December was a month of many parties, and numerous pumpkin-spice lattes for me. Come January I promised myself to clean up my diet.
Most of us tend to eat mindlessly unless we consciously decide not to. Dairy and gluten insidiously creep into my plate and down my throat before I can squeak in protest. I try to go gluten & dairy free every once in a while. This time I decided to make all 31 days of January about elimination. I eliminated all food items known to cause inflammation in the body such as gluten and dairy. The body needs 21 days to completely reset, and I decided to test my willpower and continue the diet for the entire month.
The great thing about being active on social media is that you are always connected to like-minded people. I didn’t want to go on a cleanse alone, and within a couple of days I had 14 people who wanted to join me in my cleanse, thanks to the joy that is Instagram.
…and 4 Other Unexpected Results of the Latest Fitness Fad
I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) seems to be all the rage right now. Fitness experts are expounding it and every one (and their moms) are trying it. At the risk of sounding trite, I’d say I.F. has changed people’s lives. It’s helped people shed oodles of weight. It’s reduced the oft present stress around ‘clean eating’, ‘balanced eating’, ‘right eating’ by eliminating eating all together! And in my experience, it’s done a lot that we’re not even talking about.
I’m not one for fitness fads, but I’m also experimental. I’ll always try something, unless it’s too ‘out there’ for me. (And, to be honest, few things really are.)
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Intermittent fasting is a system of eating where there is a specified ‘ eating window’, and ‘fasting window’. There are many different styles of Intermittent Fasting depending on these windows. The most common is the 16/8 fast, where you fast for sixteen hours and eat for eight. You can also do a 12/12 fast, where you fast for twelve hours and then have an eating window of 12 hours. You can fast on alternate days, or once in two days…
And to my surprise I found that this system of eating ‘worked’ for me. Below are 5 things it did for me, and which have me now.
I.F. MADE ME A BETTER YOGI
I kid you not. I’ve practiced yoga almost daily for the past decade. In a world where distractions are many and time a rare commodity, the only way I can do this is by waking up at an ungodly hour to get some uninterrupted practice time before the rest of the world awakes. More often than not, I’m sluggish and slow in the morning, sore from the previous day.
Enter I.F. and my body feels clearer. I am experiencing a kind of energy I’ve never experienced before. The kind where your brain might say ‘no’ but your body will move into the first sun salutation with no complaints. By reducing the quantity of food I consume, energy that would otherwise be spent on metabolizing and digesting food is available for morning yoga practice. My asanas are sharper, my body seems to move with no resistance and I am fully present for my practice.
I.F. GOT RID OF MY BRAIN FOG
Yoga is not only a physical practice. However, even the physical practice of yoga (asana practice) is linked to your mind. If your mind isn’t awake, your body is unlikely to act. After practicing I.F. for almost a month now I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t take too long to wake up. Prior to this I would dilly-dally and procrastinate before finally stepping on my mat. Now I’m on my mat faster, more inspired, energetic and creatively abundant.
I.F. MADE ME APPRECIATE COFFEE MORE
But not because I’m guzzling down any more of it than I was before. In fact, I’m drinking less of it! Part of my dilly-dallying used to include making a cup of strong coffee. The aroma used to wake up my senses and the caffeine used to wake up my groggy cells. Now I don’t need the coffee. An era of coffee enjoyment has started in my Life. I have coffee when I want to and not because I need to. I enjoy a single shot of espresso more than I’ve ever enjoyed it before.
I.F. CONTROLLED MY FOOD CRAVINGS
Along with a decrease in my coffee cravings, my snacking has also reduced. I don’t find the need to constantly munch something. So I’m not putting junk into my system…and that may be contributing to my high energy levels.
I.F. CLEANED ME UP!
I see my waistline more often than not now. I.F. proponents scream weight loss more than anything else. In fact, many say that they have lost weight in spite of eating all the junk in the world! Just to be clear, I haven’t lost any weight, but I still see my waistline because of a reduction in inflammation in the gut. Because I no longer ingest easy snacks, I’ve cut back on bloat-causing preservatives that I was invariably consuming.
