The ever confounding dieting

Now we all know that for a healthy lifestyle there are only two essential components

1.Healthy diet

2. Exercise

In my last post I mentioned about the connection between Indian women and sporting culture or exercising , and we all know how this connection works – BAD right ?

So let’s talk about diet right now,  I am often asked the following by friends and family :-

  • “we control our diets so much but still don’t end up losing any significant weight”
  • “what diet you follow , can you share your diet plan”
  • “I only eat what my dietitian has prescribed”
  • “I skip dinner , I don’t eat rice , sweets , I eat only one chapati etc. etc.

This made me realize something about women which is their exceptional will power when it comes to food because most of them are quite good in “controlling their diet” and can/will go to any extent of fasting , sacrificing their favourite foods in order to lose some weight ! However one needs to understand that by merely reducing your food intake or eating healthy food you may experience slight weight adjustment here and there which will be mainly fluid/water loss from the body but it doesn’t take long for this lost weight/inches to come back and haunt you again.Right? This is because in this dieting process you haven’t lost any fats which you have been storing in your body in all these years.

It is only when you “exercise” you build muscle and burn fats. How much I hate this word dieting but the fact is”Dieting” alone will never ever work, Period . Make a sustainable lifestyle change which sticks with you in an effortless manner . For food – keep it simple and moderated.

My final take on exercising :-

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  • If you can’t do it in the morning – do it in the evening
  • If you can’t do in the evening – do it in the morning. You have to find time!
  • If you can’t step out and have constraints of joining gym or any other workout classes then workout at home . Just put on a youtube channel , get a towel, get a mat and do it in the comfort of your home. Let your kids (if you have any) also see how their mommy takes care of their body by sweating it all out.
  • If you can’t do the above also then at least walk 10- 12k steps everyday. Ditch your car , elevators, escalators and hit the target at least 4-5 days a week.

Discover the joy of this complex machine (human body) by keeping it ACTIVE!

 

 

 

 

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Why I started running?

Running or doing any sort of sport is not something which came naturally to me.More so, even as a kid I played no sport except for few “gulley” games and I can’t recall if anyone ever told me the importance of being active or playing a sport.Things remained pretty much the same even at the adolescent stage except for getting scoldings from my mother that I am getting fat and should do some exercise but just like everyone else in that age you ignore what your parents say. Life was all fine without active life until I started traveling overseas for work and started seeing the other side of the world which altered my perspective.Now is this something to ponder about whether we do any sport or not ? – Well yes ,looking back at my own life I feel outdoor sports is extremely important and every one should be encouraged to engage in it right from the young age.

So coming back to my story as to what triggered the thought process in me – Now as I mentioned about my travels, so quite often I was thrown this series of questions by a stranger or a colleague like :

Do you play any sports ?

Do you do anything to keep yourself fit ?etc etc.

And every single time I was dumbfounded because I had no answer!! Simply because there was nothing at all which I was doing , so an awkwardness started to kick in.However , whenever I was back in my comfortable surroundings  and looked around, I realized I am no different than others because most of the people are also like me i.e doing nothing .So this became a sort of self fulfilling prophecy because everyone around was like me (mostly).

But then whenever again I use to meet these people from these “far lands” , I use to watch them in astonishment as to how they are rushing to gym/swim/run in the hotel or outside immediately after work and later on meeting for dinner ,whereas I on the other hand after the same meeting or work  use to just go to my room, talk over phone ,lie down and kill some time before freshening up for dinner.So there was a clear contrast which started to bother me.

So , one fine day over the dinner I decided to ask  my colleague who is a 50 plus avid runner and runs many international marathons every year . I asked him , “what age you started running (you know just to draw some comparison )” and he answered that he was around 30 when he started running as he was little on the chubbier side  (In my mind I was like OK , quite near there is still hope left for me )  and he is still going very strong even at 50 . This conversation left something inside me which made me think and believe that if he can do at 50 then why can’t I start to run ?

This kickstarted my running journey and I started to take small steps , it has been a bumpy ride but I did not quit, Initially my drive was just to be in the group or herd (as they say)  that “Ohh yes I run, do this do that” which is fair enough because you learn and grow only around smart people. Gradually it started building confidence and as they call it serendipity I started encountering more and more people in Bombay who run (which also includes my “now”husband ) but more I started to soak myself into running I came above this concept of belonging to a group but truly started to feel the joy of running which helps me tremendously to connect with the self.

