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Intermittent Fasting Made Me a Better Yogi

April 25, 2019

…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!

On one of the several Root Bridges during our hike in Cherapunjee last month.
Food health Wellness Yoga

Easy Ways I Cut Sugar out of My Diet and You Can Too

December 7, 2018

I am not, in any way, the perfect eater.  I was PMS-ing the other day and ordered a chocolate mousse with hot chocolate sauce from Cornerhouse.  The sugar-rush was so acute that I forgot to taste the chocolate.

Fitness is an ongoing journey.  I jumped on the fitness bandwagon because I was tired of feeling crappy.  What I’ve learned is that no one has all the answers.  There are people who maybe be specialists of a particular form of movement or a specific diet, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on them for your fitness queries.  Their expertise might not work for you because that system of movement or eating might not work for you.

I’ve been on various diets over the years (and still experiment with different modalities of eating), and I’ve realized diets don’t work.  Guidelines do.  Minimizing my sugar consumption is at the top of my list of dietary guidelines.  As I said in this Instagram post, there are many reasons for why I did this.  We all agree that sugar is bad for you.  But most of us don’t realize just how much sugar we consume. 

That 1 tsp of sugar you allow yourself in your coffee/tea is not the only sugar in your diet.  If you eat any kind of packaged foods, ketchup or pickles etc, you’re having sugar.

I follow the 80-20 rule when it comes to my diet, so I sometimes manage to literally have my mousse and eat it too.  

What I usually eat.

I love the fact that now everyone is into millets. This is my staple.

I switched over to black teas and coffees when I quit dairy and sugar. It’s made a world of a difference.

 

Below are easy ways I eliminated sugar from my diet.

  1. I stopped ordering in.  Food that you order in is never fresh.  It has excess preservatives, sodium, food colors, sugars etc., that negate all the good work you do in the fitness class.  I found easy recipes for days when I come home dog tired.  Stuff like poha, or pulao or even scrambled eggs.  I order in like once a year, and that mousse it.
  2. I stopped eating ketchup and other sauces.
  3. I don’t eat potato chips or any variations of them.
  4. I don’t drink colas and even packaged fruit juices.  Yes, even your fruit juices have additional sugar and preservatives.
  5. I don’t eat cakes and biscuits that come out of packages.  If I want them I will bake them.

 

These changes didn’t happen over night.  I incorporated them slowly.  There was a time I thought packaged juices are better than colas.  Now I know they are the same.  There was a time I would drench my burgers in ketchup.  Now no more burgers and no more ketchup.  All of us have been through the Marie or digestive biscuits with tea phase.  Mine ended a long time ago.  I used to be someone who actually went out for dessert.  Now it seems like another life.

Sometimes I feel like I didn’t just clean up my diet, I actually deep cleaned it.  And after all this, I have experienced increased energy levels, better stamina and clearer skin.  Enough reasons for you to ditch the sugar!

What I sometimes get away with eating. Maggi and chai on the way to Musoorie last month.

Every once in a while I’ll indulge in a latte at Starbucks.

Food Wellness

Carrots – Eat Clean and Green

January 31, 2018

Most days between classes you’ll find me writing.  Always on the lookout for calm, quiet and interesting places, nothing works better for me than a cafe where I can have some delicious tea, and some lunch.  Last week a friend of mine and I decided to go to Carrots in Koramangala to get ahead on a bit of work.  Note to writers: Change your location.  I find it kills writer’s block instantly.

Eating at a vegan restaurant ensures that most of the stuff available is also ‘clean’.  We ordered a Greek salad and a pizza, and as I write this I’m hungry again!  The salad and pizza are to die for.  The vegetables are fresh and smell of healthy goodness.  Those who know a bit about veganism will know that vegans don’t eat cheese.  I’ve met many a pizza lover who won’t believe that it’s possible to have extremely yummy pizza sans the cheese.  Go to Carrots and taste just how delicious a vegan pizza can be.

Luckily Susmitha, one of the owners and a vegan for the last 15 years, dropped by our table for an informal (and informative!) chat.

We spoke about how Operation Flood (White Revolution) completely changed the way we consume dairy.  We concurred that cases of childhood obesity, various gut diseases, skin problems etc can be directly linked to the consumption of milk and other dairy products.  As an aside I have to mention that I love the fact that I can eat/drink anything at Carrots and not worry that it contains dairy.