HOW I FASTED
Before I end I’d also like to point out that there are numerous different versions of intermittent fasting.
There are dietitians who say it’s OK to have coffee, tea, lemon water etc while you’re fasting. I have absolutely nothing except water during my fasting window.
I stick to the 16/8 style of fasting. Basically this means having my last meal by 4 and eating again at 8 in the morning.
I break my fast with nuts or a banana.
I’ve jumped on to the I.F. bandwagon, and I think everyone should give it a go. Would you try intermittent fasting? Have you tried it already? Share your thoughts!
The key to vibrant health is consistency. The more you practice making healthy choices, the easier it becomes to make them and the easier it becomes to stay healthy. The holidays, though, are a challenge for everyone. The holidays shouldn’t be about deprivation, however, they shouldn’t be about treating yourself like a dustbin either. Here are my top 5 tips to remain healthy during the holidays.
I’ve been gluten and dairy free for a month, and I’ve really started to see the difference. I’m going to continue to avoid gluten through the holidays and there are a few other tips that I follow to stay on track with my fitness during Diwali/end of year festivities. I did an Instagram and Facebook live session on these yesterday, and you can watch it on my YouTube channel.
To begin with it’s important to understand that you must start eating healthy and being regular with your workouts a few weeks before the holiday season hits. That way, even if you end up missing a workout or two, and having one too many drinks – you’re still in the safe zone. I’m usually consistent with my workouts, but eliminating gluten and portion control really worked for me before the holidays.
Without further ado, the top 5 tips that help me stay healthy during the holidays are:
Choose your indulgence wisely. I love chocolate so I stay away from the jalebis.
Portion control! Face it, besides your usual meals, you’re going to be snacking quite a bit. Endless cups of coffee/tea with neighbors and relatives and all the bits and bites that go along with them. So eat whatever you want, but cut back on the portions for every single thing that goes into your mouth.
Do a little workout daily. I’ve told my students to do a combination of Suryanamaskars, squats and push-ups daily. And nothing like a little bit of breathing to feel calm and centred during the holiday frenzy.
Up your water intake. I’m going to be eating a little more chocolate than usual, and expect that you will also have more than your usual sweets. Water helps to reduce food cravings (particularly of the sweet variety) and also ensures that you don’t overeat. Also, it’s easy to overlook drinking water when you’re busy all day. So make it a point of carrying water with you so that you remember to tank up.
Don’t cause pollution. So I’m not going to burn crackers. I’m not going to use plastic bags. I admit we can’t do anything about the plastic that the mithai boxes are wrapped in, but why not avoid using them whenever you can? The pollution in Delhi isn’t a myth, and pretty soon that’s how it’s going to be all over the country unless we do something about it.
These are tips that actually work for me. They are simple and easy and maybe that’s why they are the most effective. Try and let me know if they work for you.
My parents have been visiting with me for the past couple of days and we’ve been going around sight seeing and exploring the Bangalore food scene. Before I leave the house I always double check that I’m carrying my water with me. You’ll never find me carrying those ridiculously small purses which can only hold a chapstick and a Rs. 5 coin. My bag needs to hold a large bottle full of water and stay hydrated.
We don’t know conclusively how long a person can survive without water, but we know that its less than the time without food. You’re are likely to die of thirst before hunger. I’m surprised when I find out that some students haven’t had a full glass of water by the time they show up to class. Which is 8 am!
Tips to Stay Hydrated
Start your day with a little warm water. It kick starts your system, flushes out toxins and increases metabolism. Hello weight loss! Hello glowing skin! Hello luscious hair! Also warm water is easier to ingest so you will feel like drinking more of it.
Add a little something to your water for a little zing. You can add: mint, ginger, cinnamon, lemons/limes to your water to increase the immunity boosting properties. Make the H2O really work for you.
Now, make drinking this healthful, flavourful water a calm, meditative morning ritual.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink up. Because when your body actively indicates thirst, it means that the water volume in our body has already fallen below a certain threshold. Basically, you’ve already started to dehydrate.
