Maria B: Going the holistic way

Designer Maria B. talks to Instep about the benefits of adopting healthy eating


In an age where people are addicted to processed food laden with preservatives and are living off junk food, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a far-fetched dream. Fast food, though tempting, is only a source unnecessary, empty calories so how do we get rid of our over reliance on junk and strive for a healthier self?

Designer Maria B., who recently gave birth to her second child and is simultaneously working towards growing her brand, striking a perfect balance between the two, speaks to Instep about changing habits for healthy living. She recalls her experiences between the two very different pregnancies and post-delivery issues and what led her to adopt a holistic approach in life.

Instep: When did you make the changes in your lifestyle?

Maria B: It all started when I was pregnant with Fatima and eating out a lot.  I was in the US for the delivery and had gained around 80 pounds but I didn’t realize that whatever I was consuming wasn’t home-cooked, and that was the main contributor of excess weight gain.  This was where I lost it completely. When I got back after delivering Fatima I couldn’t lose the rest of the weight. I tried to cut down on sugars but nothing made much of a difference. I felt like my body was completely out of my hands. This was eleven years ago and I was much younger then; I had no concept for healthy food.

We are Kashmiris and our fondness for food is unparalleled.  I have always been a foodie just like my mom who is a great cook but after giving birth I realized that I had no stamina left. That’s when someone suggested consulting a holistic nutritionist; meeting Dr. Shagufta started a new chapter in my life. It’s not about being skinny but being healthy and being aware of what your body needs, and not what it wants, and how eating right can change one’s personality and your outlook on life. I began to adopt my holistic life style ten years ago.

Instep: How much have you actually followed this regime?

MB: I am a person with a completely holistic lifestyle and try to follow it as much as I can. We only consume organic eggs and chicken cooked in desi ghee, olive oil and mustard oil for frying purposes. I have completely quit white sugar and instead use shakkar (brown sugar). Sometimes I do end up having desserts because they are my weakness. I don’t consume maida (baking powder) but only whole wheat flour and organic Himalayan salt complete with all the spices. I have a vegetable patch and try to eat according to the schedules.

Dr. Shagufta has taught me about the types of bodies, alkaline and acidic, and that one has to keep a balance between the foods that you eat. Rarely is white rice cooked in our house though it was difficult to plug it out of our lives. I also have fruits, daal and vegetables but most importantly processed food is not permitted in the house. Even the chemical-based shampoos and toothpaste have been thrown out; the non stick pans have been replaced whereas the cook is not allowed to use the microwave which can be carcinogenic. It’s better to use electronic ovens and toasters and desi mud handis which have special burners so that the wholesomeness of food stays intact. Also we don’t consume mineral water and boil tap water instead. I try as much as I can to follow the guidelines which my doctor has suggested.

It’s my way of life now. It’s become a passion in fact as I read up a lot on it. Even my doctor says that I’m half a nutritionist.

Instep: Can you compare and contrast between your pregnancies?

MB: My first pregnancy was at a stage when I had no idea what I was eating but it wasn’t the same this time around. Now I opt for organic items which are more alkalized as the body cannot cope with an excess intake of acidic food. Our body, which is acidic, is a ‘melting pot’ that can create diseases. Since my previous pregnancy led to hormonal imbalance, I consequently suffered from edema; having swollen feet.

My first pregnancy and labor were difficult but it wasn’t the case in my second pregnancy in which I hardly gained weight. I had a strict regimen and all I gained were a minimum of twenty pounds that one needs to gain throughout. I thought that since this pregnancy was after a gap of ten years it will be very tough but there was hardly any weight gain. My feet weren’t swollen at all and I had a lot more energy. I believe that because of healthy eating, the baby was active and I had no cravings whatsoever. I remember having cravings for all the wrong foods during my first pregnancy. I had virtually no cravings in my second since my body was balanced and not lacking in basic nutrients.

I was taking fish, essential oil and Omega 3 as well as nuts which are very important. Even after pregnancy, the first forty days are most important and one should have grilled liver for deficiency of iron, desi half eggs for rejuvenation. So this is the stuff that I learned and saw a visible difference in my recovery post labor. That in turn helped me in nursing my child and I am still doing that.

Instep: How much difference have you felt physically after adopting these practices?

MB: I cannot stress or say enough how important it is for someone before, during or after pregnancy for it can change the way your baby comes into the world. Adopting these measures bring a feeling of happiness and well-being. Junk food tends to lead to depression and major ailments in life. Now, fifteen years down the line I can walk for forty five minutes or run on the treadmill without feeling tired.

I’m taking care of a huge expanding business with ridiculous amount of work and, at the same time, managing two kids but my energy level doesn’t go down because the food that I’m putting in my body is actually assisting me. I’m not skinny by any means but being healthy and skinny are two different things. The girls who are dieting and cutting out nutrition from their bodies, ditching desserts as well, then experience depression and incur major deficiencies that later on turn into diseases.

Instep: What suggestions can you give to readers in bringing awareness to stop unhealthy eating?

Go back to nature and maintain a holistically balanced lifestyle. Junk food, sugar and chemicals in our diet are the reasons we are unhealthy especially the broiler chicken, which is poisonous.

The American FDA has accepted that there are carcinogens present within these and imagine all of us consuming that chicken. So cut chicken out from your children’s lives and do not give them pasteurized milk which has no nutritional value. It’s all added after it’s been steamed dried. This is a responsibility of every parent. Do your research and read up. Do away with fast food by reverting to home-cooked meals.

There is nothing more rewarding than your kids excelling in their fields and your work finally speaking for itself after years of toiling. One should choose the priorities and then the balance comes very naturally. The closer you are to what God has created and nature the better your body will be.