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There have always been fad diets and there always will be. Shouldn’t we stick to our natural food rather than be a slave to the protein pendulum?
“Don’t blame the holidays, you were always fat”, murmured my mind while I was fidgeting to get into my favorite dress after Christmas and New Year holidays.
I am sure we would all admit to the phase of life where we work head-over-heels to achieve our lifelong ‘New Year’ goal of having the perfect body. Men hope to flaunt their pectoral muscles with six pack abs and women ostentatiously wanting to show off their size ‘zero’ figure. But most of our stories end at well begun half done. The point where egg whites in the morning and steamed veggies at noon just seem the worst enemy while you enviously eye your teammate devouring plates of biryani like there is no tomorrow.
‘Before – After’ images from TV commercials and flashy magazines have haunted us for years. Lost 20 kilograms in 2 weeks, dropped from size 14 to size 6, put on muscle mass in 30 days – are myths we all fall for at least once in our lifetimes. As the title suggests, the Protein Pendulum swings in all our lives swaying us in the direction of less carbs, more greens and minimum fat.
But have we ever thought about how protein got its much-needed buzz? The herbivores would agree: the constant quest for finding protein rich food not masked by excessive fat and carb content is their life long goal. We weren’t talking about protein 10-15 years ago. We were happy eating our daal rice with pickle and extra cheesy garlic bread. Then when did the protein pendulum swing?
It’s interesting to note that the bodybuilding culture a.k.a. ‘Dangal days’ can be tracked back to 11th century India where boulders and rocks were used as dumbbells by those wanting to develop their physique. Gyms or ‘akhadas’ were commonplace in India during this period. Men while traveling from town to town would challenge fellow men to out-lift anything ranging from bullock carts, blocks of wood to animals to showcase their braun.
In the west, especially in USA, the body building craze caught fire with Arnold Schwaznegger being crowned three times Mr. Olympia in the 1970s. As the muscular men started grabbing eyeballs the gym business became more lucrative and protein became a household name.
The food marketing industry have always been ahead of the race. They know what sells and how to work their way through our minds. With the advent of superfoods like acai berry juice, chia seeds, hemp and flax seeds, loaded with Omega-3 and low glycemic index, our fridges and palette are loaded with these buzz foods but we still are clueless as to how beneficial these foods are! I am sure they sound fancy and the packaging they come in make us feel half healthy. But what are they made of ? Do we really know.
Check out the slogans used to sell these: Always Complete. From A to Zinc || Nutrition for sustained energy|| #cheatclean || 20g protein. 0 sugar. 0 guilt || The Energy Bar Nature Intended || Fresh food -To Go||
We are all familiar with the energy and protein bars and we take to them as kids to chocolates. Crunchy, chewy, gooey or with nuts and spices – they have them all. But, what caught my attention was the slogan from Kind Bars: Ingredients You Can See and Pronounce. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient it shouldn’t go into your body and as a first step not into your pantry. I found it very apt and reassuring. In my opinion, food is something that should satisfy more than just taste.
Science has a mixed opinion always. One day you would learn that soy is the holy grail for vegetarian diet and the very next day it’s known to boost estrogen (female hormone) in men. Similarly, the revered chia seeds are rich in fiber, help with weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and fortify bones is what research says on Day 1, and the very next day you come across an article that it is a blood thinner and can cause low blood pressure.
As a consumer, I have always felt as a guinea pig, to be experimented upon. By the time, I realize a health benefit I am plagued by its ill effects and thanks to the world-wide web – a minor symptom like headache if searched will always tell you that you have a tumour or cancer! “Phew”.
So, after all these charades, I decided to cook my own meal and no more packaged or fancy food comes my way. Just when I thought I was off the hook I got sucked into the diet facade by my coworker. Anita ran up to me at lunch and told me, “I am on the Atkins diet, and it is the way to go! It controls insulin in my body and burns fat constantly. But, the only downside is my husband stays away from me. The diet works by burning fat rapidly, called ‘ketoses’ which results in bad breath and insomnia. I am up all night, but I think I am looking slim. Don’t you think? This is the diet the Kardashians follow.”
Of course, she looked beat – with bags under her eyes and sunken cheeks. But I just smiled reassuringly. I checked out these diet plans just out of curiosity. I found a ton of them burgeoning the internet. The famous ones being Zone Diet, South Beach diet, and Raw food diet. My mind was boggled again. I must now look up a chart and timetable before I decide to put a morsel in my mouth?
I decided to do my own research into the world of proteins and amino acids. Amino acids are nothing but the building blocks of protein. They are the be-all-and-end-all of human existence. Just like our chemistry periodic table the essential and non-essential amino acids have their own significance. However, there are several reasons that can be attributed to the lack of absorption of these amino acids into our body. With the increasing levels of pollution in water and air, and the umpteen number of hormones injected into dairy products we consume that prevent our bodies from fully utilizing what we eat.
I felt a sense of bitter sweetness after all my reading and research. On one hand, we have science and technology probing into the cure for any disease man has faced till date and on the other hand we are adulterating our food using mutation and an array of chemicals, leaving us with hormonal imbalance.
Let’s not make eating a mere exercise or an addiction. May it not be a crutch to our emotional pendulum or seen as an adversary during weight loss regimen. Let’s eat the right amount and prepare our food with the right emotions. At the end of the day we are eating our emotions: Our happiness while cooking can enrich our soup, or our rage can flatten our bread. With the increase in price index each day and lack of hygiene at most food joints having a home cooked meal is a luxury. They say, “Living on Earth is expensive but it includes a free trip around the sun every year.”
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