Dr Swati Maheshwari is a doctor with more than 20 years’ experience working in India and around the world. She’s an internal medicine specialist and an expert in the areas of child health and hormonal treatment.
Swati also presents her TV show, Dr Swati Show, which aims to bust health myths and give everyone the advice they need to stay healthy.
We sat down with Swati to find out more about her and her work, including her go-to healthy snack and her favourite way to unwind.
What made you want to become a doctor?
When I was a child, I spent most of my time with my grandfather. He would take me to orphanages and old people’s homes, which helped me understand the world of ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’. He also took me to railway stations, where we’d find people with leprosy who’d been abandoned. We gave them a bath, changed their clothes and took care of them. The smile and blessings of those needy people would give me great joy and contentment. Another inspiration in my life is my mother. I would say she was like Florence Nightingale. She selflessly cared for people around her and would always nurse the sick in the house with utmost devotion. So, from a young age, I learned to be empathetic to people around me. It’s what lit that little candle inside and brought me to medicine, because it’s a place where you can give back to society.
How did you go from doctor to presenter on your own TV show?
It was an interesting journey, and a tough one. I definitely wasn’t familiar with what goes into creating a TV show, but I was blessed to have some friends who could help. We pulled together a team and over time, I learnt the trade – how you script, how you shoot and how you edit. The most difficult part was thinking about how to break down medical jargon – we tried to make it really simple and empower people about their health.
What topics do you cover on Dr Swati Show?
My show aims to bust myths around disease and breakdown taboos and stigma and help people understand their disease better. We talk about early signs of disease so that people can identify them early and not ignore their health problems. I want to help people be proactive about their health, so we tell them what a healthy diet looks like, which exercises they should be performing daily and give health advice about specific conditions and diseases.
Your motto is ‘fill life with life’. What do you mean by that?
If you’re more mindful of what you’re doing in life – be it diet, exercise or your relationships – you’ll live a more happy life, a more fulfilling life, a more productive life. That’s what a full life is. Most of us go about our day without thinking or paying attention to what we’re doing – we don’t stop to ask ourselves if what we’re doing even makes us happy. Instead, if you live a more mindful life in all areas, you can fill life with life.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of ‘the first 1,000 days’ in a child’s development. Why is this important?
Pregnant women don’t tend to think about nutrition until after their baby is born. The first 1,000 days, which includes from conception until a child is 2 years old, is the golden period we need to focus on. If you’re pregnant, you need to be cautious about what you’re eating and how you’re living during this time as the void created at this stage can never be refilled, not even later in life.
A balanced diet is key, with a good mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Try to schedule time to eat every 2 to 3 hours and avoid skipping meals. A colourful plate of fruit and vegetables will provide the nutrients that are essential for a baby’s brain, which is developing very quickly at this time.
Read Dr Swati’s article on how to feed your baby’s brain during pregnancy.
You’ve raised a lot of awareness about menstrual hygiene in India. Why is it so important?
There are close to 300 million people having periods across the globe, and in India, 20 million of them drop out of school each year because of lack of awareness and social stigma and taboos around periods. They don’t know that menstruation is a normal bodily process and puberty is part of growing up.
Menstrual hygiene is another grey area. Some girls lack access to sanitary protection and rely on easily available material. Some even use rags and newspapers. These unhygienic methods can cause infection.
What I’ve seen is that the minute you give information about periods to young people, they want to take it up and are hungry to learn, which motivates you to do even more.
What are some of your daily healthy eating and exercise practices?
I’m very cautious about what I eat and I have an exercise regime I try to stick to. I eat fruit and vegetables as much as possible and try to avoid skipping meals. Being a doctor, these things don’t always happen, but most of the time I try to manage it.
For exercise, I use the treadmill or cycle in the morning. And sometimes I go for a walk later in the day. Before the pandemic, I played a lot of badminton and tennis, which kept me fit.
What’s your favourite go-to healthy snack?
I toss boiled vegetables or fruit together with some seeds – usually chia seeds, sunflower seeds or flax seeds. This is my healthiest snack and the most delicious one as well.
How do you unwind?
I like to spend time with my friends and I’m fond of music and movies. When I get a chance, I try to catch up on all the latest films, although right now I have a huge backlog. Comedy is my favourite movie genre – it helps me unwind and de-stress.
What does living healthily mean to you?
Living in totality, which means looking after each aspect of your life. If you’re just focusing on diet, or just exercising a lot in isolation, that’s not healthy living. Living healthily is when you’re positive about your relationships and your work, too. If you’re happy in each of these areas, it reflects positively in your health as well. People will see you as a cheerful, happy person, and we need more people who can spread happiness, especially right now.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.