Have a sweet craving? You might just be thirsty. Down a glass of water. Also consider trying this recipe.
Absolutely do NOT use a plastic water bottle if you hope to imbibe healthful stuff. Plastic in water bottles contains many chemicals and these chemicals seep into the water over time. Eventually, these chemicals will interfere with your hormonal balance.
Get a metal water bottle and never leave home without it. I’m actually suggesting a good grade metal water bottle, not a bpa-free, environment friendly water bottle made of some-percent recycled plastic. Get a metal water bottle. I’ve been considering getting a copper water bottle myself.
Think About Your Bottle
The thing I see people defaulting on most? It’s the water bottles. It’s simply horrifying to see people chugging water from a ratty old plastic Bisleri bottle to quench their thirst. Bottles that have been sitting in their car for days, with water of questionable integrity. With all you do (or don’t do) for your health, do you really want to drink that?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a glass of water.
Towards the end of the year Bangalore is deliciously foggy and cold(ish). Suddenly the filter coffee tastes better, and the post yoga breakfasts are to die for. Everyone is motivated to fit into a little black dress and the energy is at an all time high. But this is also the time when many miss classes because of the common cold, sore throat or fever.
It finally happened to me too. The other night I got my yearly cold. My eyes watered, my nostrils got sensitive to the smallest speck of dust and I started sneezing up a storm. Regardless of how much I try and keep my immunity up, towards the end of the year those Sneaky Sniffles manage to get to me.
What to Do About Those Sneaky Sniffles
Ginger. I drink ginger infused water in earnest. Water infused with herbs is a great, easy and cheap way to detox your system. During the winters I stick to warm water with ginger. I find all the other spices too ‘cold’ for my constitution. If I’m out of ginger, I just stick to warm water.
My special tea.
My special tea. When my immunity is compromised I turn to my trusted organic black tea, although I’m actually a filter coffee person. I brew all the spices I have with a vengeance. Some of these spices are: cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and ajwain (curcumin seeds). I found a forgotten jar in the back of my cabinet. Although honey is high in calories, it feels great on a throat that feels like it’s lined with asphalt. I throw in a few tea leaves as well. Currently I use the Korakundah Black Tea (100% Organic, single estate).
Brandy with hot water. Most people don’t believe it when I tell them my parents gave us a tiny dose of brandy and it worked like magic. We slept well and woke up healthy. This is a staple up in the hills, chilly evenings are better with a soothing glass of hot brandy between your hands. Sometimes I spoon some honey into my glass. The other night I found a bottle of Old Monk, but no brandy. Good enough, I thought. And it worked the magic of my childhood.
Spicy food! This is the time to have that really spicy curry/dal/sambhar. I add lots of ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, hing (asafoetida) to whatever is cooking and viola! you have an awesome cure for the common cold. Let food be thy medicine.
Jal Neti. Because when the sniffles come, nothing flushes away the irritants better than warm water with rock salt. If you’re not doing Jal Neti, you don’t know what you’re missing. Do yourself a favour and drain those sinuses. You’ll end up preventing wrinkles too in the process.
Sleep. I broke into my liquor cabinet, brewed the different decoctions, imbibed everything … all by 8 pm. I didn’t have the mind space to read or watch something. All I wanted to do was snuggle under my warm blanket and wake up to a clear tomorrow.
…. and wake up to a clear tomorrow I did. The hour was deliciously early, even the birds weren’t stirring yet. I brewed another cup of tea, and rolled out my mat. And all was well with the world again.
If this post helps your encounter with Those Sneaky Sniffles, let me know!
My favorite fruit – today and always, and won’t change with my changing food habits.
I’ve been lazing around a lot lately, and thinking about my changing food habits. Most days the only workout I get is a brisk hour long walk in the mornings. And the speed also depends on whether we have burning issues to discuss or whether the topic of conversation is lukewarm. The most memorable walk so far was the walk where we where our pace and the conversation was so invigorating that we realized we’d walked all the way to the supermarket (a considerable distance), and ended up picking up some things we needed. Then we had coffee and walked back home.
