Kalyan Keeps it Cool as a Cucumber Despite Prediabetes

Living Fully | Dec. 5, 2018
By Tulika Bhogaraju

Manipuri black rice salad with a hung curd dip, whole wheat spaghetti in pesto with aubergines and sunflower seeds, dahi chicken with red rice.

This is what an average meal looks like for Kalyan Karmakar — a part-time food blogger and full-time foodie. Always hungry for a taste of the great unknown, his days are spent whipping up ingenious recipes from simple ingredients. Suffice it to say, food is his life.

So what did he do when he was diagnosed with prediabetes? How did he deal with his condition in a food-focused world? How did he moderate his eating when his lifestyle and career is based on indulgence?

The Journey to Food Blogger

Kalyan has been a foodie for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in England and then Iran till he was 10, his love affair with western cuisine started young. With Indian ingredients being scarce at the time, western food was all he knew until his family moved to Calcutta in the 1980s. This was where he reconnected with his Bengali roots and Indian heritage.

Kalyan's school and college years were shaped by his native cuisine and Calcutta's thriving street-food culture. But, there was a whole new world of food waiting for him in Aamchi Mumbai! When he moved there as a market researcher soon after college, Kalyan instantly knew that he was in India's food capital. Parsi, Mangalorean, Gujarati, you name it, the city was a sum of its diverse inhabitants and its food spoke to that.

To document his adventures with food in this multicultural city, Kalyan started his blog The Finely Chopped in 2007. Juggling a full-time job in marketing, he wrote whenever he got the chance. Soon enough his blog took off and he was invited to talk on the radio and write columns for Indian Express and NDTV Foods. He had become an expert voice on all things food. With his food dream fast becoming a reality, Kalyan quit his job and turned to food writing full-time in 2015. He also published a food travelogue, "The Travelling Belly," based on his travels across India.

The Diagnosis

Things were really starting to look up for Kalyan, but bad news was lurking right around the corner. Some regular health check-ups revealed that he might have a cholesterol problem. Although he was warned about prediabetes, he thought the symptoms pointed to his heart, so he did everything he could to get his heart health on track. His eating became fraught with anxiety and he started worrying that any wrong thing he ate would give him a heart attack. He even stopped visiting his doctor, so for two years his prediabetes went unnoticed and unmanaged.

It was a rough period in his life, especially because he had just made a huge career change. Thankfully for him, he had the support of his wife and friends who helped him get through it. Kalyan also took up Buddhism, which helped his anxiety immensely. So when he was officially diagnosed with prediabetes six months ago, he was in a much better mind space to deal with the diagnosis. He understood what needed to be done, and he took it as a challenge to still eat good food. Of course, he had to change the way he was eating, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy his meals.

The Path to Recovery

Post-diagnosis, Kalyan started eating at home more and experimenting with his food choices, whether at home or outside. He incorporated more grains, meats and millets into his diet and even began eating vegetables he never liked before. His snacks shifted from ordered-in egg rolls to nuts and fruits. He really started enjoying his journey and he's proud to say that he hasn't had a single bad meal since. In Buddhism, they speak of "turning poison into medicine" and that's how Kalyan views his situation. His diagnosis has helped him be more creative in his cooking, writing and thinking. It has added a new flavour to his work by making him look at food through new eyes. His word of advice to anyone dealing with prediabetes is, "Don't look at it like a punishment, but rather an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Think of it as a way to have new experiences and try out things you've never done before, especially in the context of food."


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