Fear not, food is a friend not the foe that stalks flabby nightmares. The more one eats, the more one burns, says Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija.

Makhija, a food guide to the likes of Bollywood stars like Sushmita Sen, says: “Today the perceived form of food is calories, fat, more fat and cholesterol. Food has become an enemy, it sparks fear.

“Food has lost its root purpose of serving as fuel for the body,” she says. All of us try not to give in “to the love of food”, says the nutritionist, who has counselled nearly 15,000 people in the last 10 years in India. About 98 per cent of her patients are women and are young.

“Food drives us. The purpose of writing the book is to make readers fall in love with food again. The more one eats, the more one deletes. You can eat only that much you can burn off...It is a natural mechanism,” Makhija says.

Describing the dynamics of food, Makhija says the process of burning calories was linked “to something known as the Basal Metabolic Rate or the BMR”.

“The more you eat, the more BMR fuels [burns]. The process of digestion itself is burning of calories. I have taken the mind-body approach to food in my book with help from [leading psychiatrist] Anjali Chhabria,” says Makhija.

But people are not easily convinced that eating more can actually burn more calories.

The barriers in guiltless eating are numerous, according to her. One of the toughest barriers is the sense of shame that they need to lose weight. “Many people don’t want to disclose that they are in a weight-loss programme,” she says. “I have always tried to get into the mind of a person who is trying to lose weight [so I can figure out what they are afraid of].”

One of Makhija’s most important dictums is: ‘Learn to look at food before learning to cook’. “Our attitude to food,” she says, ‘is hugely influenced by how we relate to it.”

According to Makhija, you can have three kinds of relationships with food;

1) The daily balanced diet of nutritious, healthy foods that include all the food groups.

2) Sweets, chocolates and sugared foods that make up a large percentage of what you eat daily.

3) Fried foods and red meat-based main meals every day.

The first type of a diet is your best friend, says Makhija. The second is the kind of friend you should meet very occasionally while the third is best avoided most of the time. “Once a person gets the relationship with food right, eating is no longer troublesome,” she says.

Makhija also denounces the “quick-fix approach” to food and losing weight. In her book, she takes pains to correct misconceptions about weight loss and crash diets by guiding readers through the semantics of food.

Her five-point mantra is: Know your food; Exert the mind on the platter; Understand your mind; Trust your body; Eat and move to lose weight.

Happily, there is also an upside to our paranoia about food, she says. “I am seeing lot of people finally becoming truly aware of food in the sense they are finally understanding their relationship with it.”

She credits the media’s unrelenting focus on health and the voluminous number of books on food, nutrition and disease managemnt for bringing awareness on healthy eating and the dangers of lifestyle diseases like heart attacks, hypertension and diabetes.

(Pooja Makhija is the author of Eat. Delete: How To Get Off the Weight Loss Cycle For Good [Harper-Collins India].