Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How do we eat?

     Do you stretch out with your plate in front of the TV watching your favourite show? Do you notice how much you pile on your plate? Have you ever been so engrossed by the idiot box that you look at your plate during the ad break and think 'who ate my dinner?' . 

     Whether it's the TV, a newspaper, magazine or even the internet - 'Mindless eating' as it is now termed [That's the name of a book authored by Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director of Cornell Food and Brand Lab], has become the rule rather than the exception in many families. Even when you go to a restaurant - being more involved with the conversation going on rather than on your food leads to consuming excess calories - so if you think you're doing a great job on those business dinners - think again. How many of you surf the internet while eating? The impact of this inattention to what we eat is:
  • By being 'checked out' it's proven that we are more likely to put that unnecessary extra serving of food on our plates than if we were paying attention - these unnoticed extras, in turn, lead to gradual weight gain.
  • Even if you're trying to eat healthy, with your attention diverted - you will make unhealthy choices.
  • You don't enjoy what you're eating as much as when you're paying attention. Ever noticed when you're really hungry - food tastes much better somehow? It's because you're attentively relishing each bite and nothing else.
     How you eat your meals matters. One way of ensuring great digestion and absorption of nutritients is to sit down for a peaceful meal at the dining table. If you're at work where you've already got your whole meal in front of you and probably won't be adding more helpings, sitting with your colleagues in a quiet corner would work well. Putting your mobile on 'silent' mode during meal times is also a good idea. 

     Making peaceful small talk at this time is much preferred to argument [which decreases blood flow to the digestive system]. Use smaller plates, cups and spoons  - larger utensil sizes encourage larger portion sizes leading to unnecessary calories being consumed. Conversely, smaller dishes mean smaller portion sizes which leads to weight maintenance.

     So, in a nutshell - don't rush though your meals like you rush through your day. Relax, pay attention to what you eat and relish each bite. Eating this way leaves you satisfied. Your body will signal you to stop eating - pay attention to this cue - some of you may still have food on your plate when you notice this - stop anyway!

     Practice makes perfect. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cultivating Healthy Practices

     In continuation of my last post  - I would like to discuss several important practices to create awareness about what, how, why and when we eat. This post - we'll discuss 'WHAT'

    What do I eat? Why do you need to answer this question for yourself? 
Before shifting to a healthy eating pattern, you first need to distinguish what it is that you already eat that isn't healthy. Becoming conscious of that, you then start to look at what kind of healthy foods you can consume.

    To get a grip on what you actually eat is simple  - start keeping a food journal [you can buy a mini diary with sufficient space for writing a whole day's intake - including beverages]. At the end of each day, make a habit of writing down everything that you consumed the whole day from the time you woke up.
For example - wake up - coffee [with 2 tsp sugar]
                          Breakfast - 4 idlis with 2 tbsp coconut chutney ,   coffee [with 2 tsp sugar]
                          Lunch - 4 pooris+ aloo subji + chhole + dahi
                          Afternoon - 2 cups Coffee [with 2 tsp sugar each]
                          Evening - samosa + fruit juice [with 3tsp sugar]
                          2 good day biscuits when I came home.
                          Dinner -   curd rice [2 cups]

     Also keep track of how much water you had during the day -8 glasses or 2 litres is a good intake for most people but it may be less or more depending on a variety of factors - you can expect a post in the near future on this subject.

     And as you're writing in this journal, look at how much food you're eating, is it healthy or unhealthy, do you eat on time, etc.

     First of all to create the habit of writing in your journal requires discipline in daily practice and it's the first step in bringing the mostly unconscious act of eating into the conscious realm.
     Keep the journal for a minimum of 40 days and remember to do the analysis after you've entered the daily intake of what you ate or drank that you shouldn't have and what could you have consumed instead. 
     For example - instead of eating that samosa in the evening, you could have had a salad or a whole wheat sandwich without butter or even a bowl of sprouts, depending on what was available. 
     Carry this book with you everywhere and keep looking through it frequently. If you miss entering a day's intake, recollect as much as possible and fill it in the next day. If you miss a week, enter as much as you remember and commit to continue for another 30 days.
I'm looking forward to hear what you observed about your eating and what you started implementing as a result of keeping this journal.

If you need my support at any point of time please feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We are absurd

     The other day, a person I was counseling  rattled off a list of fried stuffs she regularly ate during snack time. She also confessed she loved sweets but was willing to give all these bad habits up. As I was going through what she consumed in a day, I saw that she didn't eat curds [yoghurt] at the end of her meal. In traditional South Indian cuisine, it's the last course of the meal. When I asked her, she said that she had stopped eating it although she loved it since she heard it was 'fattening'. 

 Why am I relating this anecdote?

