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In a world going gaga over food, we rarely take a good look at ourselves. With festivities around the corner, we take our health for a ride. But they say it is all in the head, right? So, if you also believe in the power of the mind, hop aboard our fitness wagon as we chat with Dr Ria Banerjee-Ankola, MBBS, MPH and an ace food therapist, who is sharing special tips to make this festive season healthier and happier.

Dr.Ria Banerjee-Ankola

  1. Elaborate on the concept of food therapy and your journey into this. Being a doctor by profession, I have extensively worked in the field of social health with noted international organizations namely UNICEF, WHO, Bill Gates Foundation and so on. While working with these esteemed organizations, I had the privilege of learning new things with hands-on experience. This was the time when I received detailed training about nutrition.

To add to it, a healthy lifestyle had always been a mantra in my home. Around 2012-14, I put on a lot of weight due to stress-related issues. When it started taking a toll on my health, I chose a healthy lifestyle and from 2015 to 2018 managed to lose 60 kilos.

 My experience in the field of nutrition and the right kind of eating habit has helped me reach where I am today. Food therapy is a way of getting fitter by eating food as per your medical conditions and metabolism and also keeping your basic lifestyle and your surroundings into consideration to provide detailed therapy.

  1. How should one decode the concept of food? Decoding food is easy once you have a clear point of view and understanding what is right for your body. The functioning and metabolism of each body differ and hence, it is necessary to understand what might be good for one might not be good for the other. The concept of decoding food is all customized. Whenever I sit down to plan a diet, I take into account the detailed medical reports and case history to design a healthy diet plan.

One thing that I insist people on doing is avoid processed food or refined food as much as they can. These kinds of ready-to-eat foods contain heavy preservatives which are not good for health.
  1. People find it difficult to follow a particular diet. As a therapist, how difficult it is to convince them? This is one thing that I consistently address on my social media handle. For once, people need to honestly analyze whether they are going too tough on themselves for good health. One thing that I have observed about people is that when they approach me, even before I begin with the diet plan, they claim that they would follow it from the next day. People need to understand that they cannot binge on treats for a day and then starve themselves the whole week. This is where the concept of diet goes for a toss.

Anyone can have a normal tasty meal every day. The only thing to be followed is the proportion in which it needs to be consumed. The idea of food therapy is to feel healthy and happy. If you are not happy with what you eat then you cannot feel healthy in any way.

Another crazy concept that is making the rounds is that you can just lose weight by curtailing food intake and without workout. It is necessary to keep off such balderdash. It is important to workout every day and by workout I don’t just mean ripping yourself in the gym. Workout also means going on walks, jogging or yoga.
  1. How does food therapy work?

Detailed medical reports, blood test reports and medical history are necessary for basic information purposes. After that, we provide the patients with an enrolment form wherein they have to fill in detailed information about current lifestyle and eating habits and likes and dislikes which help us in designing a detailed plan for them.

We also ask them to share the place where they live and their surroundings, so as to help them with choosing local food choices. I study the report and after the consultation, I provide the patient with their first diet. Now while the therapy is on, it is mandatory for the patient to write to me. A fortnight later, we sit down to discuss how well the patient has followed the diet and whether there is a need for improvement. If they have any doubts about the plan or if they are planning a sudden travel then accordingly I make changes in the diet plan.

  1. How do you research about local food availability?

Each city has its own local food and we are quite aware of it. In addition to the place I also take into consideration the weather and the seasonal vegetables and fruits available locally. The whole idea is to avoid any deviation in following the diet.

Patients need to ensure that they do not unnecessarily starve themselves and eat whatever is available around, all this while maintaining the proportion. Each one of us must understand and listen to our body’s food requirements and eat accordingly. There is no hard and fast rule with regard to this.

  1. How does food therapy work for patients with a terminal illness?

Yes, we do get approached by people or families whose close ones are suffering from a terminal illness. In such cases, we try to give as much as possible through our diet to make the person feel better. We have to ensure thorough medical research before we suggest anything.

I do get approached by teens between 16 to 24 years and I make it a point to tell them that they need to eat properly so have to have a healthy life in the near future. Binging to some extent is okay but one should avoid going full throttle.


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