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It’s not a diet; it is a lifestyle- Heart-to-heart with Fareeha Jay

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Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan is the founder, CEO, & Editor-in-Chief of Scientia Pakistan. She's a member of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network (Second Cohort) and NASW. Saadeqa is a fellow of NPF Washington, The Falling Walls Foundation, and the Science Journalism Forum. Saadeqa has won several international journalism grants and awards for her reports.

Aside from infrequently veering off the path, most of us think that we are doing a fair job maintaining our health with healthy eating habits and physical activities. However, a recent study published in the archives of Internal Medicine shows that very few adults actually meet the criteria of a healthy lifestyle, though women scored better than men. Healthy eating is not about strict limitations, staying thin, or depriving yourself of your favorite food. Rather it’s about feeling fabulous, having more energy for your routine tasks, and boosting your mood.

Are you confused by all the conflicting nutrition advice out there? Then this conversation of our editor Saadeqa Khan with famous nutritionist Fareeha Jay is surely for you!

Fareeha is a Registered Dietitian. She has a passion for spreading knowledge and awareness about healthy eating and lifestyle. The information she provides to her clients is based on scientific evidence but explained in a very non-scientific way. Jay wants to break the myths around diet and food to empower people on their food choices and lifestyle.

Saadeqa: How would you help a standard client start to lose weight through proper dieting? What is some common advice?

Fareeha Jay: Diet or dieting is usually used for restrictive diets and the most drastic eating habits to achieve weight loss targets. In reality, “diet” only means food. 

When I help my clients lose weight, I only ask them to eat their everyday food. I focus on educating them about food and food choices. Making them understand how much to eat, how often to eat, and what type of foods to eat. They become empowered, and then they themselves decide what to eat. 

diet book
Fareeha Jay’s book: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle

Saadeqa: What are some of the most effective methods you have encountered when it comes to helping clients and groups make necessary lifestyle changes?

Fareeha Jay: The most important thing to consider in helping people with lifestyle changes is listening to them. Empathize with them and just give them the support they need. 

Targeting not what they are eating but why they are eating. Everyone knows that high-fat high sugar foods contribute to weight gain, but they still continue to have them. It’s essential to investigate why they are doing this. Once we solve the why, how much, and what they are eating is resolved independently. 

Saadeqa: Have you ever had a client who was difficult to work with? How did you handle the situation?

Fareeha Jay: I think every client is a challenge. Yes, some are easier than others, but as a whole, every client is different from the other. Every client is of different age, socioeconomic status, different culture, different background. Understanding all these factors and keeping all these in mind whilst working with a client is significant. Diet does not work in isolation. All these factors have to be considered altogether. 

Saadeqa: What are some of your qualifications as a dietitian? How have you set yourself apart in your field?

Fareeha Jay: Dietitians are regulated by law and governed by an ethical code. They are the only nutrition professionals who are statutorily regulated. To become a dietitian, I did my degree from Plymouth University, approved by Health and Care Professions Council and accredited by the British Dietetic Association. 

I believe I have a long way to go. I’m not sure if I really have set myself apart in my field as yet, but all I know is that I keep working hard and be focused. 

Saadeqa: What kind of meal plans have you put together for your clients?

Fareeha Jay: I do not believe in meal plans. Meal plans can only be followed for few months, and then the person returns to their normal eating routine. I believe in sustainable changes—something which can be done for life. 

In my consultations with my clients, I ask them what they eat in a day. I only streamline what they eat and make a plan for them. It’s their food plan, it’s their everyday diet, but I give them a direction. 

At times I have to add or subtract foods. Those are also decided with mutual discussion, and I never impose my clients on eating certain foods. 

Specific meal plans are sometimes made if it’s not weight loss and it’s something about certain health conditions. But it is also made with mutual discussion, and likes and dislikes are kept in mind. 

Diet or dieting is usually used for restrictive diets and the most drastic eating habits to achieve weight loss targets
According to Fareeha, “Diet or dieting is usually used for restrictive diets and the most drastic eating habits to achieve weight loss targets.”

Saadeqa: What diet plan would you suggest to a client if they are trying to weight loss, and contrary, what needs to address for one trying to gain weight?

Fareeha Jay: Whether you want to lose or gain, the first goal will be to include some sort of physical activity. 

With weight loss, a diet will be developed to create a calorie deficit. In weight gain, many times, the clients are not meeting their calorie requirements, so in that case, devising a plan where they are getting calories according to their requirements, and perhaps a bit more.  

The important thing in weight gain and weight loss is making sure that the diet suggested is healthy. Sometimes with weight loss, if the plan is not devised well, the person might develop nutritional deficiencies because of not getting all nutrients. Many people assume that they can have high fat and high sugar foods to gain weight, which is not the case. 

In both weight gain and weight loss, healthy eating is important, and that’s where the dietitian’s role comes. 

Saadeqa: Let us know about your newly published book, ‘it’s not a diet, its lifestyle’? What were the motives behind writing this book, and how is the feedback of readers?

Fareeha Jay: My book “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” answers all basic questions on what, how much, and how often to eat. There are no diet plans in the book. I have given a solution in the volume and not a temporary fix.

This book will make you familiar with food and food groups. You will learn why they are important and how much of them we should be having. This book will give you the power to take control of your diet and lifestyle.

 The sole motive of writing this book was to create awareness among our people for healthy eating. There is an overload of information, mostly not trustworthy. This book was an attempt to give authenticity to food and nutrition to some long-awaited questions. 

The feedback is great. I believe it’s one of the first books in Pakistan which is targeting this vital topic. Even after one year of its publication, it is selling like hotcakes. The first edition was sold within days. On public demand, it was also translated in Urdu, which also has fabulous feedback. 

Saadeqa: Would you like to tell us about the portion control diet and what makes it more effective than other weight-loss diets?

Fareeha Jay: Portion control means having everything but in portion. It is not a “diet.” 

All diets work on the same principle of creating a calorie deficit. It doesn’t make it more effective than any other weight-loss diet, or perhaps the weight loss is slow compared to other restrictive diets. 

But it’s certainly effective because it is sustainable, and since you are eating everything, you do not develop any nutritional deficiencies. 

Saadeqa: Why all food groups are so important in our daily meals? Let us know in brief?

Fareeha Jay: Imagine you are making a jigsaw puzzle. If one piece of this puzzle is missing, it will remain incomplete. All different pieces together make a whole picture. 

Similar is the case of food groups. Each food group provides you different nutrients, and each nutrient has to play a specific role in your body. If one food group is missing, your diet is nutritionally not intact, like the incomplete puzzle. 

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