The Wisdom Of Observation

 

 
One of the most difficult things is pausing. When it comes to matters about  food, pausing feels near impossible. This is owing to the fact that we all feel very strong sense of anxiety, even just thinking of it. And even when the pause is only a matter of seconds. Somehow, the conditioning is such that state of not DO-ing or just BE-ing brings feelings of guilt and inadequate-ness upon us.
 
But the invitation to pause comes with an irresistible promise. See what Victor Frankl says about it – “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
 
This kinda seals the deal right? We must learn to pause. And this means you must learn to observe the anxiety that shows up when you stop any DO-ing. 
 
What then is the wisdom in observing?
 
In learning to observe, you develop a subject-object relationship to that which you are observing.
 
What does this mean?
 
Let’s say, you get an urge to eat a piece of chocolate. And very wisely, you pause. Now, you’re observing feelings of sadness come up within you. This makes you the observer, a subject. And the feeling of sadness is what you’re seeing – which is the object.
 
This is the first step to distance yourself from the feeling. Because really, you are not your feelings or your thoughts. You have the power over what you think which gives you the power over what you feel. 
 
Reflect upon this for a moment.
 
Now, when you go a step further and tweak your language,
 
you’d NO LONGER SAY – ‘I am sad’ 
 
instead you WOULD SAY – ‘I am thinking sad thoughts’ 
 
This means, you choose to think happy thoughts. And this would very likely change the way you are feeling.
 
Dr. Joe Dispenza says, “Ninety-five percent of who you are by the time you’re 35 years old is a set of memorized behaviors, skills, emotional reactions, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that functions like a subconscious computer program”
 
This leads us to conclude how important it is to develop observation as a skill. Because it is the act of observing which will help you hold it together through what may be very brief but common unpleasant aftermath of pausing.

The Wisdom Of Pause

 
 
Let me start this post with an offering of a poem by Martha Postlewaite. It’s titled Clearing.
 
Clearing
 
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
 
Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life … this is exactly what I mean when I say – pause. There is wisdom to pausing.
 
Have you seen how an artist steps back from time to time and takes in all he has done, before proceeding?
 
This act of taking a step back is a learned skill and a deliberate practice. It is part of the painting process itself.
 
Just like how gaps between the two musical notes is part of the composition itself. 
 
Are you wondering  to yourself  ‘what’s all _this_ got to do with food?’
 
Well, pausing – whether to check if your urge to eat something is worth acting upon, if yes – how much of it, when, is your hunger satiated, to appreciate, to say thanks for the food – all these lie within the realm of pause.
 
If you’re going to stick the food in your mouth instantly upon sighting it, smelling it or desiring it – without pausing, you’re robbing yourself of an opportunity to evaluate it.
 
When you observe someone who relishes their food, or eat in alignment with their goals, or values eating to support life as opposed to living to eat – they would have invariably mastered the skill of pausing.
 
A pause gives you those precious few moments to reflect upon your choices and actions, helping you to navigate the course better. In a way this is to say, each time you pause, it puts you in power.
 
If you have ever felt how you feel powerless around food, get into the habit of pausing from time to time. 
 
Reflect upon your longing to eat that cookie, check if you really want to.
 
Gaze at the food in front of you. Do you like how it looks? 
 
Stop after every few spoonfuls or mouthfuls. Do you want to eat some more? Do you need to eat some more?
 
Reconnect with yourself.
 
Pause.
 
 
Pause. Reflect upon the longing to eat.
 
Pause. Appreciate the food in front of you.
 
Pause. Relish the feel of food and its taste in your mouth.
 
Pause. Check to see if you’re feeling full.
 
Pause. Give thanks for the food you just ate.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What Nobody Ever Explained To You About Protein

Let me tell you a story of some guests we had, when I was growing up in India. The man and his wife were both medical doctors and they were visiting, with their two little children. And they lived abroad. Ours was a vegetarian household, by which I mean dairy was the only animal sourced food we made at home. If and when we wanted a treat, it was pastries and that sorta thing. And we (including my orthodox grandparents) pretended that cakes and ice creams did not contain anything more than just dairy 😉
 
Well, coming back to the story – this visiting family would hurriedly go shopping to buy a mid-sized box of protein powder to last their stay – to add to the milk the kids would drink religiously three times a day. Three big glassfuls. Those kids were such willing milk-drinkers. So strange! And their mom would talk endlessly about all she did to meet their protein needs. Breaking the family “rules” to cook eggs at home, buying the super expensive protein-biscuits for the snacks and whatnot. For the little girl in me, this got registered in my head as protein was a very precious part of food. And that we had to make effort to get plenty of it, if we cared for our health. And those that did not do it, were somehow less than! Either they were poor and or did not know enough.
Ouch.
How it hurts to admit even if it is to ourselves that we cannot afford something or that we may not be knowledgeable, no?! 
 