 My first point is that curds/ yoghurt is actually a very healthy food and provides B Vitamins, protein , Calcium and probiotics [digestion - friendly microorganisms] in spite of having as much as 4 - 5 gs fat per 100 ml [katori or 1/2 cup].
 Secondly, I would prefer her to have yoghurt with all its inherent fat instead of the junk she ate regularly. Curds /yoghurt can also be made fat-free at home - just boil milk - cool and refrigerate without covering for 5-6 hrs - take out and remove thick cream layer completely. This milk is now skimmed or low in fat and ready to be used to set curds. To make doubly sure that it is low fat you can even boil it again after removing cream [especially for non packet milk], cool for a while and remove the cream again.
 Thirdly, ever noticed how we'll do something like avoiding curds or even bananas and potatoes - yet we'll turn around and have that pastry,puff, samosa or chaat? 
There is a lot of misleading information out there for sure but the problem is not 'out there' or the incorrect info - the problem lies with choosing to follow only the advice that's convenient for us and forget about all the other scientifically proven facts like how a low fat eating plan and exercise are guaranteed to reduce weight!  

We love short cuts - but let's face it, there are NO short cuts to a long healthy life. What could make a difference is learning to enjoy the long journey :)

Funny Bone

This happened while I was consulting for a software firm in Bangalore :)

I had been trying to get a hold of an engineer whom I had counselled previously, to come in for a follow up. After a lot of convincing - I finally managed to have him come in . He hadn't even dreamed he'd be meeting me that day and reluctantly entered my cabin and sat with his arms folded across his chest the whole time. Obviously not following my diet instructions and having gained a few kgs, we talked about his eating habits for some time and then he stood up to leave 
- still with arms folded. I could see a cartoon on his T shirt - I'm a huge fan of T shirt humour and I asked if I could read what was written. Slowly, unwillingly, he unfolded his arms and on his tee, next to a smiling fat guy was the legend

 'By the time I'm thin, FAT will be IN'.

I kid you not :) true story. I was rolling with laughter in my seat and the poor guy literally ran out never to be seen again.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An introduction, a little explanation and some gyaan

   I've finally done it!  After a looooot of procrastination [and nudging from a close friend], here's my first post. 
Let me say a little bit about the title - Wellness as a Context for Life. Somehow, eating and living healthily has come to be a struggle for most people - it occurs as 'something extra that I have to do in my already busy and hectic life' or 'it would involve big changes in my life that I'm not ready for' or 'It's just not possible for me - I'd have to sacrifice so many things that I love and enjoy' !  
  The truth is that, most of us wait for emergencies in health to start taking appropriate care of it. It's all about perspective - for example, if you've just been told you have high cholesterol, you'll be more motivated to make changes for health like cutting out the oily and fried stuff, sweets, etc than if you've just had a checkup done showing that, while you're a little overweight, all levels seem normal. Instead of waiting for a health emergency [which may be closer than you think], you can get into action now keeping in mind the big picture - I want to live to be ____ years old and have a healthy heart, memory, sugar levels, digestive capacity and joints. Fill in the blank :) Wellnes is not so much a bunch of actions as it is a state of mind. 

I believe an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure as Benjamin Franklin once said.

My first recipe - first of many to specifically show that you don't have to sacrifice taste for health. I got this one from the internet.

Hara Curry

onion - 1 medium
coriander leaves[cilantro] - 50 gms
green chilli - 1
garlic - 3 cloves
ginger - 1 inch pc
turmeric - 1/2 tsp
chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
garam masala - 1 tsp [available in stores ready made or formula can be downloaded]
mushrooms / potatoes+ corn kernels+ baby corn/ paneer [cottage cheese - low fat] - 300 gs 
1 cup low fat curds [200 ml] mixed with corn flour [1 tbsp]
tomatoes - 2 small and 1 more for garnishing
salt to taste
oil - 2 tsp

1] Grind the onion, mint , coriander, green chilli, garlic and ginger to a smooth paste.
2] Mix in turmeric and chili powders and garam masala to this paste.
3] Heat 1 tbsp oil [I used groundnut oil and it was great], add the paste to this and stir. Cook till the raw onion smell disappears.
4]It is best to steam the mushrooms or potatoes and corn you're using so that you don't have to wait for them to cook in the gravy. If using Paneer, toast it lightly in a non stick pan without oil.
5] Add the mushrooms / veggies / paneer to the cooking gravy and mix well. Add salt. 
6] Fold in the curds [yoghurt] and simmer the whole thing for 8 mins.
7] Garnish with a finely chopped raw tomato and coriander leaves.

Now this recipe with these quantities gave 3 servings. I used mushrooms [it was my first time cooking mushrooms, seriously!] - the whole thing requires a bit of trial and error so I highly recommend you try it out before sharing the recipe. This curry is brilliant because it can be used with any veggies and even paneer or tofu. Happy cooking :)