Rujuta Diwekar Gives You the 101 on PCOD and Thyroid

Her book, The PCOD-Thyroid Book is the Bible!

​Kareena Kapoor Khan swears by her advice, her last book Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha was God's gift to women, and now her book The PCOD-Thyroid Book is all your questions answered. So, we decided to have a little chat with Rujuta Diwekar, diet guru and get all the deets about the exercise you really need, how to get glowing skin, and why using your iPhone before going to bed is worse than having a fatty meal. Take notes girls!

Your latest book is an off-shoot from your previous book , Women and the Weight Loss Tamaasha. Are PCOS and Thyroid really such big threats to women today?

It is getting bigger by the day. If you speak to a 35 or a 40-year-old gynecologist, they were not even taught about PCOD in university. So, it's a very recent phenomenon and one of the reasons it's happening is because we've stopped eating our traditional and nutritious foods and have started eating more processed and industrialized food. Add to that the fact that we get inactive, so our lifestyles are very very sedentary. Plus there are social pressures, so stress, hectic work life, delayed lunches…everything just kind of adds up.

So the conversation around PCOD has changed then?

Yes! Since 2005, we've started seeing more and more people get diagnosed with PCOD and Thyroid. Earlier people would approach me with problems regarding weight loss. Those were the initial conversations. Now, since 2011, people have been coming up to me with problems like 'I don't think I can pregnant'; and this came from a girl in the 9th grade. So, the conversation around PCOD had changed. It had become about fear, it had become another way of making women feel really inadequate in their body and about what they would be capable of doing later on.

So the whole diagnosis is also getting very aggressive. And therefore, as women we need to know that this is a lifestyle disorder and there are a whole lot of things that one can do to deal with it. Starting from what you eat, what time you sleep, committing to regular exercise. So many of these things are in our hands. It's a matter of a few months or a year, a year and half in extreme cases before you can lead a completely hormonally happy life.

And why did you decide to dedicate an entire book to this?

Since 2011, so many women wrote in to me that the previous book had really helped, but they always had more questions. And that's why my editor thought that we should have this separate guide that would answer all those frequently asked questions. This one is like a little guidebook that you can have in your handbag before a conversation gets really scary. It's a basically quick reality check.

What are the warning signs that we need to watch out for?

The warning sign that we really need to watch out for is basically how much we're sitting. If we're sitting for hours and hours together then that's the first warning sign. Because a sedentary lifestyle is the first step towards what is known as 'insulin resistance' where our insulin doesn't function as optimally as it is supposed to function. And that is the root cause for PCOD, Thyroid, and Diabetes too. Instead of looking for symptoms on the outside like 'Am I getting fat?' 'Am I not fitting into my jeans?' 'Am I breaking out?' 'Am I experiencing PMS?' all you really need to do is pay attention to signs of a lifestyle that exposes you to these lifestyle diseases.

Is there a particular age group that is more prone to these ailments?

I think typically in India, it's when girls are studying for 12th grade exams, or when they start living in a hostel where there aren't any home-cooked meals or for that matter when they take up a job that just changes their lifestyle; where all of a sudden they have accessible income and they start eating things that are more expensive but not necessarily rich in terms of nutrients. So, at any point when you experience a significant change to lifestyle, women tend to become susceptible to things like PCOD and Thyroid. And basic things like eating outside food, sitting for too long, and being exposed to any stress are all major factors.

Monitoring your weight is extremely important when you're dealing with PCOD. What is the best form of exercise that women should be getting?

First things first, it's not body weight that is important. What is very very important is body composition. And the reason is that the more muscle tissue you lose, the more insulin resistant you get. So if the insulin is not functioning properly it means that all the other hormones are not functioning at their optimum. And when the body gets insulin resistant you will start putting on weight, develop pigmentation, and break out etc. So in this whole journey of losing weight, what we tend to do is adopt methods that compromise our muscle tissue. That's what most crash diets do. So the best form of exercise that one can do is strength training in the gym regularly, because it can rebuild lost muscle tissue. You can also practice Iyengar Yoga. But if you don't have access to Iyengar yoga then any classical school of Yoga like the Sivananda School of Yoga or Bihar School of Yoga.

What about skin? Five foods women should include in their diet to get amazing skin.

Ghee: If you notice that people who have PCOD and Thyroid also suffer from other problems like Vitamin D deficiency and B12. So ghee tackles both those problems, and its good for the skin too.

Curd: Curd with its pro-biotic bacteria ensures that your skin is always glowing.

Coconut: Coconut has something known as Folic acid and it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, which makes it very good.

Banana: It's really healthy, and has a great electrolyte balance. It also ensures that you don't break out because bananas contain magnesium that's really good for the skin.

Water: Water is very important, but that doesn't mean just the consumption of water, but also making sure that you don't consume excess cola, tea, coffee because these are all dehydrating. It's not enough to just drink water, it's also important to prevent eating any foods that will dehydrate the body.

In your book, you talk about how we need to go back to the eating habits that our grandparents had inculcated. What do you think then about the growing popularity of super foods that everyone is obsessing about?

It's unfortunately a reflection of our state of mind. And it's common to see that people from lower-income countries like India, Asia, constantly aspire to be like the west. And we are always keen to give up our native, indigenous foods to eat something that is exotic, unknown to us, while the rest of the world is adopting our foods as their primary foods like turmeric, ghee etc. So we really need to start eating and patronizing our local foods. If your grandmother doesn't recognize the food you're about to eat, you shouldn't even be touching it. And above everything else, just because you've eaten something exotic or unpronounceable, it's not going to make you healthy.

So we shouldn't be eating these exotic foods because they're not grown here and our culture isn't used to these foods?

Yes that's one factor. The other factor is that if we keep eating food that is coming from the outside, we are going to have to deal with climate change. And we'll die because of climate change before we start worrying about our breakouts.

Five lifestyle changes one should make to keep PCOS and Thyroid in control?

If you've been sitting for 30 minutes, stand for at least 3 minutes.

Eat homegrown food. Bring back ghee, curd, rice. Basically everything your grandmother endorses.

Always fix what you're going to eat between four and six in the evening a week before. Because that's the time that we tend to mess up the most and we land up eating everything that we never wanted to eat.

Adopt 150 minutes of weekly exercises as a way of life.

Get rid of your gadgets at least an hour before you hit the bed. Don't take your phone, your iPhone, your Kindle to bed. Repair hormones like the growth hormone and hormones that help in insulin sensitivity are all secreted at night, so if you're watching something on your laptop, your brain sends signal to your body that it is daytime. And in turn, your body starts secreting daytime hormones as opposed to nighttime hormones. That's why many people can't sleep properly at night, feel too tired in the day. It's become an urban norm now. So go gadget-free at night!

A daily habit one should adopt...

Eating at least two home-cooked meals while at work.

The biggest health myth out there?

That you must lose weight to get healthy. And that soups and salads are healthier than daal and rice.

The one food that you should be eating that no one is talking about?

Kokum. It's a coastal food. You can make a drink out of it and it works really well to keep acidity at bay and tackles all the other extra problems that come with PCOD and Thyroid like bloating, headaches etc. So it's a great food to add to your diet.