared pretty well. I guess there really wasn't that much to cooking after all. I grew quite adept at preparing regular daily fare of rice and roti and vegetables and curry. But what B was more interested in was the more exotic stuff. The delicacies of Indian cuisine. And we experimented. And we ate. To give an idea of the volume of cooking and eating we were doing, I went through 11 gallons (approximately 41.6 liters) of cooking oil in less than 5 months! And yes it showed. B gained 30 lbs within a year of our marriage. And that is when we realized that something needed to change.

We usually ate dinner late which meant we would have an evening snack that comprised mainly of fried snacks. So that was the first thing we decided to change. Dinner would be in the evening, as soon as we came back home. Because we were hungry and starving eating a proper meal made way more sense than senseless gorging on junk food. That alone drastically cut back on our consumption of fried food and chips. Which was great. That also was the time B switched from regular soda to diet soda. We tried to adopt to eating more healthy. More salads, more veggies, less carbs and fat. No crazy diet. Just smaller portions. And making better choices.

The transition took a while. Some years actually. But now B checks the nutrition information on the side of everything he consumes. And has started abandoning things containing high fructose corn syrup. And no more soda. Especially no more diet soda. He counts calories. He eats right and exercises. He has lost 30 lbs in the last 6 months. And I am happy for him. Except now I don't know what to cook anymore. Or what to buy. Everything in the grocery store has high fructose corn syrup. It's a pain to look through the nutrition information of everything that you put into your shopping cart. And everyday we are adding to the list of items that are not fit for consumption.

B's parents are alarmed. They probably think he has gone off his rocker. His Dad is scared that B will be a kolonko (disgrace) to the family name by not living up to the eating standards of his clan. And it amuses me to no ends to hear B trying to persuade his Dad to give up on sweets and fried food.

It has been a long journey. But I think we've arrived.

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Anonymous KK said...

I thought, cooking with little oil and avoiding junk food and just eating proper meals would not cause a drastic weight gain.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

30 lbs in 6 months? I wish I could say that about myself.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Kausum said...

I have this unique cycle of gaining 15 lbs in the winter and lose 20 lbs in summer. Dietary intake is same.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Jinguchakka said...

The moment you started checking the ingredients list on any purchase, you've arrived.
And diet soda usually advertises as zero calories. So why avoid it? Eventhough I dislike paying something to get zero in return. :-)
I too check the calories. But it's to make sure that i get more calories for whatever I pay! :-))

1:03 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kk exactly. but you also have to eat the right food. I am lucky *touchwood* because I hardly had any change in weight although I really enjoy eating the wrong kind of things.
@ dadoji well he was very sincere in his diet and exercise routine :)
@ kausum if you're losing more than you gain then pretty soon you'll disappear some summer.
@ jinguchakka it seems even though diet soda is zero calories, the sweetner in it makes the body crave for sugar more and one ends up gaining more weight. Some study. Don't know how reliable it is. But too much of anything is bad, right?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous KK said...

I always maintained, we work for our stomachs. Everything we earn for is "Papi Pet ka Sawal Hai".

Yet, we would like to not eat things, which are our likings on account of gaining weight. Why should we not deprive ourselves of those pleasures? If we cant enjoy in our youth, then when will we? We cannot enjoy the same things in our old age, due to disease?

3:20 PM  
Blogger Seashells said...

LOL !!! and, im serioulsy loud right now... all my friends and myself included have gone through these motions... even friends who've been twig-thin have become conscious about calories and diet sodas and what not...

I quit soda; both because i was bored and because of the calories, avoid eating rice at night, have early dinners and sleep atleast 3 hours after my last meal... but, 30 lbs in 6 months is quite drastic, dont you think ???

4:04 PM  
Blogger Szerelem said...

Checking nutrition information, counting calories - it becomes such a pain sometime. But after a while it seems to become almost automatic. Its amazing how overtime you know the calories content of almost every food item possible!
I think one should always exercise a bit not only because when you indulge you dont feel all that guilty but because there are a lot of health benefits, period.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

an I so relate to this "eating healthy" practise..
I too have a tendency to put on weight really fast and am now trying to control my diet, cut down on fatty stuff..especially chocs!
Its difficult..but am getting there...thx to my exercise regime!

9:26 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

whew! you had me *really* frightened back there in the middle of your post. i went through a serious health scare last year, following which i've managed to ease off some 25 pounds myself, simply by living intelligently. i think the two biggest survival strategies are to have small and frequent meals, and eating a minimum of processed foods. if you minimize processed foods, you reduce the need to keep looking at nutritional information. (sorry to do this again, but check this out: come on doc, you know that all that chips and diet soda business is nothing but slow suicide!

9:49 PM  
Blogger jhantu said...

30 lbs in 6 tiny damn months!! This is a i-dream-of-jeannie-esque feat.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Rohini said...

41.6 litres in 5 months?!!!! Were you just pouring it into a glass and drinking it neat?!!!!

Your dietary changes make a lot of sense. I am trying to do some of these things too.

2:20 AM  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

30 lbs in 6 months? wow
Luckily I never had to deal with excess weight. But keeping it off takes work. With age as the metabolism slows, and with my desk job I changed my diet dramatically.
Breakfast is cereal, a bagel when I get in to work, fruit for lunch. Maybe an energy bar before my workout. Dinner is light with a very small portion of sweet.
We avoid processed foods. A recent study (was in the Times I think) said high fructose corn syrup may not be the villain people make it out to be.
My folks were shocked to see the lean me about 6 yrs back, now they are no longer surprised. We also don't have any reputation for big eaters, which is good i guess.
But it's nice to see more people go the healthy route, all we need to do is look around.

