A Little Progress Each Day Adds up to Big Results - Aruna Sandhya

1. Tell us more about yourself and your profession.

At Present, I am a happy dietician. Along with diet and nutrition, I always think about how to stop the violence against woman in our society. My father is freelance journalist because of which I was able to see the world with open mind even though I am born and brought up in small village in Andhra Pradesh, India.

My mother inspired me always telling that ‘Education is very important which makes any thing possible’. Fear of Mathematics, driven me into ‘Science’ background and Prakash Sir ignited passion in me to get admission in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam to purse ‘Masters’.

Coming to my profession, I am a food and nutrition expert and assess individual’s nutritional needs and coach them on healthy food habits by preparing diet plan to keep them at ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) as well as enhancing their immunity and wellness.

2. What is your fitness mantra?

I believe in ‘90 percent of how you look depends upon what you eat’. What you eat in private eventually is what you wear in public. Fitness is like a relationship. You can’t cheat and expect it to work. Being fit also brings ‘inner peace’ and improves your mental wellbeing. These are the import things that should be part of your fitness routine – Exercise, Diet, Water and stress-free life.

3. What are the major misconceptions about diets and exercises?

Myth: To lose weight, you must give up all your favorite foods.
Fact: Small amounts of your favorite high-calorie foods may be part of your weight loss plan. Just remember to keep track of total calories you take. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take through food and beverages.

Myth: You should avoid all fats if you are trying to be healthy or lose weight.
Fact: Fat also provides essential nutrients and should be an important part of a healthy eating plan. But because fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, you need to limit fats to avoid extra calories.

Myth: Lean people are fit and doesn’t need to do regular exercise.
Fact: Lean people also may have bad lipid profile (high concentration of LDL i.e. bad cholesterol) because of their food habits or stress which may lead to surprise cardiovascular diseases. So, everyone should do minimum of 40 minutes exercise a day.

4. How can one maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Eating a healthy balanced diet accompanied by regular exercise is essential in maintaining physical and mental health and well-being. This also results in improved sleep and mood.

Dietary needs differ for every person, but in general, some of the best foods you should regularly eat include ‘Fruits and Vegetables’, ‘Protein’, ‘Whole grains’, ‘Nuts and Legumes’. Try to balance items like diary and oils, along with meat and poultry. Try to avoid sweets, overly salty foods, trans-fat heavy foods and stop alcohol consumption.

Pay attention to calorie count- Your needed amount will vary based on your size, age and gender. You should start the day with rich breakfast and finish with miserly dinner. Make sure you have 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime.

Physical activity and exercise are a major contributor to healthy lifestyle. People are made to use their bodies and disuse leads to unhealthy living. Regular exercise can prevent and reverse age-related decreases in muscle mass and strength, improve balance, flexibility, and endurance, and decrease the risk of falls in the elderly.

Good mental health helps to enjoy life and cope with problems. It offers a feeling of well-being and inner strength to take new challenges either in life or career. Eating right, doing exercise and yoga, sleeping well can help maintaining healthy lifestyle and building immunity.  

5. How can one build a successful career in your field?

You should start with PG Diploma or M.Sc in Food & Nutrition. By becoming ‘Registered Dietitian (RD)’ via clearing the examination conducted by Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) will give a huge jump boost to your career. Don’t get worried even if you are not a Registered Dietitian.

The science, research and facts which form the basis of a reliable nutritionist’s knowledge only make up the skeleton of the job. You should keep up-to date on latest information gathered by researchers all over the world. Communication skills are very important, otherwise they can become major obstacle in counselling sessions.

The fact is people often don’t realize what they don’t know until they are told. Passion for health is not enough. A career in nutrition is as much about understanding people as it is about understanding the science behind a balanced diet. Lot of ‘Psychological’ aspects get involved when you are doing counselling sessions.

You should motivate them and help them to do minor sacrifices for a healthy lifestyle. As much as you want to just tell people what to eat, the behavior change needs to come from them for the change to happen. To achieve broader reach, you should improve public speaking skills and run workshops or presentations. It will help to create your own brand.

People love to hear about nutrition but may not necessarily want to make a ‘one-on-one’ appointment until they see faith in you. ‘Opportunities are limitless. Especially when you are employing creative ways to communicate good nutrition messages to people’.

6. What is one piece of advice you would like to give someone who wishes to lose weight?

Obesity is a very complex disorder. There are many genetic, biological, and environmental factors that affect body weight. As such, losing weight is not just about willpower. Drink water, especially before meals. Try intermittent fasting. Not all calorie sources have the same effect on your health and weight. For example, protein can increase metabolism, reduce appetite, and improve the function of weight-regulating hormones.

Make sure that half your plate contains vegetables or salad. Eat high fiber foods and use small plate.  Cut back on added sugar. Keep only healthy foods around you in case you get hungry. Our brain will release hormones (Leptin) which is considered as a ‘satiety hormone’ that reduces appetite and makes you feel full after 20 minutes of intake. So, when eating food chew slowly.

Do aerobic exercises. Figure out what physical activity will work with your lifestyle. Pick a few that you think you can manage to start with, then keep coming back and add more into your lifestyle. Find an activity that you enjoy and can fit into daily routine. ‘A little progress each day adds up to big results.’

7. How do diets and exercise contribute to overall wellbeing and happiness?

Your body’s immune system is a complex machine. Diet, exercise and mental health can heavily affect it. Too many wrong foods can put you at risk, but the right foods complemented with appropriate exercise can boost our body’s ability to fight diseases.

Eating breakfast regularly has been linked to lower risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Starting your day with a healthy meal can help replenish your blood sugar, which your body needs to power muscles and brain. Exercise improves mood, promotes better sleep and puts the spark back into your life.

Interview By - Benil Joseph

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