Dr Vishakha Shivdasani

The doctor who does not count calories

(DNA - Ashwini Sawant)
alt Melissa D’Costa D’Silva | Updated: Oct 8, 2017, 06:10 AM IST, DNA

Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, a specialist in lifestyle diseases and nutrition, believes carbs aren’t the enemy

Google weight loss tips, and you will get a lot of information that promises results in a short period of time. However, despite all the information out there, getting in shape seems like a tall task. Many dieters often believe they are eating right but not seeing any marked difference. We caught up with Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, to tell us why dieters often encounter these stumbling blocks. And got her to share some weight loss tips.

Tell us about your work

I am a medical doctor. I specialise in lifestyle diseases and nutrition. When I do diet plans, I don’t count calories. I seldom do portion control. I do a little portion control with simple sugars but otherwise not. I just combine foods. I teach you how to look at your plate whether you are eating at home or eating out or travelling and eating or trying different cuisines. What combinations are a weight gain combination? What is a weight neutral combination? What is a weight loss combination? So that is all that I teach.

When you say weight loss/weight neutral/ weight gain combination, could you elaborate on what that means?

A weight gain combination is a high intake of carbohydrates, simple sugars, eg — roti, sabzi, dal would be a weight gain combination because it’s two carbs and one protein. A weight loss combination would be high protein chicken, eggs, pulses a soup or a stir fry of chicken and veggies with no cereal. A weight neutral combination is where you have a balance of a carb and a protein, eg — rice and dal, which you can have guilt free if on a weight loss program but if you add a sabzi to it, it becomes a weight gain combination because it’s two carbs and one protein.

How does weight loss happen?

All the carbs in our body get converted into sugar. Unless you are burning it off. So, if you are eating roti sabzi, and if you workout for 45 minutes that is not a weight gain combination. If you consume foods that have a high glycemic index (GI), like potatoes, it causes a sugar spike. The basis of any weight loss program is to keep your sugar in control. Sugar fluctuations should not happen. If your sugar does not fluctuate, your weight loss will happen more easily. If your sugar goes up, your insulin goes up to bring down that sugar. The more insulin you expend the weight loss becomes more difficult. The way to control the sugar is to up the protein.

So does that mean we should go the high protein way?

Actually, we don’t do very high protein diets because medically it has been proven that high protein diets are one of the factors that can cause cancer. So, what we do is focus on complex carbs, which is your low GI vegetables. Leaving potato, arbi, suran, corn out, everything else is a good carb. It’s the high fibre carb that your body uses and excretes. High fibre carbs are present in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, methi, lettuce, etc and fruits like apple, kiwi, pears and peaches.

What are the benefits of high fibre?

High fibre not only acts likes a broom to reduce cholesterol but also flushes your intestines and detoxifies you, as it helps your bowel movement. And fibre is that kind of carb which does not increase your blood sugar. It does not cause spikes. So those help.

Is there an ideal diet?

Yes, an ideal diet is a balanced diet where you have both your macro and micro nutrients in place. Your macro nutrients are your protein, carbs and fat. One has to make sure they are getting a good amount of protein i.e. good quality of protein and a good amount of complex carbs and fats, which are essential. Good quality fats also matter. These come from olive oil, nuts from seeds and coconut oil. Avoid Dalda, Saffola, sunflower, etc. The best kind of diet is everything in moderation. Science has proven that everything changes. Anything in excess will cause harm.

What is your take on fad diets like keto and cold pressed juice diets?

Don’t do anything that’s not sustainable as you will gain the weight back, and they are far from healthy. Avoid crash diets and fad diets. They can only be done for a short period but should not be adopted as a lifestyle change.

What about abdominal obesity, what are the various causes?

It has been medically proven that sugar fluctuations cause abdominal obesity. PCOS and diabetes patients generally are more prone to it. Hence, we recommend incorporating a Low GI diet for them that won’t sugar spikes, alongwith good protein and fibre. Avoid simple sugars. Start your day with egg, tofu or low fat paneer and avoid having poha, upma, etc for breakfast.

Common myths you can dispel

1) Always use olive oil for cooking

Extra virgin olive oil has a low heating point and all Indian cooking is done on high flame. Using extra virgin oil in soups, stir fry and salads is good for you but not for cooking as it turns rancid and worsens cholesterol. It will do more harm than good. If you are using pomace olive oil to cook, that’s okay.

2) Carbs are your enemy

Carbs are not your enemy, they are your friends. They help with energy levels. Ditch simple sugars and choose complex carbs.

3) Going on a juice diet will help lose weight

Fruit juices are simple sugars which will cause a sugar spike. Instead, go for fresh vegetable juices where the fibre has not been strained and no sugar has been added.

4) Diabetics can have anything in moderation

Diabetics should up their protein but not significantly. There are certain fruits that diabetics should avoid like bananas, watermelon, grapes, chickoos etc. Fruit juices are a strict no. Instead they can have fruits that are rich in fibre like apples, peaches and pears. Also, kiwis, plum and berries. Mangoes can be consumed in moderation.

5) One should go vegan for medical reasons

If you are doing a vegan diet for ethical reasons that’s fine but don’t do it for medical reasons.

6) Mediterranean diet is the best diet. What’s your take on it?

It’s a diet I would recommend for diabetics and heart patients as you consume good fats, no cereals, have more salads soups, nuts, seeds, salmon, olives and no simple sugars. Even others can have it as it will do you no harm. Infact, it will better your lipid profile and also aid in weight loss.

Tips for weight loss

  • Begin your day with protein. Non-vegetarians can have egg while vegetarians can have tofu, sprouts or low fat paneer. Avoid simple sugars.

  • Choose a protein-based dessert. Avoid jalebis or sorbets. Opt for a cheesecake, tirasimu, ice cream or meringue. It will do less damage and cause less of a sugar spike. Alternately, one can also have raisins, dates or apricots as desserts.

  • If consuming alcohol opt for a dry white wine or a vodka soda lime. Don’t use mixers, don’t have aerated drinks with your alcohol and avoid cocktails as most of them have sugar in them. An occasional drink is okay.


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