Then fast forward to about 15 years in time …
 
Now, I was a dietitian. I worked at a hospital. I belonged with a team of medical doctors. And I engaged with clients as part of work. And I was privy to literally thousands of people and their stories about food. It was just so insightful to me how, we – you, myself and all of us for that matter – come to place the value on different foods. 
 
It is not all about the science and/or nutrition. Often, it has very little to do with nutritive value. It is so much about what our food choices say about us, to the world. 
 
It spoke volumes when a client said, ‘we make our ganji with water .. and softly add, not milk’. Or when someone said, ‘ We eat egg-bhurji or paneer-bhurji with rotis, we need not make do – you know!’ One can never discuss foods in isolation with feelings tied to them. 
 
It sounds so good to say, you made a paneer-something to go with the rotis.
 
Or that, Maharaj served you some egg whites with brown bread.
 
Or how you bought your ailing elderly in-laws some protein powder to add to the milk.
 
We all do things that make us feel safe. That make us look good to others. And it is okay! But, only so long as you don’t attach a justification – especially the ones that don’t make sense. And go one step even further and believe it to be a fact! Nooo, don’t do that.
 
If you like paneer, eat it because you like it. And say so! It needs no further props.
 
DON’T say or believe that you need to add paneer or egg whites or a special protein powder to your regular food as if there’s a shortage of protein in what you eat.
 
Here’s what  nobody ever explained to you about protein:
 
Protein is the widely and abundantly found in nature. 
 
If you are eating enough to satiate your hunger, you are extremely likely meeting all your protein needs. 
 
 
    

What Nobody Tells You About Emotional Eating

Are you someone or do you know someone who has a rather stressed relationship with food? Are you someone or do you know someone that uses food to deal with stressful situations? And not even realize it??

This could have happened to most of us as a one off thing – as children, during growing up years do we recollect a time when we were given food to comfort us? Or as young adults we would have resorted to some kinda ‘comfort food’ to comfort ourselves at some point to tide over a stressful situation. But what if it becomes a regular thing with us?

Given the amount of confusion there is around food nowadays, there are many many women who are perpetually stressed over what to eat.

Oh, this fruit? Now?? It causes me cold.

Oh, that vegetable causes me gas.

No, I can’t be eating this rice – of all things – and ruin my sleep with guilt.

And they go back to square #1 – just WHAT do I eat?

As if this were not enough, there are twice as many more that eat – because they are stressed.

Oh, diet be damned, I am feeling LOW today. One small samosa cannot hurt.

Oh it’s my hard-earned bonus day, my dear! What’s a celebration without some chocolate!

After few minutes of feeling great about the treat, they feel guilty aka ‘stressed’ and reach for that chocolate all over again.

Aparna is a phenomenally brilliant finance professional. She is a marathon runner and long distance cyclist. A thriver in every sense of the word. The kind of diligence it all takes to balance grueling workouts with her high-power position at work and run a home, is not for the ordinary. She wanted to examine her behavior around matters of food and intuitively joined the program.

There have been many many success stories that came from the simple act of keeping a Food Journal. Probably hers is the most remarkable of them all. Every step was a revelation of sorts for her.

The results in this case were more qualitative by nature. She had completely gotten a handle over her emotional eating, even by the second week of the program. No more asking google about ‘how to eat healthy’ or checking for ‘what happens if I ate blah blah and blah’. She’s able to take sound decisions around food suit her sporty lifestyle. Often stops by to say how empowered she feels about herself. And how she’s respectful of the food and her body.

Aparna speaks for me when she says, Mind Your Gap is a fantastic program for someone who is mature and ready to put in the work. That’s true, this is not for people who desire overnight results MINUS any self-reflection or size zero body stats!

What’s your  takeaway from this story?

