Meet Dr Vishakha Shivdasani.
She is a medical doctor with a specialisation in lifestyle diseases and nutrition.
And she walks the talk ! Fit as a fiddle and like every good lifestyle coach, she is a role model for all her patients.
Well, you really wouldn’t be convinced by an unfit dietician rolling out advice on meal plans, would you?
And this dishy doctor is the recipient of Vogue- Best Nutritionist of The Year award (2017).
CageYourAge had a tète-à-tète with the doc who knows it all, and you also get to know what she eats to look the way she does! Read on…
What is the biggest problem faced by a nutritionist practising in India ?
That has to be- compliance . As Indians we have grown up eating an excess of cereals with every meal in the form of roti ,rice. Idli or dosa. The digestive system doesn’t need this much of cereal and having extra carbs with every meal will cause an insulin spike, which is the root cause of all diseases.
When I cut this down in my patients, they have a tough time understanding the concept and think they may feel giddy and weak which actually doesn’t happen if the meal plan is right.
We are seeing lifestyle diseases like anxiety and depression on a steady rise. Do right nutrients play a role in reversing the condition?
Of course , diet plays a huge role! I first conduct medical tests to see if there is a rise in cortisol levels to rule out any medical conditions. Studies have shown that Omega 3 plays a huge role in neural disorders , it helps in decreasing anxiety and even ADHD levels in children. I make sure my patients are consuming enough Omega 3 in vegetarian or non vegetarian forms .
Also strong doses of B12 are recommended in these cases. Inspite of living in a tropical country, every second person has a Vitamin D 3 deficiency. This causes imbalances in your hormones and also something called sad syndrome. It has been proven that when D3 levels are low in winters you are prone to episodes of sadness and depression. Also a good probiotic is very essential for those dealing with depression, your gut health is directly related to your emotions.
What are the most common mistakes we make while taking supplements ?
Overdosing on supplements. I always say – YOU CAN’T OUT SUPPLEMENT OR OUT EXERCISE A BAD DIET. Simply meaning that you cannot eat junk and then exercise for 2 hours a day or pop 10 supplements in a day and think you can eat whatever you want. It’s called a supplement for a reason.
And you cannot take a supplement just because your friend is taking them. You must remember only Vitamin C & D are water soluble ( excess flushes out of your system) all others are fat soluble, so it can result in a toxic build up over time. Take supplements after consulting a doctor.
If you have eaten sea food for lunch and dinner, skip taking Omega 3 that day.
Pro-biotics, pre-biotics and gut health. These are terms that didn’t even exist till a couple of years back, why is it so huge now?
I cannot stress enough the importance of gut health- whether it is cardio vascular, diabetes, neuro-degenerative diseases to even certain types of cancer, all originates from here, . Bad food and lifestyle choices ( eating processed, canned and food with shelf life) and over dosing on anti biotics have destroyed the colonies of probiotics in the system. Especially people who take 3 to 4 courses of anti biotics a year without probiotics have a very low colony count and a weak digestive tract.
You don’t need to consume kimchi, kefir etc if you are taking sufficient amounts of butter milk, curd of even pickles occasionally . But yes, otherwise a daily probiotic is highly suggested.
What changes can we make in childrens diet so that they can avoid any lifestyle disease in the future?
Sugar is the number one enemy. I have so many parents bringing their kids to me and I feel so sorry because I don’t find chubby cheeks cute any more- it’s an obesity issue you have in front of you. I always tell parents, if you ever happen to get a blood check up done for your child, also include an insulin resistance test with it. If the child has a pot belly with dark pigmentation in the neck and underarms it’s a clear sign of insulin resistance and the child is consuming alarming levels of sugar.
Don’t deny the child of sweets, just make wise swaps in food choices- opt for jaggery and cane sugar while making desserts, limit junk food like Nutella and encourage more active play time.
Give us your view on dairy and gluten. Every second person seems to be on a dairy or gluten free diet, is it logical?
