He calls himself a ‘Fat-Loss Ninja’ in his Instagram bio, and rightly so, as celebrity nutritionist Siddhant Bhargava reveals that the most common query he receives from his clients is “how much weight can I lose in a month?“. But he is quick to add that there are certain dos and don’ts one must follow on their weight loss journey, as he shares the most important thing to remember for sustainable weight loss.
The expert, who advises healthy diet plans to actors like Alia Bhatt and Sara Ali Khan, recently launched his podcast on Audible titled ‘Kya Lifestyle Hai‘, in which she shared diet and lifestyle tips. In a similar vein, he spoke with indianexpress.com about his latest project, Indian diet, celeb clients, and much more.
Healthy eating can be subjective depending on one’s health and body type. Considering Indian food habits, can you devise a generalised ‘healthy eating meal plan’?
Considering the Indian vegetarian diet, the one thing that we lack the most is protein. I can give you multiple things that we can do, but first we need to start with the one and the only important element — protein. Whether it is coming from dal, paneer, or soy, everyone should start paying a lot more importance to the amount of protein they consume. Once you do, you’ll notice a lot of lifestyle and health-related issues dying down because protein is the building block of life, and is important for cell repair and regeneration-degeneration. So, by making this one simple diet change, we will go a long way.
Weight loss has always been a hot topic. What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to it?
The dos, when it comes to weight loss, are that you need to eat a lot of protein. Two, you need to stop eating unhealthy foods, and three, you need to exercise at least 3-4 times a day, because when it comes to weight loss there is only so much a diet can do. It should be noted that a diet is going to plateau eventually since there is only so much you can eat. So, despite being on a calorie deficit diet if you are not burning calories weight loss will become difficult.
The don’ts include staying away from fads, and trying to lose weight too fast. A healthy rate to lose weight is 2kg a month, which most people think is too little but is actually not. It is, in reality, sustainable weight loss that will not come back. The third thing is that one should not try finding shortcuts and ‘magic drinks or pills’ for weight loss — they may help you shed some kilos but will affect your metabolism in a bad way. Also, the weight will come back.
The one formula you swear by when it comes to weight loss.
A calorie deficit. Nothing is more important than calories in versus calories out. No matter what you eat, a calorie deficit is paramount.
The pandemic has changed our eating habits in many ways. What have been the pros and cons of the same?
In the pandemic, people have started cooking a lot more, and I think having control over what you eat is very important. I say this because when you purchase from outside, you don’t know what kind of ingredients in what quantities have been used — people add a lot more fat to make the food tastier. But when you are cooking at home, it becomes a lot more simpler as you are in control of everything, including the quantity and the kind of ingredients you want to use. Secondly, people have also become a lot more aware and have started prioritising their health a lot more. And I think that our podcast on Audible, ‘Kya Lifestyle Hai’, completely fits into this concept. Teaching people how to make small changes to their lifestyle to create a larger, more dynamic effect on their longevity and quality of life is the way to go. I think everybody should be making smarter choices.
There are many diets — from intermittent fasting to Keto and Mediterranean; do you recommend any diet to clients? If yes, which and why?
It depends on what your goals are. At times, I do recommend a Ketogenic diet because it is genuinely helpful to a lot of people suffering from PCOS, pre-diabetes, and those who can’t control the amount of carbs they consume. But, it has its cons as well since it is a restrictive and tough diet to follow. So in most cases I don’t suggest a diet, what I do instead is to ask my clients to have a calorie deficit by eating less and exercising more as weight loss is all about a calorie deficit. It is just about making choices where you can cut down on your calories and increase your calorie burn a little more — a philosophy will take you a long way ahead.
The one (Indian) food item which is highly underrated, and why?
Yoghurt or dahi; it is one food item that I have been consuming my whole life and feel that it is very underrated. People keep talking about milk but yoghurt is one of the best sources of fat, probiotics, and protein.
The most common query you receive from your clients, and the advice you usually give.
The most common query I receive is, ‘How much weight can I lose in a month?’ and I always suggest the healthy way to lose weight — 2 kg a week or month. But at times, people want to lose weight faster and I try to match their expectations. However many a time, they have unrealistic goals, say 3-44 kg a month, so then I try to cater to that.
You often work with celebrities who have to lose and also gain weight depending on the characters they are playing. Doing so on a regular basis can be harmful to the body. In such scenarios, what do you recommend to them to ensure the transitions are always healthy?
I will always recommend healthy transitions, but often they don’t have the time to do it. Like, if they have to shoot for a film where they have to lose 20kg in 5 months then we have to get it done. That is why a celebrity’s life is not easy. They aren’t always the healthiest people around; but they have to do what they have to do. It is just the nature of their business and sometimes they have to put aside their long-term health and think about short-term goals.
The one celebrity client who you have the most fun working with?
Alia Bhatt, always. She is the best person to work with, most receptive and most aware. She is just the best client anyone could work with.
Health tips to stay healthy during summer; and how can one prepare to strengthen immunity in monsoons?
For summer, it will always be to hydrate more. With temperatures rising, hydration becomes a key because if you are dehydrated, you feel weak, fatigued and your mental productivity goes down. When we talk about hydration, having water alone is not enough, you need to have electrolytes in it; coconut water has become my favorite. For the monsoons, being aware of where your food is coming from is important due to the rise in food poisoning. Not having raw food in the monsoons is something that I have been following for a while. But, if you are at home and the raw food is washed and you’re cooking it yourself then you are good.
Can you tell us about the podcast, and in what ways is the information different from what you share on your social media?
‘Kya Lifestyle Hai’ is different because it is purely audio, unlike when I share information on other platforms where you get to see my face and see me emote. But, there is a certain charm to an audio podcast. Here, you are more immersed in what I am saying, the way I am narrating it and talking to you. In a way it just becomes like a 3D experience with your earphones plugged in. We have all been staring at the screens so much so we are just tired of consuming video information and I think this is a good change since we get to consume some health-based information this way.