Happy with my cupcakes!
I’ve been baking a lot as well. My mousse au chocolat was a disaster. But my cupcakes were quite good! I’ve been exploring the food options here and being vigilant about my food choices as well. This doesn’t mean that I’m denying myself or following some kind of diet (those who know me know that I don’t diet). What it means is that I’m listening to my cravings because cravings are a great way for you to understand what your body lacks. And when you are travelling then you need to be extra vigilant because the weather changes, the food changes, your mind set changes and your days change!
So here are a few observations about my changing food habits which i find interesting:
While my parents have their morning tea before our marathon walks, I prefer to
I rarely feel like having a large dinner. So usually I’ll have a bowl of home made soup. And this is usually related to my level of activity. So on Thursdays I’ll come home at 10 pm and eat after an intense AcroYoga session. And I choose to eat after rather than before the session.
In the evenings I tend to reach for a fruit or juice or green tea rather than the chai my parents drink.
In India I remember I used to guzzle down loads and loads of water throughout the day. I used to feel hungry more frequently and ate much much more. However, even with this change, I still feel like I have loads of energy.
Do you also experience similar changes in diet/cravings when on vacation?
And now for the recipe for what my sister calls lemonade and which I’ve been imbibing by the bucket loads for the past couple of days. There’s nothing better than hydrating with a something healthy as well as delicious. This drink tastes like summer in your mouth. It’s healthy, easy to make and is a refreshing summer drink. So here’s the recipe:
1. Water (as many glasses as you want to drink)
2. Sprigs of mint
4. Loose tea
5. Lemons (quantity depends on what kind of taste you want)
Summer Drink: The Recipe
Grate some ginger into the water and bring to boil. Add the tea leaves. Allow to boil until you’re happy with the aroma. I prefer strong tea. Allow to cool. Squeeze some lemons into a jug. Put the mint in the jug too. Strain your tea into the jug. Add ice if you prefer the drink really cold. Pour into a nice glass. Drink. Share with your friends.
I know many people don’t drink enough water because they hate the taste of plain water, and this drink can be a game changer. All the ingredients are pure and healthy and because you’re making it at home, you also get to do some quality control! After all, it’s important to stay hydrated!
I guess we’ve come a full circle in terms of appreciating the health benefits of traditional Indian cooking and spices. From mindlessly eating spicy food, to eschewing spice in favor of bland food to the present when we know that moderation is the key. Lately we’ve started re-discovering the health benefits of the spices that we’ve been using and consuming for years. One such spice is methi or fenugreek.
Some other spices I frequently use in my cooking.
Five Reasons Why Methi/Fenugreek is Good for You
Women need a lot of iron during their period, pregnancy and while they breastfeed. Including me this in your diet ensures thatyour body constantly has a ready supply of iron. Chop up methi leaves and use it to make paranthas or chapattis or just make aloo-methi sabji. Make sure that you cook it using tomatoes or potatoes to enable iron absorption. Many people have reported that the aches and pains in their joints diminished after regular consumption of methi seeds/leaves.
Methi helps to reduce cholesterol levels so is great for weight management.
The potassium content of methi counteracts the effects of sodium in your body which helps in stabilising heart rate and blood pressure. This can lower the risk of heart attacks.
Methi is great for digestion. It helps to flush out toxins from your system. It’s great to cure indigestion and constipation. Try this home remedy for smooth digestion: Leave some methi seeds overnight in a glass of water. Drink the water the next morning. Do this consistently for a week and notice the difference.
Methi is great for skin and hair. Try this: Grind fresh methi leaves into a paste and use apply on your face. Do this regularly and your skin will become more clear and supple. Grind methi seeds and mix them in your mehendi (henna) paste. This helps keep dandruff at bay and stops the thinning and falling of hair.
These are just a few of the numerous benefits of methi seeds. If you incorporate methi in your diet, you’re bound to see many more benefits.
If you have any tips about how to use fenugreek seeds, leave me a comment!
