Is today's generation truly content or simply succumbing to pressures of social media?

Neha Sahaya is a celebrity nutritionist, fitness enthusiast and an advocate of a healthy lifestyle. Neha Sahaya wellness is a Lifestyle Nutrition Firm incepted by her.

Is today's generation truly content or simply succumbing to pressures of social media?
(Image: Neha Sahaya)

“Eat for the body you want, not for the body you have,” that’s how Celebrity Nutritionist Neha Sahaya summarizes her philosophy for achieving a healthy and fit body.

Neha Sahaya is a celebrity nutritionist, fitness enthusiast and mostly, the advocate of a healthy lifestyle. Neha Sahaya wellness is a Lifestyle Nutrition Firm incepted by her.

She firmly believes that there is nothing like a quick fix for lifestyle diseases and weight loss as that hampers an individual’s health in the long run.

She has been the Nutrition consultant for the Kala Ghoda festival 2018 and the Official Nutrition Consultant for Miss Universe 2019 for Vartika Singh and Miss Supranational 2019 Shefali Sood. She has also worked with Bollywood Celebrities like Kajal Agarwal, Tanisha Mukherjee, among others.

She has worked with Sunil Shetty and Baba Ramdev for the Mission Fit India project as their Nutrition consultant as well. Lastly, she was also the official nutritionist for the State Bank of India and the well-known NGO, Samparc.

In an exclusive chat with Mumbai Live, Neha sheds light upon how to cope with mental and physical health especially during these unprecedented. She also shares the reality behind those social media-worthy perfect bodies and celebrities' public appearances.

Neha has always believed that you can only achieve the desired body or a certain fitness level if you really want to and if you constantly make an effort to change your lifestyle in ways that best suit you.

To begin with, please tell us what made you pursue this as your career? 

Maintaining a healthy number on the weighing scale had always been a tussle; my love for food and struggle with excess weight went hand-in-hand. I was the most overweight girl in the room and had trouble accepting my body for what it was. With enough body-shaming from family and friends, by the age of 13, I became obsessed with the idea of losing weight. Unfortunately, the concept of gyms and working out at that time was very uncommon and information on the internet was sparsely available. That left very few options for me to turn to. Here began my first stage of fitness disaster. I took it upon myself, used my basic knowledge and did what an ignorant person would do – ate nothing and walked a lot… and yes, I did drop almost 20kgs in a matter of 3 months. But I knew something was amiss, my skin was loose, my skin did not glow and my hair was falling – I was thin, yes, but was I fit? Then to top it off I was diagnosed with PCOS and thyroid and I did not want to take medicines in my early age. I decided to make food my medicine and there began my curiosity with nutrition and fitness. With my knowledge I managed to control and reverse my health issues along with glowing skin, toned body and long shinny hair. Soon I realized that my knowledge had to be shared with everyone who needed help and there began my career as a nutritionist.

Besides physical health, what will help in coping with mental health during this pandemic?

These are unprecedented times. Naturally we feel anxiety, and maybe waves of panic, particularly when seeing new headlines. Watching or scrolling through the media make us even more anxious especially post 8 pm. An excess of news and visual images about a traumatic event through media can result into stress and poor- quality sleep affecting the overall wellbeing. Spending time with your loved ones to share your feelings and to listen and support others will go a long way with coping with mental health. Routine and ritual are restorative to us. Our brain wants predictable activity so we can relax our nervous system. Good nutrition helps to calm our mood. Stress makes us seek comfort foods, and in turn high carbs and sugars impact our mood in a negative way. Lastly, move that body and include some form of exercise to release happy hormones endorphins.

Why do you think there has been a huge demand for health and wellness products among people since COVID-19 arrived? Also, does this change indicate a positive long-term shift?

More consumers shopped for health and wellness products amidst the ongoing second wave, cutting back on discretionary purchases such as apparel, beauty, and alcohol, according to a survey. The simple reason being this is the fear of catching the deadly disease coronavirus. I have seen the disturbing realty of serious lifestyle diseases afflicting the older and younger generation alike today. Most people today are suffering either from PCOS, insulin resistance, fatty liver, diabetes and blood pressure, or are simply obese. And this is only a very miniscule list.

