Meet Divya Sathyaraj, a nutritionist and psychotherapist, who believes what you are is what you eat
The striking resemblance to her father, actor Sathyaraj, is what you first notice when you see Divya! “I know,” she nods with a smile. Nutrition and vitamin therapies are Divya Sathyaraj’s forte and as a practising nutritionist, psychotherapist and counsellor, weaning people away from drug therapy is her mission. “Food is magical. Food heals. Food is medicine. Only that you need to know what to eat and how much,” she says. And that’s Divya’s mantra for good health!
“A job at a health studio or a gym didn’t attract me, though I do prescribe diet calendars. Losing weight the healthy way is what I advise ,” she says. “I have girls visiting me with an SOS such as, ‘I have to lose weight fast because the fashion show is a few days away’ or ‘I’m participating in a beauty pageant and there’s very little time’ or that ‘Valentine’s Day’ is round the corner.’ I tell them, ‘Excuse me, that’s not the way I work,’” laughs Divya. “It’s not always about BMI or six-pack. Maintaining good health through right food habits is a lifelong journey.” She cites the case of a young patient for whom she had prepared a diet chart with proteins, vitamins and carbs. “Carbohydrates mean energy. The girl had avoided carbs completely and ended up fainting before the event. You can’t lose weight in a hurry. And you have to follow your nutritionist’s advice. Like the Chinese, we also should not draw a distinction between food and medicine. And believe me, it works.”
Divya, who wishes to help women confronted with health issues, is dismayed when women suffering from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) go in for oral contraceptives as treatment. “It’s not a disease, only a condition that can be set right with the right kind of food and supplements,” she avers. “Like, Hormone Replacement Therapy shouldn’t always be the solution for menopause-related problems. You have to understand your body.”
Divya encourages her patients to ask questions — a trait she has imbibed from her father. “When I prescribe folic acid or garlic supplements, Vitamin E, Selenium, Calcium or primrose oil capsules I encourage them to ask me why.”
‘Listen politely but always ask why something has to be done,’ dad would tell us. He’s a very health-conscious person. He may return late after a shoot but he would never miss his workout. Just like my mom, who goes swimming religiously everyday. Even as kids my brother Sibi [actor] and I would often discuss the health aspects of food,” she says.
“When 17-year-olds tell me that they take tablets to sleep, I’m shocked. The more creative you are the longer it takes for you to fall asleep. But simple, harmless ways can be followed to beat insomnia. Never tell yourself, ‘I have to sleep now. I have a long day tomorrow.’ Then it’s only going to take longer.” She teaches her patients vibration and breathing exercises that calm the mind and help beat sleeplessness.
Workshops on health-related issues, and also on subjects such as child labour and self-defence for women, and counselling sessions for Sri Lankan refugees and school drop-outs are part of her busy schedule. “That’s my social consciousness goading me on,” she laughs.
A classical dancer trained under Chitra Visweswaran, her interest in performing arts isn’t surprising. Yet with two actors in the family, hasn’t she ever thought of the grease paint? “I’ve acted in an English short film on child labour, directed by Shiraz. Frankly, I prefer to be associated with cinema and theatre that are not run of the mill. But acting has never been a career option. My profession will always be nutrition and psychotherapy,” says Divya.