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Health: Obesity expert on how to stay slim after turning 30

Obesity expert Muffazal Lakdawala, fresh from the release of his book, discusses staying slim after turning 30

Have you been too lazy to work out? Fret not as all is not lost. Weight-loss surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala's new book, The Eat-Right Prescription, tells you how to save the day with simple techniques to eat right. "I hail from a traditional Bohra Muslim family. While growing up, my food choices were regulated by my mother, and our family cook, Alladin. When it comes to your daily meals, eating Indian food cooked at home with scant amounts of oil or ghee is the best thing you can do. The Indian staple of rice, roti, dal and sabji, in all its regional variants, is the healthiest diet to choose," shares Lakdawala. "As a surgeon, my schedule has always been, and remains punishing. I never know when an emergency will drag me out of bed, or away from my family, and into the operation theatre. About a decade ago, thanks to irregular meals, too much coffee and tea, and not enough exercise I put on about 10 to 15 kgs. Losing weight, and keeping it off are as hard for me as they are for anyone else," he confesses.

The tricky 30s
According to Lakdawala, once you enter your 30s, you need to make changes to your diet and fitness in order to set wellness standards that will see you through the rest of your life. "As young children, adolescents, and 20-somethings, our bodies are forgiving. Most people can get away with occasional excesses. In our 30s, the body starts slowing down.

Dr Muffazal Lakdawala
Dr Muffazal Lakdawala

It takes longer to lose even a small amount of weight," he explains, adding, "Traditionally, work becomes much more demanding and it is usually in the 30s when people peak in their careers. So, that translates into more stress, unhealthy eating patterns, sedentary lives, and less time for leisure. You become more vulnerable to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes; women begin grappling with hormonal disorders too."

Dr Muffi’s guide book
Dr Lakdawala lets us in on how he lost weight. "I began monitoring my meals and the biggest change was to carry home-cooked lunch, instead of eating out or ordering in. Gradually, I eliminated sugar from my life, which was tough because I have a sweet tooth. I made exercise non-negotiable. On days that I can, I make it to the gym. On the days I cannot, I make sure I walk between appointments, or, at least, take the stairs when and where I can." He lists 10 tips: 

1) Make time at least three days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity. I don’t mean household chores, or strolls with friends. I mean a good workout, whether it is a yoga class, a swim,
a brisk walk, a run, or in the gym. You need to sweat. Ideally, work out for 45-60 minutes six days a week.
2) Eat an excellent breakfast with dried fruits such as dates and nuts on the side. Never skip breakfast.
3) Avoid sugar. I don’t add it to my tea or coffee even.
4) Cut down on the caffeine. If possible, do away with it completely. Drink freshly-brewed coffee without milk and sugar. Choose green or herbal tea. If you must have your chai, or milky coffee, reduce the cup size by half and drink it on a full stomach, instead of the first thing in the
morning.
5) When there is no time for lunch, do not reach for cookies or a pack of chips; try fresh fruit instead. It is full of vitamins and minerals and packed with fibre, which helps regulate your blood sugar.
6) Stay hydrated — keep a bottle of water near you at all times. You need to drink three litres a day. Sometimes, you might think you are hungry but you are actually thirsty.
7) Keep healthy snacks accessible at work. You can never go wrong with unsalted roasted nuts, khakhra, dried fruits, nuts and sugar-free granola.
8) Take a stroll every hour, and especially after you eat.
9) Use your clothes as a marker. Make sure you continue to fit into them. Watch your diet and cut out any processed foods you might be eating. Whatever you do, avoid fad or crash diets.
10) Make one change and sustain it for three weeks, before you make the next change.

The Eat-Right Prescription; Dr Muffazal Lakdawala; Embassy Books, Rs 295

A day in the life of the doctor

>> From Monday to Saturday, my alarm rings at 6.30 am. I drink a glass of tepid water before anything.
>> At 7 am, I have a cup of tea, with some biscuits.
>> I eat breakfast an hour after I wake up, which is an old habit and I know now that it is good for metabolism. My breakfast spread includes 2 dates, 4-5 almonds and walnuts, a glass of vegetable juice, and either 2
egg whites on toast, nachni dosa, poha, oats upmaor idli with chutney.
>> As I leave the house, I take a seasonal fruit or an apple with me.
>> On most days, my lunch is one of the following meals:
A bowl of home-made muesli with cold milk and dried mixed berries and a chopped banana or 2 palak rotis, dal, a sabji made of seasonal vegetables, fresh cucumbers and a glass of chaasor a big bowl of red green or white salad.
>> I don’t eat fruit after 2 pm. At 3 pm, once I am in the clinic, I have a cup of green tea or masala chai.
>> For an evening snack, I order
a dry bhel or snack on a small bowl of roasted peanuts and chana. If I am sent a snack
from home, it’s usually a besan or moong dal chilla or simple sprouts bhel.
>> If I am lucky enough to be home before 7.30 pm, I love sipping on a cup of mint tea to refresh and soothe myself.
>> If I return home late, I dive straight into a bowl of soup and fill my plate with fish or chicken with lots of seasonal vegetables on the side.
>> Desserts are never a part of my daily diet. I enjoy them on vacation but allow myself just a spoonful. I also stay away from aerated drinks and alcohol, and I do not smoke either.

Healthy alternatives 

>> Use skimmed milk instead of whole milk.
>> Homemade dahi instead of the store-bought variety.
>> Organic traditional oils like mustard, coconut, sesame
or peanut and homemade or organic ghee instead of blended, industrially-produced oils.
>> Fresh greens in salads, with homemade and not store-bought dressings.
>> One cup of coffee/tea instead of three or four.
>> Sugar-free muesli instead of sugary cereals. Multi-grain/jowar/bajra/rajgira/raagi atta instead of plain wheat.
>> Dark muscovado sugar instead of white sugar.
>> Rock salt instead of iodised salt.
>> Red/brown rice instead of white.
>> A square of dark chocolate/small lump of jaggery/a couple of dates or dried figs eaten half an hour after a meal instead of dessert eaten at the table.

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