May your #1 lesson be this: Emotional eating in today’s world is not so much about your emotional brokenness and/or emotional highs and lows – it’s about the environment.

We all live in a world where our food environment has been rigged. Unfortunately for us, while it serves some vested interests, it works entirely against us. And within this environment, it doesn’t take a lot of stress to make emotional eaters out of the best of us!  Let me illustrate what I mean by this. When a food vendor grates an extra block of cheese onto your sandwich (or even a dosa these days!) it helps him and his shop gain popularity – with your up votes – for his tasty food. How is it serving you or your health beyond those few minutes of pleasure while eating that? Hmm .. highly questionable. On the other hand, are you drawn to his shop and sandwich with that generous cheese topping again and again? Very likely! What if every vendor and food maker in the world uses food as a bait to get your business? Do you see the point? Will power doesn’t take you anywhere given vice-like grip this food wields over you.

When you finally internalize this fact, you’ll take notice of what you put in your mouth. Until then, you are loyally serving somebody’s else’s interest and not even realizing how dearly it is costing you.

Fact: Neither of us has a compulsion to sharing this story with the world. That said, Aparna and I both realize the power of stories like these, upon which the takeaways stand. It’s her utter purity of intention to reach someone that may be in a similar situation which inspires me to let you in on some highlights of this journey.

 

Request: Please remember, people mentioned in this story are real people in flesh and blood. With a beating heart and feelings. Be gentle with us. Questions and comments are fine so long as they are respectful.

 

Disclaimer: This is no promise of results. Outcomes depend on any number of factors and each person and situation is unique.

Mind Your Gap Master Your Plate is coming up. Want in?

The Giant Confusion Around Food And Eating PLUS How To Solve It

 

 

Mrinalini wanted to be a good example to her little children. She wanted to be able to take informed decisions around food without having to go back to school to study Nutrition. She had tried to exercise away her extra pounds gained over the years and she had started to wonder about the missing piece of the puzzle as she had not gotten anywhere with that approach.

Low Carb is the way to go. Absolutely!

Noooo .. ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

Low Fat High Protein makes more “sense”. It is the safest that there is.

Is there something like a Carb-tree? Or a Protein plant ?? When the hell did people switch to eating carbs and protein as opposed to food! Rice and beans, bread and jam you get that! But who has ever bought a pack of protein or a kilo of carbs?

Okay! Let’s say you play some version of a eenie meenie miny mo and arrive at one strategy to follow. But then what next? How and what to cook? What do you do at each meal? And what to eat the next day?

There are many many women out there who are sailing in the same boat as Mrinalini once did. Intelligent women that are committed to the reasoning and process as much as they are to the outcome. Gym “trainer” that is clueless about scientific evidence puts them on a schedule of some mishmash of exercise movements and promises weight loss, muscle gain etc etc. Same with diet vendors – who make ludicrous claims, give impractical advice and charge enormous fees. No reasoning is ever given or when it comes by, it rarely even appeals to the common sense.

Such women lose their spark and end up feeling angry and hurt when the system not only fails them but requires them to dumb down – just to fit in.

Over the last quarter of 2017 Mrinalini committed to learning the basics of Nutrition. What use is any learning if it doesn’t translate to action, right? She was sporty enough to do her homework in all earnestness – even when she did not believe in the usefulness of certain activities. She was delighted when she found herself back at her dance classes! There was no more eating like a maniac – vice-like grip had loosened so much that she now felt zen like in her attitude. Yet, she was brimming with energy. Each time she checked her weight, it felt like a gift. Towards the beginning of this year, she had recorded a nearly 17, yes SEVENTEEN pounds of weight loss. Now, did she feel stretched? Was it difficult?? Heck yes! But she saw it as a meaningful pursuit for herself, and therefore she did it.

What is your takeaway in all this?

May your #1 lesson be this:

Commit yourself to understand the basics. Nutrition is a science and its practice is evidence-based. Like Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts” – you need to deeply understand the distinction between facts and opinions.  I agree with you, there’s a lot of noise out there in matters of food and it’s difficult to tell the difference between right and wrong even for a professional. That said, internet has made it all accessible – you get to read both the ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments for any topic. Develop a healthy curiosity and let go of stubborn clinging to something just because it’s “safe” and /or that’s all you’ve known.