Now if I try to think a little more deeply , I feel we do not have any sports culture or if I have to further dissect that let’s say sports for girls is something not even talked about.Let me clarify that it’s not that someone will stop you from playing but if you don’t play any sport,then no one will ever even tell you or ask you or encourage you. And after all this, if as a girl you are still  playing any sports in school/college then there is a highly likely chance of someone in the family commenting on your complexion getting darker because of playing in the sun.

SIGH!I hope we get over this nuisance and realize the joy of active living and inculcate active lifestyle habits  in our next generation right at the beginning.

Lastly, next time you meet your girlfriends-  instead of asking them about shopping ,relationship,kids etc etc.

Ask them the questions I was asked .

Do you do any exercise ?

How many hours in a day/week ?

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My affair with sugar

We all want to control our sugar cravings in a world where there are “sweet traps” in every 10 steps around us. So it becomes important to learn some dodging techniques so that we don’t fall in these traps.

Well there is no magic formula for the same but there are only techniques which can help in damage control.

Now, when it comes to making lifestyle choices – I practice (mostly) healthy eating with lots of fruits, vegetables etc. but there is one thing which still makes me go weak and that is my sweet tooth. I remember how as a kid I use to sneak into our kitchen to binge on any sweet stuff. So much so that I could eat a full packet of biscuits by myself in one sitting without sparing a thought. AND god forbids if there is a sweet box lying at home then I won’t rest till the time it is not finished.

Fast forward to 2016, things have not changed much, I still struggle with my sweet tooth and try not to indulge in it but below is something what helps/helped me to control :-download (2)

30 days of sugar detox

Now to kick start something new in life, it is good to start small and not set lofty targets but bigger enemy needs bigger attack. So for this killer habit of sugar cravings it is best to tackle it with FULL THROTTLE.

Therefore, I strongly recommend to undertake 30 days of NO SUGAR challenge because I know this really works!!!!  I got this idea almost 2 years ago by watching a TED talk which totally inspired me to undertake this challenge and the next morning I was ON it.

My Experiment –

First things first, sugar detox does not mean leaving only sweets/desserts/chocolates etc. but it is much wider than this as we are allowed to consume only intrinsic sugars i.e. sugar which is naturally occurring in plants and not added onto the foods – so basically all fruits , vegetables and milk have intrinsic sugars.

Now talking about my experience, for me first 3-4 days were extremely tough – now this does not imply that prior to this challenge I was eating sweets every single day but it was so because lot of food items suddenly became forbidden as they all contained sugar .And this realization occurred to me once I started to read the ingredients on every packaged food item and it  made me chuck almost everything including the most common item – bread. Thus, my food started to become more and more natural.

Moving forward , beverage selection also became one of the toughest things in those days, and to top it I was travelling a lot – so during those long flights I couldn’t figure out which beverage to drink and finally I was left with only two options – water or tea. However on the onset of sudden sugar craving attacks !!-  I was largely relying on raisins, So I use to keep a small pouch of raisins in my bag those days. Anyway after saying NO some X number of times to all the stuff which contains sugar, my mind eventually got trained to ignore even the chocolate brownie lying on my plate!!!!!  But that happened only by the 10th day.

Results –

So ,come 31st day – the most interesting day on which I thought I would be jumping to get back to my “sweet world”. Surprisingly, that did not happen as I realized I no longer wanted to eat anything sugary ,so my experiment went on 4-5 days more. Finally when I gave in to have something sweet, I remember grabbing a glass of orange juice and my first words were like “Eeeks this is so sweeeeeet” and I was stunned at my own reaction.Conclusion , this one month did twist my taste buds and Now, I do find sweet things “too sweet”! So this conscious effort of one month greatly helped my mind to get trained which eventually brought moderation.

But this also comes with constant practice , if you will gorge on sweet food again then you would be back to square one , so moderation is the key but for myself I would say I am now forced to eat in moderation as I can’t have too much of sugar.

My final take on the experiment, this challenge clearly applies to not just regular sweet items but also other things which are presumably NON SWEET but have added sugar as preservative. As a matter of fact – 80% of our sugar consumption happens to come from these NON sweet items which includes all packaged processed foods, all fancy sauces, salad dressings etc.etc – the list is endless. So, during this challenge you will have to do away with lot of other food items too because the truth is that salt, sugar and flour are three pillars of packaged food.

For consistency  , one can try to do this detox once a year or six months to keep things in check!

Chocolates?? Yes!!

