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Notes From an Elimination Diet

January 31, 2020

…and what we learned from it.

December was a month of many parties, and numerous pumpkin-spice lattes for me.  Come January I promised myself to clean up my diet.

Most of us tend to eat mindlessly unless we consciously decide not to.  Dairy and gluten insidiously creep into my plate and down my throat before I can squeak in protest.  I try to go gluten & dairy free every once in a while.  This time I decided to make all 31 days of January about elimination.  I eliminated all food items known to cause inflammation in the body such as gluten and dairy.  The body needs 21 days to completely reset, and I decided to test my willpower and continue the diet for the entire month.

The great thing about being active on social media is that you are always connected to like-minded people.  I didn’t want to go on a cleanse alone, and within a couple of days I had 14 people who wanted to join me in my cleanse, thanks to the joy that is Instagram.


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Intermittent Fasting Made Me a Better Yogi

April 25, 2019

…and 4 Other Unexpected Results of the Latest Fitness Fad

I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) seems to be all the rage right now.  Fitness experts are expounding it and every one (and their moms) are trying it. At the risk of sounding trite, I’d say I.F. has changed people’s lives.  It’s helped people shed oodles of weight. It’s reduced the oft present stress around ‘clean eating’, ‘balanced eating’, ‘right eating’ by eliminating eating all together! And in my experience, it’s done a lot that we’re not even talking about.

I’m not one for fitness fads, but I’m also experimental.  I’ll always try something, unless it’s too ‘out there’ for me.  (And, to be honest, few things really are.)


Intermittent fasting is a system of eating where there is a specified ‘ eating window’, and ‘fasting window’.  There are many different styles of Intermittent Fasting depending on these windows. The most common is the 16/8 fast, where you fast for sixteen hours and eat for eight.  You can also do a 12/12 fast, where you fast for twelve hours and then have an eating window of 12 hours. You can fast on alternate days, or once in two days…

And to my surprise I found that this system of eating ‘worked’ for me.  Below are 5 things it did for me, and which have me now.


I kid you not.  I’ve practiced yoga almost daily for the past decade.  In a world where distractions are many and time a rare commodity, the only way I can do this is by waking up at an ungodly hour to get some uninterrupted practice time before the rest of the world awakes.  More often than not, I’m sluggish and slow in the morning, sore from the previous day.

Enter I.F. and my body feels clearer. I am experiencing a kind of energy I’ve never experienced before. The kind where your brain might say ‘no’ but your body will move into the first sun salutation with no complaints.  By reducing the quantity of food I consume, energy that would otherwise be spent on metabolizing and digesting food is available for morning yoga practice. My asanas are sharper, my body seems to move with no resistance and I am fully present for my practice.


Yoga is not only a physical practice.  However, even the physical practice of yoga (asana practice) is linked to your mind.  If your mind isn’t awake, your body is unlikely to act. After practicing I.F. for almost a month now I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t take too long to wake up.  Prior to this I would dilly-dally and procrastinate before finally stepping on my mat. Now I’m on my mat faster, more inspired, energetic and creatively abundant.


But not because I’m guzzling down any more of it than I was before.  In fact, I’m drinking less of it! Part of my dilly-dallying used to include making a cup of strong coffee.  The aroma used to wake up my senses and the caffeine used to wake up my groggy cells. Now I don’t need the coffee.  An era of coffee enjoyment has started in my Life. I have coffee when I want to and not because I need to. I enjoy a single shot of espresso more than I’ve ever enjoyed it before.


Along with a decrease in my coffee cravings, my snacking has also reduced.  I don’t find the need to constantly munch something. So I’m not putting junk into my system…and that may be contributing to my high energy levels.


I see my waistline more often than not now.  I.F. proponents scream weight loss more than anything else.  In fact, many say that they have lost weight in spite of eating all the junk in the world! Just to be clear, I haven’t lost any weight, but I still see my waistline because of a reduction in inflammation in the gut.  Because I no longer ingest easy snacks, I’ve cut back on bloat-causing preservatives that I was invariably consuming.


Before I end I’d also like to point out that there are numerous different versions of intermittent fasting.  

  • There are dietitians who say it’s OK to have coffee, tea, lemon water etc while you’re fasting.  I have absolutely nothing except water during my fasting window.
  • I stick to the 16/8 style of fasting.  Basically this means having my last meal by 4 and eating again at 8 in the morning.  
  • I break my fast with nuts or a banana.