 

Fact: Neither of us has a compulsion to sharing this story with the world. That said, Mrinalini and I both realize the power of stories like these, upon which the takeaways stand. It’s her utter purity of intention to reach someone that may be in a similar situation which inspires me to let you in on some highlights of this journey.

 

Request: Please remember, people mentioned in this story are real people in flesh and blood. With a beating heart and feelings. Be gentle with us. Questions and comments are fine so long as they are respectful.

 

Disclaimer: This is no promise of results. Outcomes depend on any number of factors and each person and situation is unique.

Mind Your Gap Master Your Plate is coming up. Want in?

What Happens When You Seek A Food Professional

“Oh my God, what if she scolds me for my chocolate habit?”
” Wonder if she’s gonna believe what I have to say about how little I eat, after she sees me in person!”
“Do you think my food coach can tell if I cheated just just a wee little bit?”
There, there! Let me introduce you to my tribe. There are many different type of food professionals these days – registered dietitians, educators, coaches and so on. Generally speaking, any food related coaching has two components to it – one is the education pertaining to Nutrition, the second one being the behavioral aspect of it. A food professional is someone who helps you understand the science of Nutrition AND gives you the support required to translate that knowledge into behavior. That said, it is important that you have clarity about what this involves.
But even before we get to that –
Please understand that most food professionals have a deep appreciation for how slippery these food journeys can be. This means they are empathetic to your struggles and stories. They are your allies, they work on your side. Which means that you must bring your honest and real selves to the table – for your own success’s sake. Do you remember some of your best teachers? The kind that were gentle and firm at the same time?? These are very much like them – they are not so much for making you feel nice and fluffing you up over your goof-ups. But they are hugely invested in making you feel good and help you make some important distinctions with respect to food and eating. Nice versus good! But good doesn’t exclude gentleness and caring at all. I’ve seen, worked with and trained under many food and health professionals in my career. This description of my league is very true to what I’ve known and seen closely.
Now, getting back to what this post is all about –
1. YOU as a client are the one to decide what you will do.
Dietetics and food related counselling has moved away from the paternalistic I-tell-you-listen kinda approach, which was common when I started my practice in India in the mid 90 s. It is an autonomous position for both parties concerned in the current times.
By this I mean to say, no one as in NO ONE can persuade you against your choice to eat (or not eat) a certain way or eat (or not eat) a certain thing. A client completely owns and takes on the decision and practice parts.
 For instance, I am a plant-based food professional. Those with an intention to eat plant-based or at least explore what it feels like to eat that way, seek my support. Then I get to educate them and offer support for them to incorporate the new learning into their lives. But I DON’T GET TO DECIDE FOR THEM OR EVEN PERSUADE THEM especially against their wishes.  It would not be ethical to do so.
2. As a food professional, I am responsible for presenting and interpreting the science to people. With the clients, all the more so – to help them appreciate the merits and demerits of different approaches and help them grasp the technical aspect of Nutrition. Even more importantly, be of assistance in bridging the knowing and doing gap for the clients.
By this, you must realize the importance of client participation and how central it is to this whole thing. One has to come prepared to take on this responsibility without which, a professional has really not much to do at all with a client. It is for the clients to seek the knowledge and take action, experience the challenges and describe them to the professional – so that they can support.
If this post was of interest to you, I highly recommend that you sign up for the FREE course in Food Journalling on the home page. Your Food Journal is the most basic context for your work with a food professional.

Number #1 Mistake Of A Weight-loss Journey And What To Do Instead

Fact: Neither of us has a compulsion to sharing this story with the world. That said, Nisha and I both realize the power of stories like these, upon which the takeaways stand. It’s her utter purity of intention to reach someone that may be in a similar situation, which inspires me to let you in on some highlights of this journey.

 

Request: Please remember, people mentioned in this story are real people in flesh and blood. With a beating heart and feelings. Be gentle with us. Questions and comments are fine so long as they are respectful.

 

Disclaimer: This is no promise of results. Outcomes depend on any number of factors and each person and situation is unique.

 

Imagine this: An overweight lady in the Indian context. What will follow in your head is probably images of similar overweight characters in movies and television, the jokes and songs based on them, people talking behind their back, offering unasked for advice and so on. If you have been an overweight person yourself, it will probably bring you a rush of painful jab of images and words you’ve had to endure.