The main reason underlying these diseases is bad lifestyle, fad diets and blissful lack of awareness. People have realized in the long run the best way to fight coronavirus is just not the vaccination but also a healthy body and more people according to me in the long run will start becoming healthier and fitter.

In a fast-paced lifestyle in Mumbai, how can today’s youth and teenagers live a healthier lifestyle?

Parents are the biggest role models for teenagers, it’s important the following 3 tips are followed by them in order for the children to do:

  • Exercise regularly: Teens should be physically active at least 60 minutes of every day. If they just keep their social media aside I think 45 to 60 minutes is not that hard to remove
  • Eat a healthy diet: Healthy eating is an important part of your growth and development. Avoid food coming from a box, can or tin. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a variety of protein foods, and nuts. Pre-planning of meals is one of the best ways to remain healthy
  • Get enough sleep: Most teens need between 9 and 9 ½ hours of quality sleep every night. Many average only to 7 hours. Sleep has a strong effect on your ability to concentrate and do well at school. Again staying away from the laptop and your phone 1 hour before sleeping will help.

As today’s generation look up to celebrities towards fitness goal - how legitimate is it for commoners to be able to follow them?

Gen-Z and millennials are feeling the pressure to emulate the impossible to achieve aesthetics i.e., ‘Instagram Face’ popularised by most celebrities of our times, barring a few. But are we truly content or are simply succumbing to the pressures of the gram, can we be more content with our real selves?

Exaggerated features, smoothed-out skin, leaner and sculpted body parts - the list goes on. These filters, which can take forms ranging from minimal glitter to all-out alien transformation, have also encouraged people to starve and go on a crazy fitness regime.

The celebrity body that we will desire - we are so inspired by Bollywood celebrities’ bodies and wonder how they manage to look like this throughout the year. Let’s look at the real side. They have 24/7 nutrition consultants, fitness trainers and physiotherapists. Every meal is custom made as per their macros (weighted and measured). Their restaurant meals are also custom made by the chefs as per their requirements. They work out way more than any of us can.

Most celebrities hardly eat before big events, going on no salt and liquid. Some celebrities take supplements like fat burners to get the desired results. As Sonam Kapoor said that it takes them always 2 hours to get their makeup and hair done before shoot or any appearance. They have stylist to make them wear clothes that bring the best shape of their body. Even we Photoshop our pictures or use beauty plus imagine what the professional photographers use before the pictures go viral.

What advice would you like to give to beginners, and also people who are struggling to reach a goal?

Start slowly, the worst thing one can do is go on a strict diet and a crazy workout routine. Simply reduce the consumption of processed food, sugar and alcohol. Start eating real, wholesome food like fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. If you have never worked out start with a walk every day and slowly shift to different types of exercise like resistance training, tabata, HIIT, yoga etc. Moreover, have patience, consistency and determination to achieve your goals.

Can you elaborate on your experience working at the Mission Fit India project?

India’s first 120 days fitness and wellness campaign “Mission Fit India” was launched in partnership with Patanjali. Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty spearheading this immersive movement. The objective of the “Mission Fit India” campaign was to encourage every Indian to be fit and challenge the misconception that getting healthy is complex, time-consuming and arduous. I was officially their nutritionist and was bursting popular myths on what is healthy and unhealthy.

How are you trying to bring awareness amongst people, about what is eating right and what food is actually healthy?

My social media account is a space where I spread knowledge of nutrition which has all the latest and trending information. I believe food has become over-complicated and the best is going back to our grandparents’ roots and eat simple wholesome food which nature provides. My talk on Instagram, YouTube, webinars and magazines have been my way to spread my knowledge for free.

Lastly, what’s next on your plate?

There is so much next on my plate, from my own healthy product line to launching a new weight loss book soon.

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