I’ve jumped on to the I.F. bandwagon, and I think everyone should give it a go. Would you try intermittent fasting? Have you tried it already? Share your thoughts!

On one of the several Root Bridges during our hike in Cherapunjee last month.

The Diwali Detox – What I Do

October 23, 2017

I ate a lot of these while recovering from Dengue fever. In fact, one of my favorite fruits.

I’m not one for crash dieting or diet fads.  And the buzzword right now is ‘post Diwali detox’.  Everyone is on one.  Except for those who are actually healthy.

Fasting-feasting and binge eating does more harm to your body than you can imagine.  Depriving your body and then forcing it to consume more than it needs or can handle is the perfect way to confuse your hormones.  That’s when a lot of women start to complain about hair fall, premature greying, wrinkles or other changes in skin tone/quality, and even an irregular period.

Right now everyone is dreading their plate…or looking at it fearfully and suspiciously.  Except, I’m happy to report, my students.  They have a healthy relationship with food and a holistic outlook to life.  Diwali is about celebrating and indulging and now it’s about cleaning up your diet.

Gigantic cucumber. Spotted it in a dhaba at the foothills of Singhagadh Fort. But I would be hesitant to eat it as I feel this size can only be achieved artificially.

Like I said, I don’t follow a ‘diet’.  But here are five guidelines that work for me.

  1. I try and follow an Ayurvedic diet.  So use your food as medicine.  Use lots of ginger, garlic and spices during the winter and eat lighter food in the summers.  Bangalore is neither too cold nor too hot, so I eat a moderate diet.
  2. Eat a largely clean diet.  Adding a lot of vegetables to your Maggie doesn’t count.  If you use a good quality oil, use organic veggies and whole wheat pasta – that is clean and healthy.
  3. No white sugar.  No sugar (any kind) in my tea/coffee.  There was a time when I used jaggery, but I have a sweet tooth.  And when you have  a sweet tooth you can go a bit overboard with even jaggery.  So I just don’t keep it in my kitchen.
  4. No dairy.  So only black coffee or black/green tea for me.  In my experience even small amounts of milk in tea causes a lot of bloating.  I notice a difference within just a week of having milk tea.  Curd however, behaves differently.  And sometimes I allow myself a little bit of curd.  But again, sparingly.
  5. Fruits – in moderation.  Sugar contents in fruits is very high.  So if you overdo fruit and have the traditional Indian carby diet – then it’s just extra sugar.


I love this picture of tiny mushrooms growing on a tree trunk at Amrapalli Farms about an hour and a half away from Pune. I use a lot of mushrooms in my salads.

Every body is different and what works for me may not work for you.  The above list is something that I put together after many years of observing myself.  That said, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what others have tried and tested.  You might be able to incorporate some of their learnings into your life.

What dietary guidelines work for you?  Let me know.


The Ayurvedic Way.

May 19, 2013

I recently attended a talk about Ayurvedic diet and nutrition at the Sivananda Yoga Centre where I practice yoga these days.  The session was conducted by a yogi couple who used to own a raw food restaurant in New York.  I gleaned a lot of practical advice on how we can tweak our food habits to reap more from what we eat.

Yogis seek to delay the catabolic process of aging, which begins at 35.  Along with a balance in terms of proper breathing, relaxation and exercise, a proper diet can go a long way in combating a lot of health problems.  In fact, numerous lifestyle related health problems can be cured by diet ALONE.

Over the years focus has shifted away from unprocessed and natural (i.e ‘whole’) foods to impure products.  For example, the most commonly used grain is white rice.  White rice is NOT a whole food.  In order for a grain to be whole it must have bran, endosperm and the germ.  White rice has no bran, and bran contains the fibre.  White rice has been denatured, and polished white rice even more so.  Substitute white rice with brown rice.  Try basmati brown rice. 

White flour is not whole.  You can use barley, millet, wheat, gram, quinoa (not locally available in India), oats and buckwheat instead.  The best thing is to use products that are grown locally.  You would be surprised at how many healthy options are available at your local market.  You can ask the shop keeper for brown rice, kuttu ka atta, makki ka atta etc, and chances are that he will have it.  Flax is a great alternative to wheat.  You can grind your flax seeds and use it in lieu of wheat.  Also, for those who don’t eat eggs, flax seeds are a great alternative.  If you start eating whole even one day a week, then you significantly reduce the amount of disease causing matter that goes into your system. 

