Nepali Times
Life Times
Dal Bhat diet


For overweight people losing even small amounts of weight and increasing physical activity can prevent plenty of medical com-plications. Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI = kg/m2) of 25 to < 30 and obesity is defined as BMI of 30 or more.

Thankfully, Nepal does not have obese people, but we together with the rest of South Asia are sure set to be an overweight nation. Forget about having rippling, abdominal muscles. Just keep your weight in the normal range. Unfortunately, once the weight is gained, losing it is a difficult proposition.

Patients on a diet generally lose about 5 per cent of their bodyweight over the first six months, but by 12 to 24 months they are back to 'mangal man' (square one). The long term ineffectiveness of weight reduction
diets may be due to compensatory changes in energy expenditure that oppose the maintenance of a lower body weight as well as genetic and environmental factors. Here are some common diets used for weight loss:
The Atkins diet, which lets you eat fat and protein to your heart's content with very low carbohydrate, is probably impractical in Nepal because of the lack of variety of meat and fish.

The LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, Relationships and Nutrition) diet is based on intensive lifestyle modification and may be too 'idealistic' for many, but very beneficial if you can bring about these changes in your life. The Zone diet comprises of 40 per cent carbohydrate and 30 per cent each protein and fat.

My favourite, however, is the Dal Bhat diet also known as the Ornish diet after Dr Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine from the University of California in San Francisco. But I think even the good doctor would be stunned at seeing the mountain of rice that many Nepalis consume here twice a day with a minimal exercise plan. Probably the only group of people in Nepal that can efficiently deal with this vast amount of rice-eating are porters along the Himalayan trails.

The Ornish diet is vegetarian based and fat restricted. A modification of the Ornish diet with controlled rice consumption but plentiful dal and vegetables with a tasty achar to boot may be a very suitable and practical option for the Nepali palate.

1. amanda mclean



In January I spent 19 days with the Thapa family in New Banesware. I had dal bhat most days with vegetables, just like in your photo.Also had omelettes for breakfast. Compared to our western sweet n fatty diet---the dal bhat is very healthy. I lost 2kg during our visit. The only exercise during this visit was light walking around Kathmandu n bird watching at Koshi Tappu. Yes---keep thequantity of rice down n you are on a ''winner;'' with dal bhat!!

2. Amanda

I agree, I lost 2 kgs whilst visiting Nepal for 19 days. I am an Australian tourist. Compared to our diet which is often sweet and fatty the dal baht diet is extremely healthy.

3. DG
Dalbhat tarkari aru sabai sarkari
Very soon this will be the fate of this nation.

4. B2B

A guy from Bagalore is going to produce 3 million tons of basmati rice in Ethiopia (just imagine!). He has already bought the farm but still tilling the would be paddy field for the time being.

So not only Nepalese are put on diet of dal bhat masu tarkari but whole Europe is going to get basmati rice from Ethiopia thanks to an Indian. Today 1kg of basmati is about 2.5 euros (1 euro = 100 NR approx.)

5. Swiss Chease
"Thankfully, Nepal does not have obese people", well I have seen many such people. I know Nepal since more than 30 years living here mostly. In my wife's family, there, half of them have diabetes being overweight, it is pandemic in Nepals cities. It is not the food, but these people do not walk any more, going to school, office, market etc by bus, taxi or the bike. In northern Europe we do not have such problems, it is very, very simple: if you eat more than what you need you store fat. If you dieting, you lose muscle. That is what people do not understand

6. Nepal's Biggest Loser host

"Thankfully, Nepal does not have obese people"  Ha, what a joke!  My wife and I are currently hosting a relative from Kathmandu here in the USA while she loses weight.  Her starting BMI was 60!  She is now on a diet of moderate carb intake, moderate low fat protein intake (lots of chicken and fish) and plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables, and she works out daily.  We call her regimen our "Nepal's Biggest Loser" program, and so far she has lost almost 30kg (another 80kg still to go) while eating a sustainable 'rest of her life' type diet. 

While cases like this seem to be rare in Nepal, she is not unique.  As Swiss Chease noted, diabetes from overweight is common in Nepal.  In my wife's family in Nepal, many of the ~5 ft tall female family members weigh more than I do, a 6'+ American male, so unsurprisingly they suffer from joint pain, joint damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other obesity-related health conditions.  Male family members are just as affected. 

Google 'heart health trends in India' and you'll see that heart disease is increasing rapidly in India, up by a factor of 7 over the past 50 years, and on pace to account for 40% of all the cases in the world, in less than 20% of the world's population.  Given the cultural similarities between the two countries, I'd expect the same trend is occurring in Nepal.  Awareness of the problem in the general population appears to be low.  Hopefully articles like Dr. Basnyat's, particularly in the vernacular press, can start to raise awareness of this troubling trend and point toward solutions.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)