Food

Every diet comes like a cult, says Rujuta Diwekar

“We haven’t even begun to see diet fads; it’s only going to get crazier,” says Rujuta Diwekar, alarmingly. “Look at the pattern: if you deprive yourself of something, there’s going to be salvation, which is you getting much thinner than what you currently are,” she says. It’s as if beauty is typecast as someone who is a certain shape and colour, just the way food has been subjected to ‘standardisation’.

Rujuta, has led the cause of food not being deconstructed into nutrients and calories. Instead, she stresses on slowing down, thinking back to what our grandmothers ate, how they cooked it, and what they said as they presided over the freshly-cooked family meal.

It’s not slow, it’s just old

Before you label it the ‘slow food movement’, she’s quick to point out that the narrative around health itself has to change, because, “There is a big disconnect that people seem to have with themselves and the whole idea of what health means.”

The Indian dietetics system has, unfortunately, taken on the mantle of the West, where we boil a body down to a metric system. “You’re 5’3”, so you should weigh this much. There needs to be education about this, and it needs to start right from the primary level. Mainstream media also plays a role in this, because if we’re only going to be talking about weight loss and how someone is looking skinny, how is it helping people?”

As we give up on our own local, traditional, diverse diets that were always locally sourced and followed the seasonal nature of produce, we’re making a nutritional transition, pushing us into obesity and all the non-communicable diseases (diabetes, heart disease, mental health illnesses) that come with it. Food — like clothes, culture, and even the way we build our houses — seems to be converging, making the world ‘flat’.

Diets are changing with rising incomes and urbanisation — people are consuming more animal-source foods, sugar, fats and oils, refined grains, and processed foods. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, this ‘nutrition transition’ is causing increases in overweight and obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Urban residents are making the nutrition transition fastest — but it is occurring in rural areas too.

It’s not you, it’s them

“Every diet comes like a cult,” says Rujuta. “A diet that is only raw, or vegan will say it’s going to help you solve diabetes and obesity; a diet that is only meat will also say the same.”

It’s not just about faddish, complicated-sounding ingredients that get you a hit on social media, it’s also about a systemic and policy failure. “If you hop across the street, you’ll get berries from Portugal, but you won’t get fruit that’s growing 50 kilometres away from you.” There is still a lack of linkages from rural to urban markets. “It’s also because we’re part of a developing economy, where no one seems to be thinking about sustainable development. It’s a much larger issue than height-weight ratios.”

So if you’re obese, rather than seeing yourself as someone with no discipline, take a moment to pause, remember what we ate and how we ate as children — at the dining table, with family, at a set time each day. It’s a skill we learnt in childhood, and when we decide to go back to it, we know exactly what to do, says Rujuta.

The Hindu Lit For Life will be held from January 12 to 14 in Chennai. The fest is working towards a zero waste festival in association with Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha.

Associate Sponsors: VR Mall Chennai

Fresh Food Partner: ID Foods

Session Sponsor: United India Insurance

Bookstore Partner: Higginbothams

Water Partner: Aachi Water

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 9:38:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/yes-to-food-no-to-diets/article25899174.ece

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