Dieting. Let's face it, we have all been there before. Whether it's a low-fat diet, gluten free diet, paleo, a juice cleanse, a 30 day challenge - we've all tried it! It's certainly difficult to strip things away from your diet and implement new behaviors into your lifestyle. In most cases, if you're not being held accountable by some sort of professional help, you're bound to cave in, it's only natural. This is where Foodstand caught our attention! Founded by Rachna Govani, Foodstand is a behavior modification app that's focused on measurable goals driven by community and social support. We linked up with Rachna to discuss how this idea came to mind and how her South Asian background and upbringing played a role in her eating habits. Learning about Rachna's journey with food and her mission behind this project has been a great reminder to eat more mindfully and to be conscious about what we put in our bodies.
Walk us through your relationship with food and nutrition. At what point did it become important for you?
I grew up in a typical South Asian household in New Jersey where my parents owned a few corner stores. I was essentially the third employee of the business and got to see the ins and outs of how these corner stores ran. My parents had a strong desire to supply nutritious options to their clientele but working in this environment my parents and I quickly noticed the faults of the food industry. In short, the best margins came from selling junk food - this is where our profit was made. Though we explored different avenues within the business, we realized that in order for corner stores to sustain, we need to sell highly processed junk food. My family and I became very aware of the problem as to why unhealthy food is cheap and why good food is expensive. At a young age I gained early exposure to a bad system that did not work for the health of people and that’s where my relationship with this mission began.
Tell us a bit about Foodstand. How did it go from concept to where it is today?
A few years ago, I was a part of a corporate incubator - one where we came up with a bunch of ideas to see how we can fix the food system - a lofty goal. We challenged how we could create healthier habits and generate more sales for a healthier food system. With some trial and error we eventually got to a place where we wanted to create a community platform to inspire healthy eating. We introduced the idea of behavior modification without dieting and calorie counting last October and it evolved from there. Foodstand helps you build healthier eating habits through community-powered micro-challenges.
And what’s your favorite aspect of the app?
My favorite aspect of the app is that it’s focused on micro modifications as opposed to extremes. It’s difficult to completely adjust and modify your long term habits with the snap of your fingers and this app is not programed to do so. Foodstand allows you to make small changes one step at a time to make you feel constantly successful. They are small short term victories that eventually overtime turn into long term habits and one day, a new lifestyle.
What role do you think wellness and healthy eating play within the South Asian Community?
I think it has changed quite a bit over the last ten years. With the rise and continuing knowledge of medicine, health and nutrition, both eastern and western societies are quickly learning that wellness needs to be a part of our lifestyles. Health and wellness have become mainstream and I see it quickly adapting to my South Asian communities. People are working out, using alternative ingredients in their recipes and understanding that they need to acclimate themselves to this lifestyle.
How did this affect your outlook on nutrition?
My outlook on nutrition is not unique to the South Asian community. There’s an information overload about how mainstream media portrays nutrition. With all of the fads and new diets that come out, it leaves people confused.
My viewpoint is that healthy eating is simple - cut back on processed foods and eat more mindfully.
What are some nutrition related problems you see specifically in the South Asian community, how can we overcome this and build more education around it?
I see two main things:
One is that when South Asians moved to this country they began to use American ingredients to make South Asian food - this doesn't work. Processed foods are a big problem in this country and we unfortunately did not pay attention to it. We adapted our cuisine to a unhealthier set of ingredients in this country to be smarter shoppers but that ended up harming us.
The second issue is the glorification of western society. Establishments like Pizza Hut and KFC have taken Asia by storm. They are treated like destinations in South Asian countries with lines going out the door. What people don’t realize is that we have exported the worst parts of our food system. The irony of it all is that we, in the US, adopt eastern foods like turmeric as superfoods in our diets. When turmeric milk became a thing in America it was such an eye rolling moment for me. Turmeric was something that our South Asian ancestors consumed. The poor people in South Asian countries are eating better, healthier ingredients than the middle class in america. Very few people see that.
3 things we must implement in our daily lives today in order to ensure a healthy future.
Stop drinking soda and sweetened sugary drinks.
Eat slower - we are eating faster than our brain is used to.
Reallocate the placement when it comes to meat. We eat in an age where the animal is the star is the show and plants are the accessory - they need to switch spots.
What is the first thing you do after you wake up and the last thing before you get into bed?
The first thing that I do after I wake up is read The New York Times headlines and leave voicemails to our senators and council members.
The last thing I do before I get into bed is drink a cup of hot water. Hot because it soothes, calms and hydrates. Not to mention it improves digestion.
Words to live by…
Progress over perfection
I am always accused of being perseverant and rolling with the punches.