Friday, September 22, 2017

Raita Dip and "The Weight Loss Trap"

Happy Fall, y'all. And hopefully, goodbye to hurricane season. We in Northern Georgia were predicted to be in the path of Hurricane Irma last week as it moved inland. As it turns out, the storm deflected West and we were just outside the path. Even being outside the path, and even with Irma being downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got near here, we got winds, torrential rains, massive trees were felled and power lines were down. Schools were closed for 3 days. Traffic lights weren't working. By some miracle, we didn't lose power, but most of my neighbors were without power for up to 4 days. I can't begin to imagine how hard life must be for people who were directly hit by the hurricanes.

The weather is slowly cooling down in these parts. Today's recipe is an uncomplicated dressing/dip inspired by Indian raitas or yogurt-based salads. You simply stir together a few basic ingredients, and then pair the dressing with any cooked or raw vegetables of your choice.

Raita Dip

1 cup yogurt (I used a combination of Greek yogurt and homemade dahi)
2-3 tbsp. crushed roasted peanuts
1 tsp. cumin-coriander powder
Salt to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Plenty of minced cilantro

Stir together and store in a covered container for 2-3 days. Use as a dip or a salad dressing.

While making golden adais, I impulsively grabbed some of this raita dip and a box of salad greens from the fridge. The combination turned out to be fantastic. Spread a tablespoon or two of the dip on the adai and add a handful of salad greens. Roll up and enjoy right away. Especially in summer, this was a cool, light and refreshing meal.
* * *

Back in February, I wrote about being back to square one in terms of eating and exercising habits. Summer rolled by and we had a very happy and busy time with friends and family visiting for four solid months. And this week, at the start of Fall, I find myself...drum roll, please...still at square one!

So much of my daily well-being and happiness is linked to one factor: my energy level. On days when I am full of energy, life is easy and good- I can run around with my kids, I take pleasure in getting chores done, and I can do everything I need and want to, for myself and others. On days when my energy flags, even the ordinary routine feels like climbing a mountain.

Thinking of how to keep up my energy level consistently has me thinking about the trifecta of diet, exercise and sleep. We're slowly getting better at this whole sleeping thing, and I'm doing what is in my hands- which is to get to bed early, ready and eager to grab what sleep I can. As for exercise, I'm walking as much as I can- with some combination of the toddler in a stroller, the dog on a leash, and the kindergartner tagging along, since all 3 of them love being outside. But I know that I need to sit with my calendar and pencil in some formal exercise time- swimming laps, and classes at the gym. I need that kind of structured exercise; it did me a world of good the last time I fit it into my life. As far as diet goes, I know what works for me and I just have to get back into the routine of doing it.

Time Magazine had an interesting article this summer titled The Weight Loss Trap. I read it because I'm interested in the topic in general, and also because I have about 15 lbs of pregnancy weight gain that's clinging on and weighing me down, quite literally. I'm jotting down some of my notes from this article:

-Exercise is critical to good health but studies show that it is not an especially reliable way to keep off body fat.

-Individual responses to diets vary enormously. The key to weight loss is to personalize it and to find your own way there. No two people lost weight in quite the same way.

-Among people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off, the one commonality was that they made changes to their everyday behaviors.

-A person quoted in the article said, "Ultimately, I fell in love with taking care of myself". This resonated with me- my own life improved dramatically once I stopped thinking of diet and exercise as this awful thing, and instead started experimenting for ways to make it enjoyable and effective.

-The same person said, "My advice is to focus on each day...weight loss is a journey, not a sprint". Again, solid advice and a plea against doing anything drastic and unsustainable.

-When you lose weight, your resting metabolism slows down- so there is a biological obstacle to losing weight, and it is easy to gain back the weight that is lost. This is a sobering fact.

-We don't fully understand weight loss and gain. Weight gain could be influenced by environmental factors and by our microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live in and on our bodies.

-Most people don't need to lose massive amounts of weight, to become "skinny" or fit some perfect size, to be healthy. For most people, a 10% weight loss (eg. a 150 lbs person losing 15 lbs) is enough to produce noticeable improvements in health, such as blood sugar control and blood pressure.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!