Interestingly, there are several products manufactured by Amul which are vegan by accident.  Such as their dark chocolate.  Amul, the biggest participant in Operation Flood, ‘accidentally’ manufactures several vegan chocolates too!  This called out another assumption I had – vegan and healthy aren’t necessarily the same thing.  As a vegan I might eat the Amul Dark Chocolate, but as me (yogini trying to eat clean), I wont touch that stuff. (#nosugar)

Honey is also not vegan nor whole.  Susmitha had the explanation.  From a technical standpoint honey is basically bee vomit.  Bees collect pollen and then regurgitate what we know as honey.  She also told us that it takes forty thousand bee flying miles to make 1 tsp of honey!  Which is why commercially available honey is so suspect (for those of you who use honey as replacement for sugar).  Also, many farms clip the wings of the Queen Bee so that she doesn’t fly away.  That way, the worker bees are tricked into staying (and therefore making honey) in the same place.  The natural behavior of bees is to fly from place to place building their hives and doing their work.  By clipping the Queen Bee’s wings you ensure that the worker bees stay in the farm and work only for you.

As it often happens, those of us who are seriously into wellness have compelling personal narratives.  Susmitha and I share the same reason – both had gained unhealthy weight!  I asked Susmitha if she had experienced any internal changes; such as on the emotional and mental front; after she started living the vegan life.  And she said yes!  Her fear of stray dogs has evaporated and her Reiki and meditation practices have improved.  And all of us who practice wellness will agree that your physical and your mental health are connected.  If compassion drives your actions, it’s not long before compassion infuses your entire being.

Carrots has actually become a hub for holistic health.  All kinds of events related to health, lifestyle and wellness happen here and its actually become a meeting place for like minded individuals.  We can certainly vouch for that.  We met like minded individuals and had the most delicious and healthy food.  Looking forward to returning for some more healthy food and nourishing conversation.

Do check them out on their Facebook page and drop in for some vegan latte :).

 

P.S. I’m honored to say that I will be holding a talk on Valentine’s Day at Carrots.  On the day when we celebrate relationships I thought it would be great to talk about the relationship we have with ourselves.  Promises to be an awesome session and it is absolutely free, so do drop in!  You can book your spot here: http://bit.ly/2Fb5dy8

Food Wellness

Fat Phobia is Ending – It’s Not the Fat That’s Making You Fat

January 13, 2018

Gympik is running a fitness contest and as I scanned the list of topics I casually dismissed them as too obvious to write about or not interesting enough.  But blog contest topics are finite and I had to choose one from what was available.  As someone who has fat phobia from time to time I thought it’s a good idea to revise why it’s not the fat that’s making us fat.  And that’s reason enough for us to stop obsessing over the fat.

The thing is, there are many reasons why you may have a few extra kilos, but fat is not one of them.  Here’s what I think.

  1. It’s easy for a lot of people to just blame it on the food. On the unavailability or inaccessibility of healthier options when it comes to food.  Maybe you are a frequent traveler, but that means it’s more important for you to devise ways that you can cook for yourself or ALWAYS go for the healthier option.  Maybe you don’t have time to cook a healthy meal for yourself in the morning before work.  Well then invest in your health and get a cook who can do it for you.  Can’t afford a cook and don’t know how to cook?  LEARN!
  2. Your lifestyle is making you fat. The most used excuse is, I don’t have time to work out.  Do you watch TV?  Cut that out and go work out.  Using the snooze button to stay in bed for half an hour longer?  Cut that out and go workout.  Plonk yourself in your chair post lunch and stare mindlessly at mails you don’t feel like responding to?  Cut that out and go for a walk.  If you have to sit all day because of your job then take frequent water breaks.  And that will ensure frequent pee breaks.  And that amounts to more movement.  If your idea of a good weekend is to sleep until noon to recover from the rigors of a seated job, or to get piss drunk to recover from the rigors of said job, then…there are a lot of variables that need changing.  Basically, it’s not the fat that’s making you fat, it’s your complacency about your lifestyle.
  3. You have a medical condition that makes it difficult to lose weight. Certain conditions are beyond our control.  But what is in our control is managing them.  If you have a medical condition then don’t compound the problem by eating crap and vegetating the entire day.  Above all, don’t use a medical condition as reasons to have a pity party for yourself when it comes to your weight.  Don’t allow yourself to feel that it’s OK to feel sorry for yourself.  It is an uphill climb, but do it so that you can feel better.  And eventually you will feel better.  No two ways about it.

And at the end of the day, fat is essential.  That is, good fat. So blaming your weight issues on fat is just wrong.  Good fats are important to keep your bones and joints strong.  Your skin supple and glowing and your hair vibrant.  Good fats result in a good, optimistic mood which is essential if you want to be happy, healthy and energetic.

[*Note:  This article is written as a part of Gympik Fit-A-Thon contest and should not be repurposed, republished or used otherwise.  The content herein is owned by the blogger.  Gympik is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused.]

Food

You Really Wanna Drink That?

December 14, 2017

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.

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!