 

After repeatedly braving through such barbs and quite possibly putting oneself through many secret weight loss endeavors – to not much success, understandably, the person develops a shield of sorts. These shields are masks and come in many types. Most common ones are I-don’t-care-for-how-I-look mask, This-is-my-body-type mask, It’s-about-you-not-me mask and I’ve-made-peace-with-how-I-look mask and so on.  At other times, the person uses a very spiritual lingo to turn away from what is a very painful situation – “I love my God-given body” or “Acceptance is key to happiness” and so on.

 

Somehow, it “feels” legit when we say to ourselves or when we comfort a loved one with words like – “if they remarked thus  about your weight, it speaks volumes about who _they_ are” or “don’t take _their_ comments personally” or we muffle our own inner voice with “count your infinite blessings and accept your body just the way it is”.

Psychologist Robert Masters calls it a “spiritualized strategy for not only avoiding the pain but legitimizing the avoidance”.

 

This is not to blame or point fingers. This is also not a holier than thou kinda observation, for we all do it. And it is certainly not body shaming. With growing up comes responsibility. Responsibility to identify BOTH the problem and the solution for the problem.   But the keyword here is awareness. If only we become alert to our resistance to work through what is obviously difficult and painful, results can be astounding.

 

Am reminded of the Reinhold Niebuhr quote –    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Nisha seemed like one courageous lady who had internalized this kinda wisdom described in the quote. She had the pluck to admit to herself that her ways with food and eating habits needed looking into. It is not short of gallantry to open yourself to scrutiny at this level. If you want to understand what I’m saying, just record all you eat – every single morsel you put in your mouth – for a short period of three days and send it for a critique! Okay, don’t even bother sending it, just write it honestly and look at it yourself.

 

Over the last four months, she has worked enormously diligently and just before the end of 2017, the weighing scale read a full 20 – yes, TWENTY, pounds lesser than where she had started.

 

What is your takeaway in all this?

Have you considered walking, jogging, gym joining in an effort to lose weight? Many many women do just that. When you are looking to lose a few pounds and look trimmer, the first thing that comes to mind is to exercise away the excess.

May your #1 lesson be this:

Research is emphatically evident about exercise NOT being an effective weight loss tool.

While exercise has and plays a very important role in your well being, it’s what you put in your mouth, meal after meal and in between meals, day after day which needs looking into, if you are trying to lose weight.

Mind Your Gap Master Your Plate is coming up. Want in?

Desi Visitor To The US – Part 3

Hello there ,

I’ve been waiting to tell you this ..!

After I last spoke with you, I had some shopping to get done before the upcoming weekend and off we went. Now, this is a warehouse store where you get to shop when you are a paid member with them. One thing about these places is that you get giant quantities at bargain prices. (And you’ll end up eating more than you want to, just because you bought it. Well .. that’s a topic for another day!) But like I said,  the best of us can go down a rabbit hole if we don’t watch out. And this time it was ME!

Here’s what happened.

I needed two items – Basmati Rice and a big bag of baby organic greens like Spinach or Kale. So, I pulled the cart and husband showed the id card and we were in. Right by the entrance was a sampling booth handing out Trail Mix – it’s a mixture of dried fruit and nuts. So, I accepted and Venky said a terse ‘no’. I dismissed it as his grouchiness that comes up when we go shopping! Earlier it was worse, now it shows up only now and then 🙂

Well, I was walking as I was still chomping this, when the next sampling lady was offering some Lemon Tea. It got me curious and I stopped to see that it was a new brand, Uhmm. The lady said how she loves it when she carries it in the car for long drives. I tasted it and moved on. As I was coming out from the produce section and going towards the Rice aisle, there was a big line to taste some Ice cream samples. This wasn’t my thing and I was wanting to get done with shopping and so, took a detour around two other aisles to get to where the Rice was.

Now, here was another sampling booth with almost no takers, w-a-y in the back. And the sample lady was breaking slabs of chocolate and filling them in tiny paper cups. It had specks of green and red and looked very pretty even from far.  Before I knew, I was chatting her up and eating that absolutely beautiful, inviting, divine chocolate! And asking her which aisle it was in!! It felt soo good upon  finding it and then picked up the Rice. My husband was wearing a full blown grouchy expression by this time. I gingerly asked him why – he gave me that look and said “I thought we came here to buy exactly TWO things!!”