9:18 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kk well you lay the fundation for good health in your youth. If you set a habit of misuse then it is harder to change later. Esp once you get problems like high cholesterol etc. Isn't it better to be safe than sorry?
@ seashells well I guess most people do go through the same motions. You want to stay fit and healthy. After all falling sick is a luxury one cannot afford anymore. Yes the 30 lb is a big deal. Now we can't get pant sizes that fit him anymore :)
@ szerelem sticking to an exrecise regime is painful. I hate doing it. So I've started playing tennis. It is way more interesting than running on a treadmill. But B has been good by sticking to his routine. And he's benefitted from that.
@ anand well some people gain weight faster than others. B says my metabolism is high which is why I can eat anything and get away with it. Well so far I haven't had a problem. But he gains weight real fast. So he has to be very careful.
@ tabula rasa glad that you're doing well now. Diet and exercise....there's no substitute for that. I know that. But I am tempteed by all kinds of junk food. now i haven't had a problem yet. I yet very small portions and my metabolism is quite high. But yes we have implemented all healthy eating practises into our diet now. will check out the link.
@ jhantu it can be done. with dedication. A 40 min exercise routine everyday and eating right.
@ rohini most people were floored by the 30lb in 6 month. You were the only one who saw my 11 gallons oil in 5 month stunt :) Thinking back I have no idea what we were doing. I know i was making samosas, parathas and other fried goodies 4 times a day. It makes me sick just thinking about it now.
@ karmic_jay I guess it all depends on how conscious people are. Most folks who are overweight and battling health issues do not even realize that this is the one most modifiable lifestyle change that can impact your health in a positive way. Keep it up!

9:31 AM  
Blogger Point 5 said...

I recently made the switch to diet. Although, I am very healthy, I decided that I can do away with those useless calories. I think I need to research this matter futher now !!

10:49 AM  
Anonymous KK said...

I heard in a study, that Diet Soda sugar alternative is carcinogenic, so also all sugar forms providing low calories. Infact Soda is bad for health.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Szerelem said...

you should try yoga. its excellent and the benefits are huge.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

Dont u think that we have only one life to live and food (read fried foods, chips, chocolates etc etc)is really something we strive and work for all our lives so we should have whatever we crave for and just burn off the calories at a gym or by healthy workouts (atleast thats my policy nyways)

9:05 PM  
Blogger Sujatha said...

Hi M, totally off-topic comment. Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comment.

If you don't mind me asking, where in VA do you live (you can e-mail me)? We were in northern VA, have moved to B'lore for a couple of years.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Ekta said...

hey m,
am soo like u..i find it difficult to gain wieght..I can lose weight really easily..but gaining wieght is soo difficult for me!
Right now am on a weight gaining spree though!

4:22 AM  
Blogger Generally_Speaking said...

Hiya M,

Very interesting experiences. I am having a tough time fighting off the pounds.

Thanks for the reminder comment on my blog. Had gone into hibernation for a bit. Will be posting a bit more regularly.

6:59 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ point 5 I think more and more people, esp the young ones are getting more health conscious and that is a good thing. Surprisingly I heard on the radio this morning that a person gains 15 lbs every year if he drinks 1 can of soda everyday. That is horrible!
@ kk I think they put aspartame as sugar alternative and that is bad for you. For every study there is always a counter study. So its up to every person to decide what is good/ bad for him/ her and act wisely.
@ szerelem I know yoga is good. I think I'm just plain lazy :) Although I've been lucky so far as far as gaining weight goes. In fact my relatives all keep complaining about my constantly losing weight (which by the way is not true). May be when the need arises....
@ rohan true we have one life to liev and enjoy as we wish. But just burning off calories is not really enough is it? You still need to eat the right kind of food. What I mean is I can have chips and chocolate for lunch/ dinner everyday and feel satisfied, fill my tummy and gain weight but at the same time not get in right nutrients, vitamins and be totally screwing up my system. There's some reason why we grew up learning to eat balanced diets with carbs and veggies and protein. There cannnot be any substitute for that. Junk food may be tempting and good to eat once in a while and you can burn that off easily in the gym, but regular meals have to be eaten right.
@ sujatha hey thanks for stopping by my blog and I'll drop you a line soon. Your post was very touching and I do hope you are doing well now. you're a brave girl to be able to share it with people.
@ ekta weight gaining spree? any particular reason?
@ generally_speaking there you are. Was wondering what had happened to you. Look forward to seeing more of you.

9:26 AM  
Blogger sapna said...

hihihi i have a B on this side of the world for whom I have only 3 things to cook after deleting all 'fattening-cholesterol producing' foods. I was proud of him too for this and his obsessive treadmill routines everyday, till i got tired of eating the same three things myself!

5:00 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ pearl only 3 things? what are they?

9:02 AM  
Blogger sapna said...

aah! you're not going to enjoy them for sure!

1. a kerala delicacy called 'puttu' which is generally made with rice, but he wants it made with atta!!!

2. upma which is sooji

3. dosa made of sooji. the batter has to have fried onions and tadka with red chillies, curry leaves, dal, green chillies. tadka in a non stick pan with olive oil sprayed with the oil spray!

god knows how he's hit upon these totally uninspiring foods.

of course he wants lots of mushrooms and paneer and mixed/steamed veggies, soups with all this. but the basics are very yuck.

yuck yuck yuck. am sick of them :))

12:40 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ pearl *lol* that rminds me, I've even made strawberry shortcake out of atta! But your sooji dosa sounds quite yummy.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Ashmi said...

wow! this was indeed a funny account....especially the way you concluded it....yeah more often than not we pay heed to what appeases our taste bud than what our body hope you keep up this strict health freak regimen ;-)

6:48 AM  
Blogger ubergeek said...

LOL - trying to convince someone from the older generation to diet is as difficult as trying to convince someone in this that social drinking is sinful ;-)

4:11 AM  

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