7 Simple habits that have helped me stay fit

Over the years I have developed some habits which have helped me stay fit and I thought I would share those with you. Aside from helping me lose unwanted body weight and then sustain it, these habits have led to reducing the inflammation I experienced in my body earlier as tightness in upper back, bloating , acne, occasional headaches and PMS symptoms.

Many of these habits appear to be very basic and simple but my journey so far has been marked by sifting through the complex and reaching back to the basics. Many of these basics can be found in Ayurveda which is the ancient Indian science of longevity. Basics always work!

  • Getting good sleep– The past 4-5 years, I have averaged 8-9 hours of sleep per day. Prior to that I would get anywhere between 5-7 and I would actually feel like I am missing out on ‘doing’ something if I slept longer.  I have observed that functioning close to the sunrise/sunset cycles makes total sense for the body/mind. Quite naturally I sleep less in summer and more in winter. I had to learn to turn off all bright screens at least a half hour prior to bed. I do have my days when I end up looking at my phone later than I would want but overall I think I have developed good sleep hygiene. I don’t work with a laptop in my bedroom and I also don’t have a TV in my bedroom.

 I try and get max rest during my periods just as nature intended it to be. In my experience, sleeping well has also helped stabilize my body weight.

  • Eating real food– My definition of real food is good quality ingredients. I eat fruits/nuts/oatmeal for breakfast and good amount of veggies and beans for lunch/dinner. I follow my hunger cues and eat only when am hungry. I try and eat my meals at the same time every day. Based on my personal experimentation I have found that my body does better with no dairy/eggs/meat. I eat seafood occasionally and l have reduced the intake of grains by half. The grains that I eat are Quinoa, Farro, Brown/Wild Rice. I used to be a daily 2 times a day white rice eater which is now perhaps 1-2 times a week. Good fats are important and I love my Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil and Sesame Oils. I was using Clarified Butter/Ghee but I have reduced it only to get more plant based products instead of animal based.

Processed food is kept to minimal in my kitchen. One major change was to meet the ‘something sweet’ cravings with natural sugar found in fruits/dates/figs/raisins etc. I do buy Indian sweets from a local confectionery when I feel like.

If 70% of fitness/health is based on what you eat then I would say atleast 50% of what you eat should be seasonal fresh produce. Absolutely fresh is a luxury in today’s world and therefore I do the best I can. I don’t believe in ‘cheat’ days because I am not depriving myself of anything and feel satiated.

  • Cooking at home – I live by myself and I cook at home 90% of the times. I have found many people say how difficult it is to cook only for one person. I have my lazy days too when I don’t want to cook but for the most part my body drives me to my own home cooked deliciousness. My cooking base is Indian style and I have altered my ways to only lightly saute my vegetables with a good fat, some garlic, salt, black pepper and lemon. I am learning to let the ingredient shine instead of masking it with different spice mixes.

When I travel once/twice a month I do end up eating out. I do my best to pick places/foods which are closest to what I have come to understand as clean/pure/real. I resort to fruits and salads when I can but it’s also important to be flexible. When the situation calls for eating a dairy/meat based item, I eat it without any guilt because I know that on the whole I am taking care of my food intake.

  • Exercise– In a week, I try and give myself 4 days of 35-40 minute exercise. I do anything from weights, pilates, yoga, running, dancing, walking, to taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I think I am now in tune with my body’s energy and choose the type of workout based on those levels. Regular exercise has helped me avoid the PMS symptoms that many women experience. I have found that the intensity of those symptoms increases when I have not exercised regularly. During summers my body doesn’t want to do intense workouts and a simple walk in the woods is enough.
  • Meditation – I meditate everyday twice a day for 20 minutes for the last 5 years. The benefits are well known and I must say that meditation acts as a great system refresh because it helps reduce the cortisol levels in the body. I try and do this no matter where I am. There are times when I have missed my evening meditation but my morning meditation has been going steady so far.
  • Staying hydrated – For the past 12 years or so I have had a 12-16 oz glass of warm water with honey before I eat/drink anything else in the morning. Last couple of years I started adding a few drops of fresh lemon juice to this morning honey water. A mix of honey, lemon and cinnamon is an age old Indian tip to boost the body’s metabolism and lose weight.

I love drinking my 2 cups of chai everyday and I balance that out by making sure that I drink half my body weight in ounces in water. For example, a person who weighs 120 pounds would drink 60 oz water. Room temperature water has always been my go to as against cold/ice filled water.

  • Probiotic and Multivitamin supplements– I tried a couple of different probiotics and then found what works well for me. Two that I liked so far are Garden of Life Probiotics for women and Liquid Plant Based Probiotics by MaryRuth Organics. Probiotics helped me lose unwanted weight and also keeps my acne in check. Sauerkraut is something new I have added and like.

As for Multi-vitamins, this is a new add for me since I tried to stay away from the unknown ingredients and the capsule materials which I didn’t want to ingest. A couple of months ago I found Innate Response Formulas Plant based multi-vitamins and I have found those to be a good addition to my daily routine. I added multi vitamins after I learned that B-12 is difficult to get from any food source. Every so often I give my body a break from these too.

If I were to sum it up it would be- get the sleep you need, increase plant based content in your diet, stay hydrated and get moving, switch things up every once in a while & most important of all is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

Feel free to visit lifespa.com for Ayurveda related information and Medicalmedium.com for clean foods/supplements.

Best,

Pooja

Disclaimer: I have not been paid by anyone to endorse their products/services. All statements in here are my personal experience/opinion and should not be taken as advice.

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Why seeking help is not crazy?

By help here I am referring to any form of treatment for your mental, emotional and relational health. This could be called psychotherapy, counseling, couples therapy, family therapy,  mental health counseling etc. (I do agree that lot of these titles do a good job of scaring people awayJ )

Do you think you are crazy to seek a doctor’s advice when you have been suffering from chronic back pain? I hope not. Of course, we all have among us our friends and family who love to self-medicate & or live in pain. Perhaps there are temporary cures that do work and hey, I am a big believer of natural therapies too. However there is a point when you and everyone around you knows that you are only being in denial or being too willful. It is at this point when you have been living in excruciating pain everyday that you do consider visiting a doctor and seek help.

Applying the analogy of physical debilitating pain to emotional dis-order , the first issue that arises is acknowledging it. We all know when we are not functioning according to our ‘normal’. Every person has a different point where he/she knows that they are doing well. Similarly there are times when we are:

1) Feeling stuck

2) Feeling overwhelmed

3) Overcome by fears / worry

4) Feeling unheard/unsupported

5) Feeling hopeless

SanFranscisco - GoldenGate

Golden Gate, San Francisco

 

The challenge here lies in not only being able to acknowledge it but assuming responsibility for your health/wellness and approaching a mental health professional. Our friends and family can help us a lot and they also come loaded with expectations. In all fairness, they cannot be expected to hear you out non-judgmentally and support you. Do not listen to people who ask you to ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or ‘be more strong willed’. What intrigues me here is that we do not have such expectations of ourselves or of other people when someone needs treatment for a fracture, cancer or a condition like diabetes. Yes one can choose to ignore these too and you know how it ends!

The next time you know of someone who looks dis-ease d (not at ease/harmony), keep it simple and encourage him/her to seek help. Perhaps your loved one could use a non-judgmental listening ear who can provide support through their period of transition.

How our thoughts affect our physiology-Experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto

With 60-70% of our body being composed of water, we need to be mindful of our self-talk and what we say to others. This experiment helps us see the effect of loving and harming thoughts on our physiology. This is where our psychology becomes our biology.

What we hide does find a way out!

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My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!