In the past week alone I’ve come across 3 people who’ve been down with fever. “There’s a virus going around”, “The weather is changing” and numerous other justifications are also floating around. While sometimes our systems can’t help but succumb to the onslaught of germs and disease on our bodies, I still believe that if we’re vigilant and just a bit more carefull, we can avoid falling prey to the seasonal germs. I read up on it and here are a few tips to tide you over the ‘illness’ season.
1. Have hot water + lemon + ginger every morning. Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory ur properties. In addition to this, according to Ayurveda ginger creates warmth in the body which aids in fighting disease and keeping your immune system up and running.
2. Don’t add sugar/milk to tea to get the maximum anti-oxidants in the tea. The anti-oxidants that are being chased out of your tea by the milk you’re adding can contribute immensely to keeping you healthy (taking into consideration the amount of tea we drink on a daily basis!). Also, sugar causes inflammation and makes your skin sag prematurely.
3. Purple cabbages has anti-oxidants and help improve circulation. And available right here in our Conoor market!
4. Have turmeric. Eat it in your food or apply to your skin. If there is a wonderspice – this is it.
5. Have cinnamon. Anti-oxidants + anti inflammatory + anti bloating. So add to your tea instead of sugar!
6. If you have a cough – add thyme to your tea. If you want glowing skin – drink green or white tea. If you’re just looking to stay healthy – have green tea. And if you want to fight stress – drink some black tea.
7. Cut down on milk. Besides causing secretion of mucus in your throat and nasal passage it increases insulin production, causes oily skin and thereby pimples. Also, research has shown that it contains 59 active hormones. In addition to this it contains allergens, fat and cholestrol, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, blood, pus, feces, bacteria and viruses. Also, milk has a lot of calcium but for calcium to be absorbed by our bones we need magnesium. And milk does not contain magnesium. We’ve traditionally been brought up to believe that milk is essential to good health. Read up on this a bit more and then make your decision.
8. Don’t have coffee post noon. Caffeine takes about 5 hours to leave your system and you don’t want it interfering with your sleep.
9. Keep all electronic gadgets out of your bedroom. The waves produced by electronics suppress the production of melatonin in your system and melatonin is responsible for sleep.
10. And lastly – DO YOGA!!!!
A lot of the guidelines might sound extreme, such as not adding sugar and milk to your tea, but once you start to do this mindfully, you will start to appreciate that very little goes a long way in keeping you healthy. Also, a good way to start is to try something for a finite amount of time. So for instance, banish electronic gadgets from your bedroom for 10 days and see if you sleep better. If yes, then continue. Give 10 days to the first 9 points listed above and on the 10th day decide if you want to continue for another 10 days.
The 10th guideline is non-negotiable. You must practice every day. Without fail.
A few weeks ago, in an attempt to make my food purer I decided to ditch store bought spices in favor of hand ground spices. I noticed that the it I ground at home smelled and looked better than the one I bought from the store. It even made the food taste better. Although I knew it has a plethora of health benefits, I wanted to know a bit more about this spice. I looked up some health benefits of turmeric and have come to believe it’s a wonder spice.
1. It’s a natural antiseptic so use it on your skin for cuts and wounds. In fact, go out and get a tube of our very own Vicco Turmeric Cream :). It also helps in healing damaged skin and even psoriasis.
2. I love that the Indian diet has it in pretty much every dish. We end up eating healthy by default. Turmeric inhibits the spread of prostate and breast cancer.
3. It’s is a natural detoxifier and aids in weight-loss!!! Add a pinch to some lemon water.
4. It has anti-inflammatory properties so it’s good for arthritis, gout etc.
5. For clean skin and a healthy glow: Mix a pinch of turmeric with a handful of gram flour and use it as a scrub. Beware – too much turmeric and you’ll look yellow instead of golden, so stick to a pinch. (Tried and tested!)
6. It helps in combating high cholesterol, diabetes, cold, flu and menstrual cramps. Which explains why turmeric tea has become so popular of late.
Be careful not to overdo anything though. Too much of a good thing is also not good. Incorporate turmeric slowly but consistently in your diet or skin care regime and give it time. The benefits will be gradual, but worth the wait.