Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Can Be A Disciplined Eater......

     Let me start by saying that this post isn't just for you but for your entire family. Research shows that when everyone is on board, it is easier to create wellness habits that last a lifetime.

    So why 'discipline' at all in relation to health? Think about it... our entire day is a series of activities that have become second nature to us – we do them without even noticing. 

    Starting from brushing our teeth in the morning (notice how you always brush in the same order every day?) to accomplishing what there is to do either at home or office, our whole life is a series of daily habits, broken by maybe some weekly or monthly activities!

     How did these habits come to be formed? You probably started out with something that had to be done on a regular basis, did that enough number of times for the process to be 'worn into your brain'. Every thought we think travels across nerve cells – doing something repeatedly creates pathways along the same neural channel until we reach a point where we are able to perform that task without even thinking. It's called ' Neuronal Plasticity' and this is how a habit or set of habits are formed.

     Habits are easier made than broken. In fact, once a synaptic pathway has been created for an activity, it can be weakened by disuse but never really eliminated altogether – that's why habits like junk food bingeing, alcoholism and smoking can be resumed in the blink of an eye, almost unconsciously.

     To create lasting wellness, you have to discipline yourself to create new habits. It involves planning and scheduling for new ways of thinking, buying, cooking, eating and exercising.

     Firstly recognise the triggers for your unhealthy habits – mostly these would be negative thought patterns about yourself or your health. They could be stress-related. In fact, eating when emotionally charged results in an insidious circle... bingeing or indulging, feeling guilty about it and then telling yourself that “I'm a failure”, “I'm incapable”, “I’m worthless” or “I won't be accepted”.

     This is usually followed by a resolve to do better next time but is forgotten in the face of the next temptation. Sometimes it’s tough to distinguish our normal, largely negative, thoughts from our innate sense of self (the latter is rarely expressed). We think that it's tough to control the way we think but the truth is that it, too, just takes practice. Create synaptic pathways for positive thinking first! This is crucial to the success of your initiative. You can't be half-hearted about takes real commitment.

This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', March 23rd, 2013.

     Develop healthy eating habits one at a time, give yourself a week or two of practice, then incorporate the next important change. So start exercising daily, after maintaining that for 2 weeks, cut out the junk food next – do that for 2 weeks and so on. If you build your wellness like this, not only will you raise your chances of success, you'll also have enough new activities to keep you occupied for the 3 – 6 months that it takes to imprint the new habits.

A ten-step route to build food discipline :

1] Your tongue ‘remembers’ pleasurable eating experiences (high fat, high sugar, high salt) and this, in part, triggers food cravings. Giving into cravings regularly makes you dependent on these ‘quick fixes’, in other words –you’re addicted (yep, just like a drug or alcohol addict)

2] Do you want to honour your tongue your whole life? Or will you start honouring your body? It has to last you a lifetime and what you choose to put into it determines your long-term health......really.

3] Respect your body – before you put anything in your mouth, ask yourself 4 questions – Am I actually hungry or just thirsty? Do I have a craving, an emotional need or am I just bored? Will my body thank me for eating this? Do I really want this? And after answering these questions another good one to ask is – What are some healthy choices I can make instead?

4] Be aware that even the aroma of tasty food can trigger a craving, not just the sight of it so that you’re alert to an impending craving (and repeat step 3).

5] Talk about your cravings, food addictions and unhealthy habits with people you trust, tell your family about your new health routine so that they’re on board. Be brave and say “No thank you, I’m on a wellness program right now”, when being tempted.

6] When you’re being ribbed about ‘being on a diet’; go ahead, laugh with them – and make healthy choices anyway. Be proud of yourself and your commitment.

7] Stand in front of yourself in the mirror – look carefully over each physical feature, notice what negative things your mind is saying about it. Notice any positive things your mind is saying about your body. Consciously create positive statements about each part of your body, start accepting and loving yourself, just as you are now. Do this for at least 10 minutes a day; it will take less time with practice.

8] Exercise----- reduces stress and anxiety, improves your sense of control over your body and life and serves as a distraction when a craving takes hold.

9] 'Meditation is food for your soul, it satiates the hunger that is not satisfied by food alone. And when your soul is fed, you have less need to give into unhealthy temptations When you directly experience the fullness of life, then you have less need to attempt to fill the void with food.'  

10] Relax, learn to laugh at yourself. When you’re taking your weight loss efforts too seriously, you experience pressure which only sets you up for quitting (failure in a fitness regime is impossible – there’s never an END to living healthily).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"World Health Day"

.....was a day on which a lot of medical professionals talked mainly about disease......and risk factors and their consequences. The theme though was to focus on Blood Pressure and Salt Consumption..... A valuable statement that was released by not only the WHO but several national medical associations around the world was that each adult should be consuming a maximum of 5 g (1 teaspoon) of salt per day ~ 2000 mg of Sodium per day to prevent heart disease.