So, add this to your shopping smarts list as the #6:

Shop like men – go exactly to where your required item is, in the shop, and refuse samples entirely if you don’t want to be lured in. Two reasons why –

a. It is not rude to refuse it. b. You’ll not miss what you don’t try.

If you’re curious what I fell for, here it is –  http://www.deavas.be/belgian-thins-dark/

It helps to know, sample stations are strategically placed and samples are handed out – not because the stores love you – but to sell it to you in a way you don’t even realize it! We both ate some of that damn chocolate and now he’s hidden it in a safe place. So all’s well 🙂

Ready for label gyan?

There are two important pieces of information on the back of a package.

1. The Nutrition Facts – a nutrition table

2. Ingredients – the list of ingredients in the decreasing order of weight, which sits right below the nutrition table. I tend to start with the ingredient list.

1.Make sure it reads like a list of foodie things which a seven year old can read. Such as this one here: http://www.foodforlife.com/product/breads/7-sprouted-grains-bread

You absolutely do not want something that feels like it was put together in a chemistry laboratory. Check this one out: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/products/kellogg-s-froot-loops-cereal-product.html

2.Since the ingredients are listed out in the decreasing order of weight in which they’re present, You do NOT want sugar, salt or oil to be your top ingredients.

Now, this is easier said than done. Because often, sugar is not written as plain sugar. They may call it fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate and so on. Apparently, there are close to sixty or so different names for sugar alone!

Fats similarly, comes in many guises. Oils of any kind, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, are ALL fats. Laughably, even when the front of the package says zero-fat or low-fat, the reality is often the exact opposite of that description.

Salt goes by names such as table salt, sodium, sodium nitrite, sodium benzoate, disodium and so on.

3. It would be great to have the word ‘whole’ before as many ingredients as possible, as this would mean that fiber content is intact. If you spotted the word ‘sprouted’ that would be a huge plus too, as sprouting enriches the nutrient density big time.

Moving on, let’s read the Nutrition Facts, the table you’ll find above the ingredient list. If we used my favorite tortilla example here http://www.foodforlife.com/product/tortillas/sprouted-corn-tortillas

1. First look for Calories. This one has, 120 Calories.

2. Make sure that calories coming from Fat is always less than 20% of the total calories. So, 20% of 120 would be 24, and we want it to be less than 24. Now, let’s check! Wonderful, it’s only 15.

3. Then, make sure the Sodium content is the same number (or less) as Calories. This one totally rocks it – it’s Sodium number is 10!

So what this means is, for every serving size mentioned, you’ll get 120 calories. Out of this 15 comes from Fat. This amount of serving will also give you 10 mg of Sodium. ( 2 tortillas is the serving size mentioned on the label)

Next, you know what? Ignore every other number! They just don’t matter.

Let’s see how you do it on your own. http://www.hellmanns.com/product/detail/97902/low-fat-mayonnaise-dressing

Would you buy this? Why or why not?

Waiting for your answer,

g

Desi Visitor To The US – Part 2

Hope you are doing fabulously 🙂

The strange thing my aunt noticed and pointed out about the US is how every gas station doubles up as a mini food shop. Soon, she changed her stand and said how e-v-e-r-y kind of shop carries food items here in this country – hardware shops, home improvement shops, even the laundromats! She says she got tired fighting her temptation for chocolates, my dear aunt.

Food scientists have pointed out that there is a food ad every five minutes or so in the television at any given time. And needless to say, they are NOT advertising the goodness of eating veggies! So, it is important to realize that you will be bombarded with food cues to the point that it will wear your resistance down and push you towards making some choices that may not be typical of you. So, please be aware.

Second point to observe about the food scene here is the size. A regular cookie in a coffee shop will look like the size of homemade poori. A coffee or tea bought outside is given black and you are free to take as much milk or cream as you desire. Less said the better, about the cold beverages – they come mostly in super large bottles and smaller ones actually cost you disproportionately more in price. The desserts such as cakes and pastries are just frosting more than two thirds of the way. Single serve portions of anything are huge for one person.

Then, you will also find that foods tend to err on the sweeter side, actually cloyingly so. Even the supposedly savory ones like ketchup or salsa. Some call out to you as “health foods” and especially the convenience of it all can be tempting. For example, Granola and yogurt which is very popular or even the granola bars. With misleading names and deceptive descriptions like ‘all natural’, ‘honest goodness’, the best of us can fall hook line and sinker for these things.

