WELLNESS EXCLUSIVE with Devyani Singh Rathore
Like most of us, she too spent her 20’s neglecting most of her nutritional and lifestyle choices until her experience of motherhood daunted a set of realisations upon her. Now that her body had given life to and nurtured two beautiful children, she heard it pleading her to stop taking it for granted any longer. Right from that day, she decided to reclaim her motherhood with a renewed sense of nutritional understanding. She had committed herself to set a better example of wellness for her children and felt an overpowering responsibility of nurturing them with the very best. In order to do so, she searched high and low and found very little nutritional information on pediatric nutrition for Indian parents alongside a barrage of misinformation. With this, she found herself finding more reasons to go back to school and emerge with a better direction and approach to fulfill this quest.
Meet supermom and newly-turned nutritionist, Devyani Singh Rathore as she joins Rajputana Collective in an exclusive feature to discuss the age-old power of Ayurvedic living, and the tremendous impact that it has had on her own day to day living.
“I turned to Ayurveda and nutrition at a time when I felt overcommitted, stressed out and chronically exhausted. My body felt fragile and rundown, and my mind was flighty and ungrounded. That is when I found solace in this age-old way of life. I discovered a system of balance and applied it to my own life, only to find a potent form of medicine. There are anchor points throughout the day that ground one’s energy, calm the nervous system and disrupt the self-perpetuating cycle of stress and busyness. This had become my norm. After becoming a nutritionist and lifelong student of Ayurveda, I found that inclusive eating, the consumption of whole foods and a commitment to deeply nourishing meal plans have all had a radical impact on my healing process and my life in general”, says Devyani Singh in an eloquent interview with Rajputana Collective.
Rajputana Collective (RC): It is said that we are what we eat. How has your recent education of Ayurveda impacted your perception of this saying?
Devyani Singh Rathore (DSR): ‘We are what we eat’ is most apparent in the delicate existence of children. Whether it is a sweet-induced sugar rush or the lack of healthy fats as part of the diet of children that makes them lose their exuberance - they are exactly what they eat. As part of our academic curriculum, we worked on a large number of cases in the malnourished category and not all of them were below the poverty line. It was interesting to see a large number of children from affluent homes struggling with unknown malnutrition causing growth barriers and lowered IQ levels. These children were being raised on a diet of skimmed milk, high fiber breads and not enough healthy fats - all considered healthy for adults. Ayurvedic principles state the importance of the number seven. seven chakras, seven dhatus, seven musical notes, seven colours of the rainbow and the first seven years of a child's life. The food choices and exposure in these early years set the tone for their entire life. Hence, what you eat in the first seven years of your life is what you are and what you always will be. Make sure you make smart choices for your child.
Rajputana Collective (RC): What are some of the superfoods that you have discovered along your journey? What would be their key benefits?
Devyani Singh Rathore (DSR): I don't think anyone or two foods can be superfood, but I do believe that hyper-local foods are superfoods. Foods that are grown locally, specific to a particular area or district are super in their uniqueness and biodiversity. I remember reading a medical study done by the professors of Jodhpur National University that highlighted the ability of sangri (the bean-like pods of the Khejri tree) to fight Covid-19. Another such example is research done on the red chilies of Mathaniya village in Rajasthan. Researchers have found these local peppers have seven times the amount of Vitamin C found in oranges. So according to these findings, someone that ate locally, honoring their food heritage, would have a good chance of preventing or beating Covid-19 without popping vitamin C tablets to increase immunity levels. Of course, there are the usual suspects like turmeric, pepper, amla, etcetera, but I would classify them as beneficial plants and herbs instead of foods with benevolent superpowers.
Rajputana Collective (RC): Do you believe in immunizing foods? What are some easily accessible immunity boosters to live by?
Devyani Singh Rathore (DSR): Two neglected immunity boosters are exercise and sleep; easily accessible to us all - yet avoided.
The regular practice of physical exercise promotes improvements in quality of life and can act in the immune response, reducing the risk of developing systemic inflammatory processes and stimulating cellular immunity. When we sleep, our bodies produce a protein called cytokines, which target infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. exercise and sleep both give rise to our natural killer cells. A supportive diet of anti-inflammatory foods, nuts, fresh citrus fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish support cellular integrity and provide the body with complete protein of high biological value.
Rajputana Collective (RC): What is the one food mantra that you live by, and would suggest?
Devyani Singh Rathore (DSR): Mindful consumption, which I do not merely limit to food. I try to be mindful of the books I read, the shows I watch, the podcasts I listen to, and of course the food I eat. Honouring our senses with the respect they deserve is a good self-protecting method of keeping toxins away. When It comes to food specifically, we need to be mindful of the signs our body gives us. We naturally crave what we are nutritional deficient in, we crave foods that give us hormonal satisfaction that we didn't gain elsewhere, our body also gives us satiety signals telling us we don't need to eat anymore. Mindfulness is a way of self-love.
Thus far, Devyani was no exception when it came to being conditioned around the myth that places expensive and imported food as an inherently superior form of nutrition. After all, our modern-day lifestyles and contemporary schools of thought imbibe that within our mindsets on a day-to-day basis. However, it was her quest to discover the optimum ways of nutritive consumption that took her back to Vedic scriptures, and their mention of Baal (pediatric) and Mithaara (nutrition). “I was sold on the principles right from the very first book I read. Unfortunately. The lives we live today are very different from the lives of Indians living at the time of Ayurvedic principles being established some 5,000 years ago. In other words, it would prove to be very challenging for us to stop refrigerating our foods or using air conditioners. Or to rise with the sun and rest with its setting. Many such modern-day limitations led me to come up with my own version of modern-day nutrition, which is rooted in ancient Ayurveda as a way of life nevertheless.
Furthermore, Devyani does not deny the important role of modern medicine when it comes to receiving immediate medical attention. However, her take on curing minor ailments, non-communicable diseases and chronic illnesses situates itself most trustingly upon the premise of Ayurveda as an extremely sustainable and functional approach. She supplements this with an interesting comparison of how modern medicine and Ayurveda perceive human wellbeing.
“Whereas modern medicine has a linear view on good health, Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that recognises healthy human existence as a tripod, comprising of the body, mind and soul. It is going to take many more years before modern science recognises this third aspect of the spirit or soul. Ayurveda understands the soul as our daily operating consciousness on a spiritual level. Yes, the soul is invisible, but Ayurveda believes in the possibility of its study through behavioural patterns. Self-inquiry is the foundation of spiritual healing, and in duly including all aspects of our being, Ayurvedic approaches of wellness target the root of the ailment through a deeply functional approach”, she concludes.