  1. Hi Nupur ,
    I too am always in this quest to read , try and find out what clicks with my body . I want the process of being that normal weight effortless , not time consuming or difficult . I have figured out what works for me exercise-wise . I follow the workouts at home . I have 3sets of dumbells at home ( 5,8,12lbs ) . I love strength training and work in some cardio . My goal is to work out 35-40 min , 4 days of the week.
    Now food and eating was something I struggled with . I am conscious coz of my pre-diabetes . I felt like I ate well , ate healthy home cooked meals , then why am I finding it hard to maintain a good weight ? I borrowed a book ' Contemporary Ayurveda ' by Hari Sharma from our library and read through it . I could figure out a few tweaks to my daily routine . Biggest one was to chew my food realllly well and eat slowly . Then the next change was to eat dinner by 6:30-7pm . I feel like even these small changes are helping me . I have stopped weighing myself , but I feel a difference in my belly fat . I eat mostly Indian meals , eat a bit of ghee with rice to reduce its glycemic load on my system . I will know if these changes are helping when I get my annual blood work done .
    We will someday figure out what works best for us :-) .
    Your blog is fun to read , thanks for sharing !
    Love ,

    1. Hi Jayashree! How wonderful that you have found at-home workouts that you enjoy. Strength training is THE thing to keep a person stronger and fitter and something I really need to work on. I haven't had any success with at-home workouts- I seem to need a class away from home with an instructor telling me what to do :/
      Good luck with your eating habits! It was interesting to hear you say, "I felt like I ate well , ate healthy home cooked meals , then why am I finding it hard to maintain a good weight ?". It is somewhat of the same issue for me, and the answer for me (may not be the same for everyone) was that I simply needed to tweak the proportions of some of the things I ate and eat more cooked and raw vegetable and less of rotis and rice. Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism and the typical Indian vegetarian diet is very high in carbohydrates; that is the simple and perhaps inconvenient truth. However with some adjustments we can reap all the wonderful benefits of the Indian vegetarian diet while controlling its one problematic aspect.

      Also, you reminded me about eating slowly and chewing one's food- I wolf my food down in seconds- it is not good and I should work on that. Much love to you!

  2. You sound busy and like that tropical storm sounds very stressful - I am much better with incidental exercise than planned but I am sad that I had a body balance class I was doing regularly but have had to give it up because I have extended my work days - I had been feeling really good for doing it.

    1. Johanna- So disappointing that you had to give up a class you enjoyed! I hope you find another that you love just as much that fits your schedule better. I love group classes so much- the only way I seem to exercise for a solid hour with the time flying by. The social aspect is fun and I like having an instructor telling me exactly what to do.

  3. Reading about the hurricanes that have left their mark in your part of the world, makes me realise how much these extreme weather conditions have so quickly become the norm. Glad you suffered only minimal inconvenience, Nupur.

    As for diet and exercise, aren't there newer and newer findings everyday that challenge and dismiss earlier findings? It has become such a minefield that I meet people who, wrecked with choice and an overload of conflicting information, have turned each meal traumatic events that they no longer know what is healthy and nourishing. I eat what I always have - veggie meals cooked from scratch. Most nights it is dal and rice and roti and salad. I do favor the sweet stuff and your initiative to go sugar free for Feb worked brilliantly for me and I roped in a couple of others too.

    I exercise 4-5 times a week, alternating between rowing and running and sometimes insanity workouts. I'm doing a half marathon in a couple of weeks and so find that the fitness from other aerobic activity transfers well to running. But the exercise is more to do with keeping my head turned out well as I really struggle with mood and energy levels during winter months.

    I have recently started cooking once a week at a local vegetarian cafe. I create the menu and cook lunch for some 30 covers. It is hard work but very rewarding. I will be turning to OHS and your wonderful recipes for inspiration.

    1. Ammani- Yes, extreme weather is becoming the norm :( Parts of Maharashtra that never saw flooding have been seeing extreme weather too, this month.

      Your comment is so interesting and I have a lot to say about it! :) About "aren't there newer and newer findings everyday that challenge and dismiss earlier findings", I would say yes and no. YES: Research into human nutrition is difficult because real world people are hard to study (the very opposite of "controlled lab conditions"). It doesn't mean nutrition shouldn't be studied. It means findings should be appropriately weighed. The way nutrition findings are publicized- by way of "shocking" headlines of the "You won't believe what your breakfast is doing to you" are unnerving but they rarely reflect a considered and thoughtful analysis of the research. NO: Single research studies into human behavior are rarely enlightening but taken as a whole, themes start to emerge. By far the most encouraging theme that has emerged from recent research is that there is no holy grail of eating. Various diets and styles of eating work for different people. So people can stop being wrecked by choice and take a chill pill (yes, those have no side effects ;)). If a person notices with some introspection that there are obvious things that they could work on (eg. you hate vegetables or you cannot stop eating sweets once you start) then those are things you can work on if you choose. Just my two cents :)

      Your exercise routine is mind bogglingly good! You are my hero!!