Please also keep an eye for the sneaky salt in foods where you least expect to see in such ridiculous amounts. The breads, pizza bases, dinner rolls, ready to eat soups, even soda has it! Also look for it the sauces, ketchup, canned rajma, chana and other cooked beans.

All these above factors can cause you to gain weight if you are not watchful. Did you say “enough already, this is depressing?” Oh, nooo – I only meant to alert you, that’s all. When I see my own relatives when they visit here, I find them erring on the extremes of too much trust or too wary. But knowing these things can help you navigate much more confidently.

So, what do you do differently? Number one thing to do is,

1. Do not shop or even step out to these stores when hungry.

2. Make sure to carry a little food in your bag all the time. This way you’re never at the mercy of a poorly stocked shop for food, ever.

3. In a Departmental Store, all the safe foods are in the periphery, usually near the entrance – colorful fruit, veggies and so on. The aisles are where the junk is.

4.  This one is the most important – if you have to go to aisle and buy packaged food, DO NOT pay any attention to what the front of the package says.

5. Always turn it around to read the ingredient list and the nutrition label.

I will stop at this and we’ll go into detail about these two things – the ingredient list and the nutrition label, in the next post.

 

Desi Visitor To The US – Part 1

The coming summer months in the US bring a lot of Desi visitors – both at home and business alike.

There is a definite concern to stay healthy through their stay and make the most of their travel. So all this month, I’ll stick with this theme and share some important tips to eat healthy while in the US. This could be of interest to you right away if you or your dear ones are planning to visit here soon. So feel free to forward the mail to whoever needs it.

This part is all about shopping for vegetables and fruits while in the US.

The most prominent question I get is whether to buy organic or the regular produce and the ‘why’ behind it.

If parents are visiting their children here in the US, first responsibility they take upon themselves is the kitchen department 🙂
Cooking, grocery shopping the whole nine yards! The place where I live, we see a lot of business visitors as well – round the year, but spiked around this time when they tend to combine family holiday with work. All these situations involve some produce-shopping instances. And if you have a standard mantra that’s like “buy what _looks_ good AND reasonably priced”, it’s likely gonna be disappointing to you often. My relatives often grumble about veggies being tasteless here!

Well, until they went shopping with me!!

Personally I shop for organic everything, as much as I can. This is because organic way of farming works  towards preserving long-term soil fertility, preserving genetic diversity and reducing all forms of pollution. This is IN complete alignment with my values, so I don’t think twice about my preference for organic. Besides, the taste is just bursting with flavor when it’s grown with care.

But I like to remind my people that a mere organic tag does not make ALL food choices healthy! For example, potato chips made from organic potatoes and fried in organic sunflower oil!!

So, here we go – Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are your two important lists.

Dirty Dozen is a set of twelve produce items that are best bought organic. These were found to be the most pesticide-laden of all when they are non-organic.

Clean Fifteen are the ones that are least likely to be contaminated by pesticides.

This list is put together by EWG which stands for Environmental Public Group. They are a non-profit organisation with a mission to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.”

I feel compelled to educate you, my dear Desi reader, about these things that you may not know, as a visitor.. I want you to have a whale of a time here!

Dirty Dozen – Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers (Capsicum), Potatoes.

Clean Fifteen – Sweet Corn, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onion, Sweet Peas, Papaya, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant(Brinjal), Honeydew melon (a variety of Kharbuj with a smooth light-green or light-yellow outer skin), Kiwi, Cantaloupe (a variety of Kharbuj with a wrinkled dull yellow skin), Cauliflower and Grapefruit.

Big part of visiting a new place is getting to shop and eat for local produce and specialties. Here is a link for you to locate a Farmers Market near you and check out the offerings. What you’ll find at these markets is way superior compared to a big box store, given that everything here is very fresh.  http://www.localfarmmarkets.org

My next part in this series, I will address a hot-pain question .. “last time I came to the US and gained all the weight in the world!how do I eat smart this time?”. So be on the look out for that as it’s all about smart shopping.

Ask away any food questions you may have about your US visit, in the comments section.

 

Why Won’t You Eat Healthy?

Hey y’all! Hope you are all doing fabulously .. wishing each one of you a fantastic 2017.