The more your body is able to digest and break down the nutrients that are available to it, the healthier you will be.  Sprouting is a great way to make your food more digestible.  Sprouts are sattvic. 

Seeds and nuts are another source of nutrition and are available abundantly.  Sunflower seeds contain protein and carbohydrates.  Pumpkin seeds have a lot of zinc.  Sesame seeds can be sprouted.  Snacking on nuts is a great option.  The best nuts to consume are almonds, walnuts and cashews.  Walnuts have omega 3 fatty acids as well.  Always make sure to soak nuts over night before consuming them.  This process will remove the toxins.  Remember to never eat raw peanuts.  They must always be roasted to get rid of toxins.

A discussion about nutrition in the Indian context is incomplete without talking about fried foods.  Why are fried foods so bad for us?  Besides the fact that they increase cholesterol in your system, fried foods also contain free radicals – unstable oxygen molecules.  These oxygen molecules lose electrons and these electrons then bind to other molecules creating more free radicals (unstable molecules).  We need anti-oxidants to combat this attack of the unstable oxygen molecules.  The most common and popular source of anti-oxidants is green tea.  Also, it’s an excellent way to combat dry skin.

Fruits are a good source of natural sugars, minerals and vitamins.  But they can also be a source of toxins.  Most fruits are grown with the help of pesticides and artificial growth hormones.  Try and get organic bell peppers because these require a large quantity of pesticides to grow.  Some fruits that you are better off eating organic are grapes and strawberries.  Also, it’s a good idea not to juice your fruits.   Juice has a lot of concentrated sugars without the added fibre of actual fruits, even if you’re making it at home.  Baked fruits also contain a higher sugar concentration.

About sweeteners:  White sugar is polished and dehydrates you.  Opt for more natural sugars such as honey, agave, brown sugar, stevia, jiggery and zylatol.  Zylatol is a product which comes from birch trees.  Other sources of natural sugars are dates and raisins.

White salt does more harm to your system that good.  It can cause hypertension and high blood pressure.  The best salt to use is sea salt.  Sea salt has a greyish hue to it.  It also contains natural iodine.  White salt on the other hand has iodine added artificially.  Rock salt is also a great healthy alternative and has a slightly pinkish hue.  Celery is a source of natural salt.

About dairy products:  In ancient Ayurvedic texts, milk has been classified as a sattvic food.  However, over the years the process of obtaining milk from cows has changed and this has changed the nature of milk.  Now cows are being injected with artificial hormones, they are underfed, they live in confined spaces which are dirty and sometimes they end up grazing on their own faeces!  A cow living under such conditions is an unhappy one and this alters the quality of the milk she produces.  So milk is no longer an ‘ideal’ source of protein and calcium.  Needless to say, yogurt made from such milk will contain all of the rajasic properties associated with cows.  Sesame seeds are an excellent alternative to milk.  In fact, they contain more calcium than milk.  The process of making cheese also deserves a mention.  To make cheese from milk rennet is required.  Rennet is a GMO – Genetically Modified Organism.  Furthermore, the body doesn’t have the ability to digest cheese.  So it pretty much passes through your system undigested and if you examine your stool you will see the undigested cheese in it.  Also, cheese causes excessive production of mucous, so that might be why some people are more prone to stuffed noses and congestion.  Remember this next time you’re tempted to shove pizza slices down your throat.  Soy and corn are GMOs too, so best to avoid these as well.

Some excellent sources of PROTEIN: Sprouts, pulses, legumes, avocadoes, olives, nuts & seeds and sea vegetables such as kelp and sushi.

Quinoa and hemp are complete proteins.  Complete proteins are essential proteins.  These are proteins that your body needs but does not produce on its own.      The combination of rice + pulses/legumes is also a complete food/protein.

Excellent sources of CARBS: Rice, fruits, veggies

Sources of STARCH: potatoes, bread, pasta and corn.

Excellent sources of FATS: Coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil.  Always keep your oils in the fridge to preserve their properties.

Finally, always remember that what you eat is not as important as how you eat.  At least one meal in a day must be consumed in silence.