'Food is not calories, food does not make you fat,’ is the startling announcement from nutritionist Pooja Makhija. That statement alone may make the seeker of that elusive perfect figure want to turn away and start a fresh hunt for a nutritionist who can help her [and sometimes him] win the battle of the bulge. But when one is consultant to B-town divas Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone - they of the tiny waist and washboard abs, you have to give her a minute to explain herself.
In the city recently, to launch her maiden book Eat.Delete. How to get off the weight loss cycle for good, at Landmark, Makhija explained how it was this need to let people know the importance of food that moved her to write the book. 'Eat.Delete. is a combined mind body - weight loss solution that gives the what, why, when and how of eating and thinking your way to a thinner you,’ she says.
‘I am anti-starvation. I am anti-diets that don’t let you eat, or has an uncanny tilt towards any one particular component of nutrition. A balanced diet has five components – protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, fat and minerals (Makhija calls them the five fingers that make a fist). A proper meal, should have a fifth of all these components,’ explains the 35-year-old mother of two.
And then comes the second shocker. ‘The more you eat, the more you burn calories,’ says Makhija, adding with a laugh, ‘when I say this to someone for the first time and when they see that I am drawing up a diet plan for them that will make them eat more than they do now, and yet tell them they will lose weight, they think I am nuts.’
Makhija explains that every activity of the body requires energy, which it gets by burning calories. ‘There is something called the BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn. Even breathing burns calories, so does the process of digestion, which is why I say that the more you eat, the more you burn,’ she says.
A little warning for those, who still have that sceptical smirk on their face. Not eating can make you fat. Explains Makhija, ‘If you give your body less than the amount of calories it needs, it will go into starvation mode and start conserving the calories you consume. Normal body function will suffer.’
Of course, not starving doesn’t translate into binging, but giving the body its required quantity of proper food. Cut out on the sweets and fries, says Makhija, finally voicing a reassuringly known fact. And do work out. ‘Seventy per cent of the battle against the bulge is carried out in the kitchen, the rest 30 per cent in the gym,’ she says.
The nutritionist does not take even a second to agree that 99.9 per cent of those who come to her are looking to lose weight. ‘About 90 per cent of my clients are women in the 18 to 60 age group. And they all want a skinny, model-like look. I keep telling them to aspire for a leaner version of themselves, not somebody else,’ she says. But for someone who believes that one should have a ‘relationship with food, filled with faith and security’, Makhija is surprisingly cool about the obsession to be thin.
‘There is an increased awareness about nutrition and its relation with one’s body. Of course, there is a lot of half-knowledge that needs to be cleared.’ The nutritionist attributes the growth in the number of books on diet and nutrition and the right way to lose weight to this trend.
Makhija’s celebrity client list includes names such as Sushmita Sen, Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor and Vidya Balan — to name a few. And no they don’t all want to be size zero.
‘They want a fit body. Vidya for example, when she came to me, before all this debate on her body-type started, was very clear that she wants to be fit and trim, but didn’t want to lose her curves,’ says Makhija. Now we know the secret of that oomph that make us give her those ‘dirty’ looks.