      The vegetarian cafe sounds like an amazing venture. What fun!

    2. Nupur - bravo for your considered, balanced answer to a topic that gets everyone so agitated and polarized. It's good to read that research in nutrition science is showing that - as in anything in life - there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that everybody should find out what works best for them keeping some nutritional principles in mind that apply to everybody. The other thing is that what works when you are twenty will very likely not work when you are fifty - the body evolves with age and your "diet" has to evolve with it.
      It's heartbreaking to read about the devastation wreaked by the hurricanes. I am so glad to read you escaped unscathed.

    3. Hi Kamini!! The weather related destruction is all over. So many places in Maharashtra have unexpected heavy rains and flooding this year too- ah, it is all too depressing sometimes. Speaking of nutrition, you are so right that our body changes with age. When I was 20, I would eat anything and everything and stay skinny (and very unhealthy- I never had any stamina!) and now I have to work at keeping the weight off but at the same time I am more physically fit because I more aware of taking care of myself.

  4. Hi Nupur,

    I started running on the treadmill since late January this year, with a months break in May, and lost close to 3 kg. My weight loss has stagnated, and though it's not a huge amount in the first place, I've had many people tell me I look leaner.

    I run for about half an hour and walk for about 15-20 mins. I do this about 3-4 times a week and it has helped me tremendously. I don't believe in diets, but am working on reducing my consumption of white sugar.

    1. That's the amazing thing about regular exercise, isn't it, that it changes body tone and fitness levels regardless of weight loss. Good luck to you!!

      I found it interesting that you say, "I don't believe in diets". I know what you mean- there are many restrictive diets out there that are rarely sustainable and often frustrating, however, while not everyone is "on a diet", every single person (every creature, in fact) has a diet, which is simply their pattern of eating. So my belief in diets is that we each have a way of eating and it may be working fine for us just the way it is, or it may need anywhere from some minor tweaks to a pretty major overhaul to serve us better. And that is OK :)

  5. Thanks for the synopsis of the Time article. I keep my goals very simple and attainable. I try to work out 2 times/week at moderate intensities - spinning, walking, or yoga. I do only thinks I enjoy. I enjoy group class and don't enjoy weight training (although I know how good it is for you - I try to think of vinyasa yoga as my strength training). I believt hat stressing about exercising make you gain weight - because of production of cortisole. So if I miss a workout or two, I try not to fret. I have been doing this for two years now and back to my pre baby weight! I eat what I want - I just try to be mindful of what I eat - portion control and try not going for the third helping (Seconds are allowed!). believe I am not one of those people who are skinny with high metabolism. I struggle to keep off weight and this routine has helped me.

    1. Sangeetha- Congrats on finding your happy place! I'm with you on doing things that I enjoy and approaching them with a feeling of joy and not stress. Exercise is something that is "good medicine" no matter no small the dose. Yoga (and such bodyweight exercises) totally are strength training!! Like you, I am working with a metabolism that is prone to be sluggish so I feel it necessary to put some healthy habits and routines in place.

  6. Nupur,

    I follow your blog regularly...rather have been following it for years now.
    I was a little taken aback since haven't seen you post anything for a while. Hope all is well.

    I know you work full time and have 2 kids and a dog and a husband and family and blogging might have been put on the back burner...but just wanted to say hi!

    Take care friend.

  7. hi, no posts for long time. hope everything is fine . take care

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Eat REAL GHEE - either make it with irish butter or buy from ancient organics . The fat that is used in making food makes a lot of difference.

    ORGANIC GRAINS - 100% organic wheat flour , Red Rice from Srilanka .

    CURD , CURD and CURD - Made from non homogenized milk /grassfed . Erin or FAGE ( both 2 different ) but works.

    EAT EVERY DAY on TIME . EAT when hungry

    AS MUCH as possible , make fresh food everyday.
    ( EAT ONE GREEN VEGETABLE ) everyday


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