This Question Can Save Your Life

Is this good or poison?
Is this good or poison?

Originally published here on 12-Feb-2014 at

Don’t Skip This One!

Do you think that tasty food is what stands between you and fat loss?  Then today’s message is a very simple but extremely powerful tool that may change your life forever. Whether or not you’ve read my previous articles or decide you will never read any of those to come… you must read today’s and share it with as many people around you as possible.

People often ask how it is that I eat all kinds of yummy food, have only a very moderate exercise regime but still manage to sport a 6-pack on a 47 year old body. Add to that 2 more facts – that I sit in front of a computer for most of my waking hours and that I have no specifically noticeable genetic advantage. Then why it is that I am able to be in a relatively impressive physical state for a busy urban desk job professional? Seems like a mystery to many in Mumbai where I live most of the year – the diabetes capital of the diabetes capital [sic] of the world!
The mystery is resolved by considering a very simple algorithm I follow, and that you can too, when you engage with food.  Read on…

From Here, There and Everywhere

Ethnically, I hail from the region of Bengal, arguably highly advanced and sophisticated in various art forms including her treatment of food preparations. I grew up in Mumbai the cosmopolitan business capital of India with a large range of national and international cuisines available. As a Bengali, entire conversations before, during and after meals could be about food. Having lived for over 20 years in London with its vast range of international cuisines and travelling to more than 30 countries, the range of foods I was exposed to only grew. Silkworms (Vietnam), snake soup (Hong Kong), dog meat (Vietnam), unborn ducklings (Vietnam), ostrich (Arizona), crocodile (Kenya)… the list is endless… I even lived in Hong Kong running a hedge fund and enjoyed many regional Chinese cuisines with a vast circle of Chinese friends who were like family.

Avoiding Food Wisdom

Until recently, when asked about food groups, I’d probably joke and say “veg and non-veg”. If feeling slightly more mischievous, I might say “tasty and not-tasty”. The truth is that that is how I viewed any food that I saw. The benefits or costs to my health or appearance did not matter. Perhaps it’s the same with you too most of the time?

Although I am glad I wisened up sooner rather than later, it struck me that many others do not. And the reason is that they do not engage with food in a mindful manner. The thought of eating sensibly brings up images of deprivation and pain. Nobody really wants to deal with pain. I run, cycle and go to the gym and feel some pain from those sessions, so when I am presented with yummy food, the last thing I want is to feel more (emotional) pain. So, what’s my secret?

Examine this typical logical flow of thought that is usually in your mind when you engage with food.

How you normally think about food
How you normally think about food

So, your first question of “Is this food tasty?” becomes the primary decision driver.  That is partly because of the pleasure you get from yummy food and partly because of a fear that if you think along a different dimension, “choose healthy food”, you will experience feelings of pain (distaste) and deprivation (yummy food).  This conditioning that we reinforce on a daily basis is strong and automatic but is severely flawed if you want your food to make you both happy and healthy.

The first question itself takes you down the wrong path
The first question itself takes you down the wrong path

The reason that this thinking is flawed is because the follow-on from that node of thinking takes you to a zone where you are, at best, vague about what you are going to eat – since you have already decided that “tasty is my criterion”.  What follows is an uncertain mixture of good and bad food.

One significant reason for this structure in our thought process is because of the untruth in casual food culture that is bandied about – “the tasty foods are always unhealthy”.
The truth is that there is an incredibly vast range of foods that are both tasty and healthy.  In fact you could name at least 10 of them in as many seconds  without having to even think very hard. But still you do not use that power of knowledge within you to your advantage. What do I really mean by that? What should you be doing next?

The Question that can Change Your Life

The correct question to pose yourself at the start
The correct question to pose yourself at the start

Here’s the alternative, new, progressive, life-enhancing question that you are going to ask for every food or drink presented to you in your next meal:
                       Is this food good for me, or is it poison for me?
Anything good (including water!) can be harmful for the body when taken in excess quantities – but leaving that to the side – ask yourself this question for a simple binary yes/no response.

With full knowledge that you have a large range of tasty and healthy foods to choose from, you will avoid the harmful path of food that is bad for you with only positive feelings. You have now, with beautiful ease, constructed choices from a set of only healthy foods that are wide in their range of appeal from a taste, texture, smell or colour perspective.
After deciding that something is good for you, you need to ask, how much? Quite simply, eat all the food that is healthy.  What you like a lot, eat more of, what you don’t like, eat less of.  Of course, bear in mind that you need to have a meal balanced in terms of nutrients.

A better decision tree and grid
A better decision tree and grid

Today I will only eat food that passes the test question “Is this food good for me or poison?”.  I do not have feelings of “depriving myself of good things” because I am eating food that is both healthy and tasty. I am simply avoiding food that is tasty but unhealthy. No longer stressed that I may be eating the wrong things, in turn, gives me the incremental motivation to eat small quantities of food that I do not enjoy but I know are good for me. And, in turn, I become mindful of the fact that once it becomes habitual, even those healthy non-yummy things actually become quite enjoyable. Small steps in a journey of a thousand miles? The power of miniscule change!

As you get on with your day today, with knowledge that there are many many healthy and tasty options, start making it a habit, ask yourself the life enhancing question when presented with any food or drink: “Is this good for me, or is it poison?”



Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.