Cocoa, the main raw material for the chocolate and is one of the superfoods with lots of essential minerals and antioxidants, but because it is adulterated with heaps of sugar in normal milk chocolates or candies, so what we end up consuming is mostly sugar and not really cocoa. So, the solution is to consume more cocoa is by eating dark chocolate which contains more percentage of cocoa and less percentage of sugar, for e.g. – Normal milk chocolate’s sugar content is anywhere between 20-30% so you may start with the one which has 50% cocoa and then graduate to the chocolates with even higher percentage of cocoa say 80%-85%. Now dark chocolate is a bit of an acquired taste due to its bitterness which some people do not fancy but it has a two pronged effect- 1) you consume healthy cocoa and 2) it also satiates your sugar cravings. Luckily I did not have to develop the taste for dark chocolates because I liked them – it was just that it was an unexplored area due to less visibility.

So, next time try eating a square of dark chocolate whenever you get sugar craving. I do it all the times and feel satiated.

To sugar or not is a very strict lifestyle choice and needs great deal of  moderation – not just for weight issue but to keep other health ailments at bay too. No doubts, it is very tough but think of it as a small step in making healthy choices.

5 ways to avoid junk food

1. Do not ABSTAIN from it

More you will deprive yourself more urge you will have to eat. So have your days which we call as cheat days once in 15-20 days or so and eat whatever you want to so that you don’t forget the flavors :D. Now this frequency of cheat days totally depends on your current fitness level and your fitness goals. But on average 15 days is a good time span to give your taste buds a flavor change.

Remember the REWARD rule – if only you behave well for a stretch of days (decide the number yourself) you deserve a treat.

I would say get a calendar and make markings on it with green if it was a good day in terms of healthy eating/living and cross it with a red mark if you faltered. Writing or crossing off things have a stronger influence on your psyche and motivation levels and I can totally vouch for it

2. Learn the art of balancing

Now this means do not eat a complete unhealthy meal – so focus on minimizing the damage. This means that if you are having a burger then skip fries, having pizza then skip soda drinks, having some other fried food then skip desserts. This kind of mental calculation will come to you slowly once your mind starts thinking healthy – and then you can develop this pattern of thoughtfulness automatically before stuffing your mouth.

I do this portion control a lot wherein I may take 3-4 bites of my favorite food and then stop!

Your mind needs to learn to say NO, so be harsh to your cravings and you will see amazing results in your will power after few attempts. As they say if it was easy everybody could have done it – so first things first it’s not easy but it takes only 6-7 attempts of saying NO and I guarantee you will nail it. So , you can do two things

a. Say NO!

Or

b. Have it small and then STOP!

3. Don’t buy Don’t stock

This is very simple, if you don’t have it you can’t eat. This would mean that during your hunger pangs you will be forced to eat good stuff. So be a smart shopper and don’t buy any unhealthy stuff at first place. This means doing a targeted shopping and striking off things which you clearly know you should not be buying.

Trust me, I hate THIS because sometimes when I really want to binge – I have nothing at all in my home to binge on because I have stopped buying unnecessary food items. But it works pretty much like out of sight, out of mind. During my initial days while I was training myself – I use to even turn away my eyes from the unhealthy foods, eating joints etc.

I know, this can be difficult for those who have kids at home – well right now I don’t know how to address that but once I will know I will write about it (Promise)

4.Make a food journal

Buy a diary and pen down every single ounce of food you eat or you drink because I often hear this from people that they eat only healthy meals ,veggies etc. but you have no idea how much unhealthy snacking you may be indulging in during the course of the day. This realization will happen once you start jotting down how much you are eating during the course of day.

And boy oo boy ! It can be quite a revelation to self because often we cheat our brain thinking that we eat well but that may not be the case. This habit of maintaining a food journal will help you the right way just the way it helps me when I am out of track.

5. Crisp and Crunch – Master your sensory perceptions!

Now this one is something I always experience ,that whenever I want to binge on something and have a bad food craving then basically I want to experience the crunching sound effect, and only later I came to know that sound of crunch do evoke a sense of pleasure and delight. No wonders, companies spend millions of dollars on food technology just to know that right level of crisp which can give the right crackle sound to chips – thus making the whole activity unstoppable.

So we eat not just from our mouth but from our brain which means other sensory perceptions too like sounds, eye-sight, and smell.

The question now is how to behave when this hits you – well for me I eat walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, cucumber with salt and lime juice, carrots to feel that crunch effect. But there is another interesting thing which I have read is that smell of mint and also vanilla helps in curbing the cravings – Now I haven’t tried this myself but if any of you happens to do that then please let me know. Take a whiff and hope for some magic 🙂

So, would just sign off now on a note that it is really all in your mind! Hope above mentioned small tricks helps in mind training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 things I realized about my eating habits

  1. Eating while watching Television

This one habit can unknowingly make us eat more because watching TV in a way triggers an emotional process in the brain and even if our mind is signaling  that we are full , the other emotions are so overpowering that we refuse to listen and continue to eat and hence overeat.