     However, this post isn't about our salt consumption though I promise that's coming soon....... rather this post is about the medical advice I listened to on World Health Day last Sunday......

     I've been treated with the homoeopathic medical system since I was around 12 years of age (when we moved to Mysore in Karnataka). Our Homoeopath, Dr Khader, who is also a close family friend has helped me get through various illnesses that plagued me - from healing my liver (had 2 bouts of jaundice when I was younger) to dealing with viral infections and more (I wasn't exactly a picture of perfect health, especially as a child and young adult).

     Dr Khader used to work for a pharma major in the US, always planning to ultimately return to India. He saw first-hand the methods used, unscrupulous dealings and the actual effects these chemicals had on one's body. He also saw the way man has become dependent on artificial materials rather than natural. He decided that this life was not for him and although he worked for a year or two with the same company in their location in India, he chose to give up a cushy job and move back to Mysore with his wife and daughter to practice Homoeopathy.

     He makes a difference in several ways...firstly, treating / curing thousands of people through homoeopathy, a gentle, natural system of medicine. Secondly, he owns an organic farm, the produce of which he makes available to his friends and patients for a nominal price. Thirdly, he has addressed hundreds of thousands of people in Karnataka and other states on Organic / Natural Farming.....assisting thousands of farmers mainly in Karnataka to convert to sustainable, natural, organic methods of farming. Finally, he creates awareness among individuals and communities on healthy, earth-friendly living at public speaking opportunities.

     His lecture on World Health Day was a combination of advice he has personally given me and countless other patients as well as new nuggets to chew on......I've compiled a list of thought-provoking ideas that he communicated......

   ---   Disturbing Trends..... Children developing Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, girls as young as 7 years of age entering puberty, toddlers having seizures and suffering from a variety of autoimmune disorders.

   ---   Even rising number of cases of breast cancer in women. He was describing watching a 'Run for breast cancer awareness' held recently with everyone in pink shirts. The irony was, did they know what were they really running for? Fighting this type of cancer? Or Prevention? If prevention, then what information are they actually giving women out there to prevent breast cancer?

   ---   One of the simplest ways to kill two birds with one stone (only figuratively speaking) is 'Breastfeeding'. The natural process of humans feeding their young with the most complete source of nutrition is being sidelined nowadays in favour of formula feeding. There are of course those very real instances of non-availability of breast milk or other feeding problems which need to be dealt with separately but the bottom line is women should by any and every means possible feed their child solely with breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Breastfeeding has a protective effect for women in later life - rate of gynaecological cancers and many other disorders are lower in women who breastfed their children.

   ---   For children, exclusive mother's milk for the first 6 months of life gives the maximum protection against chronic disease in later life and the strongest immune system during childhood itself! The risk of the above childhood problems then is reduced considerably. A woman can continue breastfeeding for up to 3 years! Needless to say, the maternal diet during these critical phases of life also play a huge role in the health of the foetus / infant.

   ---   Another way to prevent childhood health disturbances is by feeding your children (after 6 months of age) whole grains - millets (like ragi, bajra, jowar, foxtail, etc), red and brown rice, whole wheat (all preferably organic) and locally grown apart from a variety of whole pulses and legumes. Millets which were once labelled as 'kirudhanya' (lesser grains) have been renamed 'siridhanya' (valuable / rich grains) and are making a comeback into kitchens - explore different ways in which you can use these grains - they contain abundant nutrients and add fibre and variety to the diet. For more info, refer my post on whole grains.

   ---    A source of ills is our dependence on only two main types of cereal grains - white rice and wheat. White rice has almost no real nutritional value - just supplying refined starch and the problem with wheat is the varieties available now in stores are so hybridized and genetically diverse from natural strains that they have a huge impact on health.

   ---  Our country is under the monopoly of food industries and pharma companies -neither of which is really interested in anything but their own profits. Going by the media advertisements, eating healthy food is infra-dig and the real food is all that tasty fast stuff. Unfortunately, natural, whole foods cannot speak for themselves or advertise and are therefore not considered as important by the public!

   ---  Processed food available freely across the country is the major culprit of our deteriorating health....there are countless toxic chemical ingredients in these foods that may be regarded as clinically safe but in reality, build disease in our bodies with regular consumption.

   ---   It's critical to understand that there's no end to living healthily - start making changes that last a lifetime if you want your whole family to reap the benefits - if you want the disorders you started out with or were at risk for, they'll be back the minute you get back to your old ways! Get real - wellness involves creating healthy habits for life...

Parting gem.........

........ include green leaves at least 3-4 times a week in your eating pattern - they are your liver's best friends. They help detoxify the body ongoingly. Try different local varieties - here in Karnataka - honge, amruthaballi, neem, hongone, vandelega, doddipatre, etc. all have medicinal value. Also, don't forget the medicine cabinet in your kitchen - the spices you use on a daily basis are some of the most potent remedies for our ills. For more on this, refer the post on Kitchen Secrets.