Unless it comes up in medical tests that you cannot tolerate dairy or gluten ,there is no reason for you to stay away from it. And also if it doesn’t suit your body- if you feel bloated and gassy, or your skin breaks out, you know for sure that it doesn’t suit you and then it makes sense to stay away from it. So I would say, listen to your body, if it feels good, why not? And even if you are lactose intolerant you can anyway have yoghurt and buttermilk since it is fermented.
We would love to take a peek into the food diary of Indias leading nutritionist! What is your diet on a normal day like?
On rising– I have a glass of warm water with lime. I follow this with morninga powder and a drop organic concentrated tulsi (holy basil) in water.
Breakfast- I eat one or two whole eggs with a seasonal fruit. And yes, I always eat a whole egg because all your vitamins and all the good fat is in the yolk, please don’t eat just the white. I avoid bread, I just don’t eat it.
Mid morning– I don’t get the time when I’m in my clinic so usually it’s a cup of sugarless tea and a few nuts if I manage to.
Lunch– I usually have cereal only in one meal the entire day , either lunch or dinner. If I know I’m going out for dinner, I will avoid cereal at lunch. So it’s usually a grilled breast of chicken, a glass of soup and stir fried veggies on the side.
Evening– I drink a cup of tea with almonds, walnuts and mixed seeds like chia or flax sometimes in the form of a flour -free cracker.
Dinner– if I’m going out at night I will eat whatever cereal there may be- roti, rice, pasta or noodles , just that I will eat a protein always with it. I will never eat a carb without a protein because that raises the glycemic index in your body. And a portion of veggies on the side is a must. Or if I have eaten cereal at lunch , I will just eat a portion of grilled chicken or fish with veggetables.
What nutritional supplements do you take on a daily basis?
I take Ashwagandha every morning and night.
I take a hair, skin and nails supplement ( it contains Vitamin B, Biotin and Zinc ) every day with breakfast.
An iron and calcium supplement, but never on the same day- so it’s iron thrice a week and calcium thrice a week.
In the evening, a couple of times a week, I take collagen powder in water.
At night I take a Magnesium supplement ( it aids muscle recovery, relieves stress and even gives you a relaxed nights sleep )
Surely exercise is an integral part of your life. What kind of routine do you follow to keep fit?
I live on the 9th floor and I don’t remember the last time I took an elevator, so walking up and down twice or thrice a day definitely takes place. I interval train twice a week – I alternate between running and walking.
And I do functional training at home thrice a week for 20 minutes. I don’t do weights, I just use my body weight and do variations like push ups, sit ups, plank etc. I even use my kitchen sink as a prop ! I tell all my clients that resistance training is very important to build muscle and you don’t need to do it more than 20 minutes at each session, that is more than enough.
What advise do you give your clients who have hit a plateau in their fitness journey, what should they do to boost weight loss?
I don’t believe in calorie count at all and I seldom do portion control even. I just mix up the diet completely by changing food combinations for all three meals. You also need to check your gut condition and check your bowel movements- all this leads to sluggish metabolism . So I replenish them with not just probiotics but also a lot of natural enzymes which aid with digestion. Change your food combination and it doesn’t take more than 2 weeks to battle that plateau.
“CageYourAge”, what are the best non surgical and non invasive ways to do this ?
The number one on my list is – sleep. Your diet, exercise and supplements may be on point but If you are not going to sleep well you can get premature greying, hair fall, wrinkles and put on excess weight.
Apart from drinking lots of water, make sure your iron, biotin, proteins and Vitamin B intake is adequate for lustrous hair. And collagen is great for skin, it keeps your skin plump and hydrated reducing the formation of wrinkles.
Dr Vishakha Shivdasani is a general physician, nutritionist,columnist and speaker. She has two clinics in Mumbai and also does online consultation for outstation clients. She runs workshops for schools as well as corporates on “workplace wellness”. You can follow her Insta handle @doctorvee for everything related to health and wellness.