While growing up, because of living in the small homes we did not have a dining table so I was used to eat in the living room or bedroom which had TV. BUT ,now I think that this one small discipline can go a long way in ensuring healthy eating habit of not only yours but the whole family. So, as women we should totally take charge of introducing this little change of eating on the table.

I am still guilty of not following it sometimes but most of the times I do try to follow it and enjoy the meals by just focusing on food and nothing else.

  1. Confusing thirst with hunger

Now this one again is a very common one and I deal with this all the times myself because I am guilty of snacking between the meals. Though I try to do healthy way but sometimes it is just an impulsive eating of calorie dense food with very less nutrition. However one very important thing that I have realized is that sometimes all we need is water and that is good enough to refuel the body but we think we are hungry and eat. So next time if you get hunger pangs try to drink some water – 90% chances that your urge to eat will subside.

  1. Eating dinner too late

Here again we are talking about discipline now because this whole journey of good health demands a certain level of discipline so that we set right rituals.

Timing of the meals is extremely important, especially the last meal of the day because after that body goes to low activity level mode so food needs to be digested well enough. I know this is a tough one especially because we all deal with our own daily struggles so it not easy to attain but not unachievable. One more hindering factor here is that we Indians are not tuned to eat early dinner but in most of the countries , dinner time is actually 6 or 7 o’clock ! In fact people get surprised to hear that Indians finish their dinner by 9-9:30, so no wonders that’s the prime time for our TV serials too!!

So, Scheduling of meals brings out that discipline , I am still struggling with 8 o’clock 🙂

  1. Eating full to your capacity

This one is the toughest to practice because it takes some effort to develop the understanding of listening to our bodies. In Japan they say – eat when you are 80% full, in Indian philosophy there is a concept of eating “Mitahara” meaning eating moderate food, In France after the meal is over they don’t say “I am full” but say “I am not hungry anymore”- there is a fine and subtle difference between the two. So it’s important to practice this “intuitive eating” which comes from all the other good habits like eating peacefully while seated, eating on time etc. They say there is a thing called “muscle memory” so after 15-20 instances of controlled eating – your body will signal you that now you are overeating and you can master the art of portion control and trick your body rightly.

Occasional hogging on our  favourite foods like rajma chawal is excluded here 😀 😀

  1. Eating without calculation

This means that we must make some mental map of how our week is going to look like , suppose there is some party or some office event or some festival wherein you know for sure that there will be indulgence no matter how much you resist because after all life is all about having good time. So it’s good to do some planning and save your cheats for these special occasions rather than mindless indulgence in a cookie after a meal or ordering pizza for lunch. This informed decision will help you stay on the track.

This occurred to me for the very first time in life when once I was in Europe on a work-trip and while we were helping ourselves with the lunch – there was a beautiful brownie staring at me and I was the only one to pick that up in my group. And when we reached the table with our trays of food, everyone was tempted to comment as to how nice the brownie looks BUT they all had good enough reasons to NOT pick it up because some of them had just attended a party last weekend so they were going easy on sweets, some of them have some dinner or something in the ongoing week so they were going light on taking these extra calories. I would say that lunch was an absolute eye-opener for me because never before I witnessed this sort of conversation and came to realize that people actually put a thought in not indulging in mindless eating.I learnt my lesson that day!

 

 

Create Rituals

 

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I love to quote my favorite Mr. Tony Robbins who says one has to create rituals for bringing any significant change in our lives.

So in this write-up , I would just stick to only three rituals which we must create in order to lead an active life.

  1. Don’t set lofty targets, start with 10 minutes

Often when we are all enthusiastic to start healthy living , we start setting targets like from this Monday ( yes everything starts from Monday ) 😉 I will start doing one/half an hour of workout everyday etc or something on the similar lines but we all know the reality that in that particular time we don’t have  that kind of motivation, energy and stamina to survive this kind of strain on the body. SO,  clearly this target falls flat very fast say in matter of 8-10 days in 90% of the cases because this maddening strain on body starts feeling like punishment to self and yes once again we lose the momentum of this new regime.

So, what should be the correct strategy to keep going , In my continuous journey I strongly believe that one should NOT worry about the “quantity” but the primary focus should be on “continuity” of the target , so instead of doing this 1 hour promise to self – promise 10 minutes of workout to yourself every single time . yes only 10 minutes !!

