With her latest book, Pregnancy Notes: Before, During & After, nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar tackles the big myths around pregnancy weight gain and the wisdom of traditional diets. At a time when nutritional advice comes from everyone and everywhere, including restaurant menus, Diwekar stands out for a no-nonsense approach that emphasises on the importance of intuition and common sense. In an email interview, she reveals why sensible eating is sometimes a tough sell and how a healthy relationship with food can be built. Excerpts:
In her introduction to the book, Kareena Kapoor Khan writes about an insensitive comment directed at her weight immediately after she had delivered. Were there other women you know who had faced a similar problem?
Yes, absolutely. There are women who carry the baggage (and the paunch) of pregnancy for the rest of their lives. There are women in their 50s who tell me that they haven’t lost weight post their delivery. And it really need not be like that. Pregnancy is a physiological milestone and there are food and lifestyle changes that you can adopt which will help you stay in good shape while you are pregnant and post it as well.
What is the biggest mistake that pregnant women, and those around them, make?
That now they can eat whatever they want as they are going to gain weight anyway. Couple that with not exercising or staying active as they feel that it’s unsafe to be mobile during pregnancy. So it’s about erratic eating and inactivity — essentially the same mistake that people make when not pregnant. But the thing is that during pregnancy, everything — good, bad or ugly — has an exaggerated effect on your body and mind.
People around them make the mistake of confirming the bias that most pregnant women hold, encouraging them to eat whatever they want and asking them to be cautious about activity, helping them stay inactive.
We’ve been talking for many years now about the dangers of fad diets. But do you ever still have trouble convincing people about this?
Yes, and no. Most people who are on crash or fad diets know that it is not sustainable. So they take mostly one of these routes:
a) get extremely aggressive and try to convert everyone around them to the same diet,
b) hope to get back to eating normally once they have lost the weight.
At the end of both lies disillusionment and that’s tough to take. And no one else can convince a person of anything, so we either learn to listen to our inner voice or go from one diet to another in the hope of knocking off some weight.
What has been the toughest moment in your career as a nutritionist?
During one of my talks with schoolchildren, a Class IV student stood up with tears in his eyes and demanded to know why I hadn’t done anything about the fact that toys were sold to lure kids into buying junk food. He felt that instead of talking to the kids, I should be ensuring these things are not allowed. I felt so embarrassed and small, because he was right.
There are so many anxieties about what to eat, what not to eat. How can we build a healthy relationship with food?
Yes, by taking it one step at a time. By knowing that eating right is uncomplicated because science is uncomplicated and simple. Eating right is about sustainability, sensitivity and sensibility. It’s not about measurements, calculations and overthinking.