ABBOTT INDIA LTD
You're a self-proclaimed foodie in a country with hundreds of eateries to choose from. How do you stay healthy? Ask Indian food blogger and amateur chef Adarsh Munjal, who changed his lifestyle following a diabetes diagnosis.
Adarsh's lifelong love of food was sparked by his mother's cooking; her always-fragrant kitchen regularly churned out traditional, buttery, mouth-watering, north Indian dishes. He turned his passion into his profession, becoming one of India's first and most popular food bloggers.
He got his start as a copywriter and ghostwriter for several blogs before launching his own food blog, The Big Bhookad.
"I started food blogging in 2010," Adarsh said. "I'd wanted to become a food writer since college and followed bloggers like Kalyan Karmarkar and Nandita Iyer."
So how does Adarsh balance his love of food with a career that's all about eating? He started by accepting his diabetes diagnosis for what it was: an opportunity to change.
Processing His Diagnosis
At 27, Adarsh was obese. He weighed 165 kilograms. He would sweat and pant excessively. A routine checkup revealed that Adarsh had prediabetes, and was at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Adarsh had seen his father, Deepak, struggle with type 2 diabetes, and was shaken by the news.
"He refused to understand the need to get healthy," he said of his father. "It was difficult to see him suffer throughout the decade, despite his dear ones being willing to help. His weak willpower broke him; his health worsened, and it was deeply saddening for all of us."
When his prediabetes turned into diabetes, Adarsh re-evaluated his lifestyle. He took charge of his health — and was even able to beat back his numbers.
"I battled type 2 (diabetes) for one and a half years and took insulin shots," Adarsh said. "After weight management sessions, I am luckily in good control of my glycaemic levels and now in prediabetic range."
Staying on Track
Adarsh recognises that the only way to keep his diabetes at bay is by maintaining his healthy lifestyle. The first big change he had to make was in his daily meals. He overhauled his diet — cutting out maida, sugar, gluten and processed foods — and planned weekly menus. Multigrain flours and healthy nuts are always in the mix, and eating out is now all about eating sensibly, not pigging out.
"I still taste everything, but don't eat everything," Adarsh said.
But Adarsh, a hardcore foodie and a Punjabi to boot, didn't give up his favourite dishes that easily. He invoked his inner chef and designed a diabetes-friendly mung sprout cutlet recipe to replace his mother's delicious aloo tikkis. In his recipe, potatoes are replaced by sprouted green mung dal and spring onions; and he uses oatmeal to bind the tikkis, which are then shallow-fried.
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation
Back in the day, Adarsh finished off entire pizzas. Now, he limits himself to a slice and opts for alternatives to unhealthy dishes, like deconstructed, bunless burgers. During weekly cheat days, he savours a serving of his preferred dessert.
He's now an expert at moderating his intake no matter where he eats, which means sometimes politely squeezing out of social situations involving food. In India, where the number of kheer katoris you polish off is directly proportional to your respect for the host, it can be tough. But now, most of Adarsh's close relatives know he's on a strict eating plan and don't force him to overeat. In fact, most of them now provide sugar-free desserts.
"My mom makes a sugar-free batch of sweets for me whenever she cooks a homemade mithai," he said. "Since most mithai shops carry sugar-free options, friends and relatives pick up one of these for me or dry fruit goodies."
Adarsh's diagnosis has inspired him to be more active. Yoga, kickboxing, walking and running are all part of his current fitness rotation. Between restaurant launches, tastings and food photo shoots, it can be tough to fit in a workout, but Adarsh makes time. On some days, this means waking up before sunrise and sleeping in the car as his driver takes him to Marine Drive for a seaside workout.
And Adarsh is now more attuned to his body's cues and understands blood sugar fluctuations better, too.
"I start sweating a lot when my blood sugar drops," he said. "More thirst and hunger, sometimes even mild stomachache, tell me that my sugar has spiked. "Now I recognise these signals and adjust my diet and medication accordingly."
Even if you've nailed the healthy lifestyle, don't forget a never-give-up attitude, because, as Adarsh says, "Life's too much fun to let diabetes get in the way."
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