This solution is valid for not just beginners but for everyone because often we lose the rhythm due to some breaks and find it hard to catch up and bring ourselves back on track.  I am a big user of this strategy and it never fails me.So,the idea here is that 10 minutes sound so small that neither do we feel psychological inhibition about the time  and nor does 10 minutes of effort takes any toll on the body. Thus If we keep going for 10 minutes every single day it will create a sort of ritual and as the endorphins will start spreading their joy – timing will automatically increase because stamina also increases in paralell.

So this 10 minutes of continuity will invariably push your quantity too !

Please do not include household chores or shopping trips here – of course they are great activities 🙂 BUT the focus here is to break your routine, make yourself a little uncomfortable for 10 minutes and put some extra special effort in order to build new rituals.

2. Start measuring it

Once you get a little grip on your continuity then  it is good to do some mathematics as well, because as they say “If you can’t measure something you can’t improve it”.

The simplest thing which is mostly done is walk/jog and to measure that one just needs to have the basic health app on your phone which measures the number of steps you move in a day . As per experts,  it is necessary to move at least 10,000 steps every day. So by just keeping a tab on number of  steps everyday, it may force you to walk a bit more or force you to use staircase instead and if you still don’t hit the mark of 10k steps then you may do 10 minutes of moderate /intense cardio (brisk walk/jog)  post dinner.

The number of kms covered in 10,000 steps is dependent on your height and also the length of your stride but it can be anywhere between 6.5 kms to 8 kms – So it is significant!!. Also to give an idea of number of calories you can burn per km , it is dependent on your weight so if you are 70 kgs you will burn around 70 calories per km.

And for other workouts like cycling, swimming,yoga,home workout videos – you can just mentally measure or write down somewhere and then gradually increase your time/pace/repetitions etc.

3. Reward yourself after every workout

Last but not the least we also need to give ourselves a pat when we do our daily dose of exercise.One of the simplest things to do is to keep an empty jar which I call as Jar of Hapiness in your living room or bedroom  and then every day when you do your daily dose of exercise – put a fixed sum of money in this jar. The amount can be as small as 10 bucks but let this JAR stare you and remind you that you need to fill it.So dont let this jar go out of your sight and once this Jar of Hapiness  is full – you have earned it to splurge !!

I strongly feel these 3 simple hacks will help in tuning the brain towards active living

 

 

 

Surroundings matter!

I read this and I also strongly believe that “we become who we surround ourselves with” so one of the most important rules of our journey to healthy life should be to make a deliberate effort to be in the company of smart people (though this applies to general aspect of life as well ) but let’s confine ourselves to healthy living here. So smart people implies,people

  • Who are health conscious
  • Who think at least once before popping anything in their mouths
  • Who take care of their bodies

Underlying objective is that just by being around these type of people will constantly remind you that how important it is to take care of your body, your health. Now this doesn’t mean you ditch your old friends, colleagues, family members but this mean making a conscious effort to be in the atmosphere which points you in the right direction. CAUTION – now this behaviour of sticking on to smart people may make you come across as a Pile ON but it doesn’t matter – be selfish, eventually you will earn it from these very same people.

And today the way we live in this virtually connected social world , physical proximity with these smart people may not be an absolute essential – though it is always the best because we all need that motivation, we all have our share of good & bad days so it is an absolute must to create that support network around which can pull you out and push you back on the right path.

During my journey, all I started doing was:-

  • Started reading some health and fitness blogs
  • Watching healthy lifestyle related videos (food, workouts etc.)
  • started following fitness enthusiasts/celebrities  on Instagram – where you not only see those fit bodies but also see the effort people put in getting there
  • I found some colleagues in the office with whom I enrolled for dance class and gym, so I found my workout partners

So yes SURROUNDINGS DO MATTER!!

All these little things will go long way in conditioning your mind in the right manner because this everyday viewing/listening  of health related videos or your interactions with smart people will subconsciously wire your brain to rethink about your messed up lifestyle  – and then next time you will avoid indulging in mindless eating or will be regretful for missing your workouts!

The truth is when you hang out with people who eat junk food most of the times ,drink sugar loaded stuff without sparing a thought, have highly sedentary lifestyle – you start thinking all of it is normal, everyone is living it like that – this makes you slip in the comfort zone and it becomes your self defence mechanism to justify your lifestyle. So step out of your comfort zone and be the change or at least begin by being around changemakers.

Lets remember something which we use to read in our textbooks “Sangati ka asar” i.e.    the effects of company . It has that power of bringing the change.

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