  1. 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!  Plus warm water is easier to ingest so you will feel like drinking more of it.
  2. 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.
  3. Now, make drinking this healthful, flavourful water a calm, meditative morning ritual.
  4. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink up.  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.  So if you find yourself drinking water only when you’re thirsty, your body is not happy.
  5. Have a sweet craving?  You might just be hungry.  Down a glass of water.
  6. 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.  You don’t want to be drinking this water because these chemicals will actually interfere with the hormonal balance of your body.
  7. 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.  In fact, I’ve been considering getting a copper water bottle for myself.  I’ve been seeing them everywhere and don’t actually own one.

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.

Food Yoga

Those Sneaky Sniffles

November 24, 2017

Towards the end of the year Bangalore is deliciously foggy and cold(ish).  Suddenly the filter coffee tastes better, and the post yoga breakfasts with the steaming sambhar 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 the Sneaky Sniffles manage to get to me.

But since it’s an yearly affliction, I know what to do.

  1. 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 (as busy girls with no time to stick their noses into the fridge are wont to be), I just stick to warm water.
  2. My special tea.  I’m actually a filter coffee person.  But when my immunity is compromised I turn to my trusted organic black tea.  I brew all the spices I have with a vengeance.  Some of these spices are: cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and ajwain (curcumin seeds).  I’m not a big fan of honey, but I found one forgotten jar in the back of my cabinet.  Honey is high in calories but feels great on a throat that feels like it’s lined with asphalt.  I throw in a few tea leaves as well.  Many ask which tea I use.  I like to think I bring home only the rare and the fine.  Currently I use the Korakundah Black Tea (100% Organic, single estate).
  3. Brandy with hot water.  Most  people don’t believe me when I tell them my parents used brandy as a tonic for my sisters and me.  Instead of using chemical laden concoctions, they gave us a tiny dose of liquor and it worked like magic.  We slept well and woke up healthy.  This was also my weekly staple up in the hills.  The chilly evenings are better with a soothing glass of hot brandy between your hands.  Sometimes I spoon some honey into my glass, but usually the calorie count deters me.  The other night I broke into my liquor cabinet and found bottles of whisky, but no brandy!  There was an open bottle of Old Monk.  Good enough, I thought as I fixed myself a glass of rum with hot water.  And it worked the magic of my childhood.
  4. Spicy food!  This is the time to have that really spicy curry/dal/sambhar.  I know chicken soup is the usual.  But not for me such remedies of the commoners!  I add lots of ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, hing (asafatoeda) to whatever is cooking and viola! you have an awesome cure for the common cold.  Like they say, let food be thy medicine.
  5. Jal Neti.  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.
  6. 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.  Not even the birds were stirring.  I brewed another cup of tea, and rolled out my mat.  And all was well with the world again.

 

Food Travel Yoga

The Hyderabad Diaries

June 20, 2017

 

IMG-20170618-WA0006

The running group.

 

Just got back from Hyderabad this morning.  I stayed with my sister and did my second Go IMG-20170618-WA0018Heritage Run. Spending time with the super fit sis is always amazing.  She’s an enthusiastic member of the Hyderabad Runners (they actually helped in organizing the run).  Since it’s difficult to find time to run daily, I try and get a run in 2-3 times a week and try to doIMG-20170615-WA0009 between 5-7 km.  I’ve already waxed eloquent about the GHR initiative in this video.  If you’re a runner, and want to run longer and better, consider adding yoga to your routine a couple of times a week.

A few of you might remember the vlog I did on Bikram yoga a couple of years ago.  My POMELO_20170616111118_savesister actually goes for Bikram yoga a few times a month and while there I decided to give the style another go.  I honestly didn’t think I would make it through the class.  The first time I attended a Bikram yoga class, I lay down after the third asana and told the teacher that I would like to leave .  This time I got through the class without collapsing, throwing up or passing out!  We were famished post class and went to The Waffle House to stuff ourselves with many glorious waffles.

I’ve been to Hyderabad several times ever since my sister moved there, and this time IIMG-20170618-WA0018 wanted to explore it a bit more.  We had dinner at the Taj Falaknuma.  It was just the kind of experience I enjoy – a tour of the historical palace and sumptuous dinner afterwards.  Taking a cue from a few students, I also dragged my sister for the ‘Dialogues in the Dark’ experience.  I asked a couple of my friends in Bangalore if they’d like to join me for the experience and their initial reaction was similar to mine – a loud and emphatic NO.  But I recommend the experience, if only to show support for the cause it represents.  Video coming up later this week about that experience.

 

IMG-20170618-WA0008

Post run @ the Taramati Baradari

 

All in all, my four days in Hyderabad were amazing.  I didn’t have to miss my workouts, hung out with my sister, met a few members of the Hyderabad Runners, watched a couple of movies (The Mummy & Bounce) and focused on tweaking this site a bit more.  Back to daily practice and teaching and weekend runs.

On another note, tomorrow is the summer solstice, which also happens to be World Yoga Day.  Every day is yoga day for me, but it’s nice that the longest day of the year is also the one to commemorate yoga.