Of Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

Lately I’ve been very interested in nutrition and the art of eating healthy. I call it an art because it’s impossible to perfect. How do you know if you’re even eating healthy? There’s no way to measure that…so it makes me more and more curious to find out all I can about how to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle without obsessing about diet and appearance.

Of course that is easier said than done in today’s world where everywhere I look, the women around me are mostly toned with flat abs (my dream) and don’t have flabby arms. It’s a shame that I am so critical of my appearance. I really would like to be less harsh with myself, so I’ve started reading up on eating better and making sure I get all of my nutrients. This is in line with my slight gym-bunny lifestyle changes that I’ve made over the past two years.

I signed up for the gym in an effort to prevent depression. I was starting to feel really bogged down by work and other things around me, in January 2009, and I wanted to start building a life outside of work. I really wanted to have a balanced life such that after 5pm, I had something to look forward to. There’s only so much retail therapy you can do, you know? πŸ™‚ There had to be something beyond that…and that’s when I discovered the gym. The first gym I signed up for was a fuss-free one with no group classes whatsoever. It was just a reasonably priced, go-in-and-do-what-you-like type of gym. This was perfect for me as I was in bad shape…I could barely exercise for 30 minutes so I liked that I could do it in peace without embarrassing myself in front of a model-like-instructor.

The bf and I went to that gym for a good 1.5 years. In that 1.5 years I painstakingly built stamina and endurance. What started out as a simple experiment to lead a healthier lifestyle turned into a belief that said “this is the way to treat my body with respect”.

I’m not going to get into the benefits of exercising..but I will say that I definitely reaped these benefits from going to the gym. In the beginning, I could not run for 5 minutes on the treadmill without slowing down to a walk afterward. About a year later, I was running for 45 minutes non-stop and loving it.

Today, I’ve been going to the gym for more than 2.5 years. I’m a member of a chain of gyms in the city that is worlds apart from the first gym that I joined. Needless to say, this gym has wonderful group classes where you can work on different parts of your body with different instructors and different levels of intensity.

I do a mix of cardio and strength training with classes involving the step, the spinning bike, and free weights. I’m also a lover of the elliptical machine. Repetitive movement like that really helps my mind unwind. I’ll be honest and admit that I do not have a model’s body despite working out between 2 – 4 times a week but I’m fine with that. I’m slowly toning up and my energy levels have improved a lot. I notice I can do a lot more in 24 hours and that helps improve my productivity. I feel calmer, I have so much more patience than I did three years ago. I actually enjoy drinking water, something I hated as a teenager. I’ve gone down by one dress size, so that makes me happy. Though honestly, I have no problems with my size..I’d just like to look a bit more toned and not have bulges.

What I’ve Been Reading

Recently, I started reading Rujuta Diwekar’s book titled “Women and The Weight Loss Tamasha“. Rujuta is no stranger to the fitness world. She’s a nutritionist who works with a lot of Indian celebrities. Her belief is that you should eat to lose weight.

I love that idea, of eating yet losing weight, because I cannot skip meals. That’s one thing I have never managed to do – not eat. I am always hungry as I sit in front of the screen, churning out paragraphs of words five days a week. If I’m hungry, I cannot think straight let alone analyze sentences or proof read user manuals or product brochures. In Winter, if I don’t have enough food in my system, I cannot stand the cold and I will crave sugar and end up drinking a hot chocolate with whipped cream. Later I will feel guilty about it and annoyed with myself.

I also like to be able to eat without drama. I don’t want my eating habits to make other people feel bad. Like if I said “Oh, cake is too fattening, I’m not having it” in front of someone eating cake, I’d be causing drama. Instead, I want to eat cake too, just half a slice because denying myself that small piece of cake is just going to make me irritated. So I usually take a small piece with almost no cream. The ‘no-cream’ part is because I’m lactose intolerant.

It does not help to live 6,100 miles away from where I was born. The type of food available here is just different from what I grew up on so I have to make the time to cook dishes that I grew up with in order to prevent homesickness.

In her book, Rujuta tells you about the five basic rules to increase nutrient intake:

  • Eat food that is prepared fresh, and eat it within three hours of cooking.
  • The smaller the number of people food is prepared for the better its nutrient value.
  • Eat your vegetables and fruits whole; don’t cut them or mash them into a juice.
  • Remain loyal to your genes: eat what you have been eating since childhood.
  • Eat what is in season. For example, mango in summer.

I’ve been eating rice since childhood and I’m not about to give it up right now because it is carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not evil. I can eat less rice, but I cannot cut it out completely.

I eat fruit at work. I guess I’m a bit lucky that we have fruit baskets all over the office with fresh apples, pears, bananas, grapes and even peaches. In between meals I grab a banana or an apple and munch on it at my desk. This helps prevent me from craving for ice-cream πŸ™‚

Another point Rujuta mentions is to “throw out your weighing scale because weighing scales are never accurate and the body weight is in no way an indicator of your health, fitness or beauty”. I believe her on this point especially because I used to know a girl at university who has since then, lost so much weight and looks amazing these days. She mentioned that she didn’t look at her weight but she knows she has gone down 2 sizes. That was very inspiring, and it seems doable.

There’s only one small downside of this book – it references a lot of Indian pop culture and has some Marathi (I think) and Hindi words in it. So, it might not be easily understandable for people who do not understand a bit of Hindi πŸ™‚ Nevertheless, it’s a great book and you should read it if you want a fresh, new perspective to loving yourself, accepting your body and being fit. I’ll write more about this book once I actually finish it. Till then, I’ll leave you with a quote from Rujuta:

“Weight loss is about improving your health, not about winning approval from your peer, or because you want to fit into that pair of jeans. Β Your focus should be on getting healthy and fitter – losing weight is a by product of these.”

Truer words have never been said πŸ™‚

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6 responses

  1. I’ve read Rujuta’s books too and with a nutritionist I lost 10-11 kgs through healthy eating and light exercise. Have stopped exercising now (laziness and lack of time) but ur post reminded me that I need to start again!

  2. So true! I think people are so critical of other people’s (and their own) weight but don’t realize that being healthy is far more important than being skinny. Trying to eat healthy (more fruits and vegetables) and more is better than just consuming fewer calories of junk food. I would much rather be strong and a bit heavier than be rail thin.

    • Yes, people are very critical of each others’ appearance..some people at least. The saddest part is to hear friends say “I’m going to cut out xyz so I can fit into this particular piece of clothing”. They don’t realize that losing weight is more about being fit/healthy and it’s actually impossible to just diet for 3 – 6 months and keep that result afterward by going back to regular eating habits. Diets don’t work because they are temporary..the only thing that works is a complete lifestyle change..

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