So it was with great pleasure that I struck up a conversation with Raj, then interviewed him. By publishing our brief Q&A, I hope you the reader get a perspective on healthy Indian diets that is slightly different than mine. After all, I don't have all the answers and there's no one diet that's perfect. Plus, eating is a personal thing and a person can't tolerate something that everybody else can.
So I feel we can all learn something from other people who study nutrition and health, whether he (or she) be a fitness entrepreneur or a physician interested in this stuff, which can improve your life or at least your understanding. Without further ado, our Q&A.
1. Wellness coaching is an atypical career, more so for an Indian guy. What got you interested in coaching people on becoming leaner and stronger?
Wow. Thats a loaded question to say the least but I’ll try and answer it in under 20,000 words.
First - My own experiences wrt health and fitness. As one would expect, it is a fairly long story and in the interest of keeping this short, I will direct you to a page in my blog where I discuss my life experiences in detail. Interested folks can check it out - http://rajganpath.com/about/.
Second - The state of health and fitness in India. (Click "Read More" to read the rest of the Q&A.)
The only way the common man (the fitness enthusiast, the fat loss client, the diabetic parent, the lower back pain fighting young adult etc.) can be saved from the scam that is health and fitness in India is if they are provided with legit training and science based nutritional guidelines that are both effective and sustainable.
And what is the only way to do that? Well, someone needs to take the plunge. Someone needs to take the risk of pioneering this atypical career. Someone needs to prove that there is indeed a future for science savvy folks who are passionate about health, fitness and helping people. Someone needs to prove that with good science, nutrition cures all and that with true passion, training becomes addictive and fun!
A change is absolutely required.
So I wrapped up my life in California and headed back home to India, to be that very change.
2. What is the most common myth your clients seem to believe regarding what is considered healthy food (and before you set them straight)?
In a world that is dependent on grains, everyone believes whole grains (and especially whole wheat) are the holy grail. Companies sell whole grains at a higher cost though there is lesser processing involved and people take pride in eating whole wheat bread/roti/naan, without the smallest idea of why they are doing so.
What most people don’t realize is that, though whole grains contain the outer covering which have the oh-so-valuable fiber, the outer covering is also where all the anti-nutrients reside (gluten, phytic acid, lectins etc.). While such anti-nutrient load can be dramatically reduced with smart traditional cooking methods (which our ancestors have used for ages), such is never the case now, considering we buy flour/atta/bread from the store and never take the time anymore to soak/ferment/sprout our grains prior to cooking.
And fiber... well, thats what vegetables and fruits are for!
A bunch of spinach (~ 350 g) contains ~ 80 calories, 12.5 g of carbs out of which 8 g are fiber! Compare that to your slice of whole wheat bread which contains ~ 110 calories, ~ 20 g of carbs out of which a mere 4 g are fiber. And needless to mention that the bunch of spinach contains, without exaggeration, 100 times more vitamins and minerals than the bread and is way to satiating than bread. Check out this article I wrote a while back for other such comparisons - http://rajganpath.com/2010/07/31/lets-talk-numbers/.
3. Who (or what) is the single largest influence in your philosophy on how to eat?
I love India with everything I have, ever had and will have, and it physically hurts me to see the crap that is being circulated around in the name of health advice. I can go on for pages about this, but I’ll keep it short and say...
India has a cuisine that has stood the test of time, is rich in flavor, is abundant in spices, is right up there with respect to food variety, is heavy in micronutrients and yet, India is home to the most diabetics and heart patients in the world, belongs to the tail in the Olympics and has her citizens believe its OK to be arthritic/diabetic/immobile once you turn 50!
Are you telling me a cuisine so rich is so flawed with respect to health? I refuse to accept that.
And so, I set out to prove that the traditional Indian diet is absolutely healthy and did so by helping hundreds of people go from fat, weak and diseased to lean, strong and healthy!
4. What is the most effective change an average person in the modern world (e.g., cities in India or the States) can make to what he/she eats that will help him/her lose weight?
1. Dump diets. Make lifestyle changes instead.
2. Dont get obsessed with low fat or low carb or low whatever. Eat real food instead.
And if you can only make 3 changes to your nutrition and nothing else, these are the three you should make to ensure fat loss and good health.
1. Drop all sugars. That includes honey, jaggery, dried fruit and fruit juice. Eat organic fruit instead.
2. Drop all other grains and eat white rice (in moderation, preferably after strenuous activity).
3. Drop all vegetable oils (sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, mustard oil etc.) and stick to ghee, butter and coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for toppings.