I refuse to get pulled and pushed about making resolutions about this or that, so I am not going to ask you either. I took some time to understand the feedback given to me by my private clients recently and I saw a wealth of information that I am eager to share with you, so let’s get started.

There was a client that I will call Emily, for my Spice Up workshop. Em had a great time learning about spices, she enjoyed cooking some simple dishes using them. She was blown away by the delicious results as well. Fine, she almost expected something along these lines as she had a friend who had taken my workshop earlier.

What did surprise her was this discovery about herself: that she enjoyed cooking.

I prodded her to tell me more. She said, it was delightful for her as she reached out for ingredients with her inner muse guiding her on the steps .. she could do this all over again if only she was ably assisted in her own kitchen, she remarked. I asked her to elaborate on what kind of assistance she would love to have. She smiled and said, ‘I’d like to play the chef’.”

She wanted all her ingredients laid out in the order she would need them, veggies washed and chopped beautifully, an appropriate container washed and dried ready to receive the food she prepares and a serving plate or bowl with spoons and forks set out .. do you see where she is going with this?

And then she grandly summed up with, “THEN I would most definitely eat healthy everyday”. This is a very common inference in my workshop and I wanted to discuss this with you.   

In this day and age, there is no dearth for information. There is a ton of the good and bad kind all mixed up, though. And this is a topic for another day. But information is accessible to most of us. We know reasonably clearly that it is good to eat our meals on time, we have our ways of measuring what is right for us, and what kind is best for us. So far so good.

But then day after day, we grab the wrong foods as we hurriedly get about our work, throw out that bag of sprouts or that expensive bag of micro greens we picked up so fondly in an effort to eat healthy. Not to mention, that whole crisper of veggies that sat there for two weeks in different stages of wilt. You just tossed it all in the compost bin and comforted yourself that it’s not a waste after all! Sounds familiar?  

Disorganization is the biggest non-food reason why we don’t eat healthy. What do I mean by this? Like how Emily said, most of us would like to play the chef in our kitchens. We desire to enter the space and find our mise en place all set for us.

When we open our refrigerators, we would like to see our veggies all washed and prepped – ready to go. Our onions to be chopped, garlic peeled and appropriate herbs for our dish – all neatly laid out in their containers.

What we actually have, is an exact opposite of this in varying degrees of messiness. We remember picking that peeled garlic – for a higher price, to make it easy on ourselves and the damn thing is nowhere to be seen. The cilantro looked so fresh at the farmers market and you bought it right away. But what you did not notice is, the roots with sticky mud still clinging to it.

You put it in the refrigerator hurriedly to keep its freshness, thinking you will get to washing it just after lunch. And then, you have three knives in your cutlery tray, (hiding with the eating utensils) but not one of them is sharp or to your liking. Also, veggies all need washing before you can use them. Damn!! 

Picture #1

Organic Ginger and Organic Cilantro in different stages of wilting cohabiting with a reasonably good looking Organic Onion and Organic Bell Pepper inside the same baggie. Buying the best organic vegetables does NOT MEAN you eat the best organic vegetables.

Picture #2

The everyday knife which is sooo dull was first reached out to, but was found unwashed in the sink. Then remembered the knife-set received in a thoughtful gift, oh! DAMN, the two in there are serrated ones, where are the regular ones??? Aaaahhhh, want to run away from here!!!!

Picture #3

Every ladle and spoon there was, was in the sink waiting to get washed at the time of this picture. As was the bowl, Vitamix and few pans and …!

Do you see how just streamlining this will take you a minimum of 20-30 minutes of your precious time when all you had was 20 minutes to cook and eat a simple something? Why are you surprised that you just grabbed a cookie and left the place? And when you came home in the evening, though you had the time ahead of you, this somehow did not feel like anything you would enjoy doing. So, you called for a pizza to be delivered.

So, here is what I want to share about my own experience about staying organised in the kitchen and eating healthy:

  1. Aiming to never fail FAILS big time. Therefore your goal must be to only catch yourself going off track AT THE EARLIEST and get back in the groove again.

What do I mean by this? Let’s say you read this on Thursday and you are inspired to action and you decide to prep for every single meal Monday through Wednesday. And you have every intention of doing the same on Wednesday for the rest of the week but totally missed it, for whatever reason. And you feel the pinch of it on Friday, when you had friends over at short notice. Instead of bashing yourself, or saying, ‘oh well, this is just not my thing, it does not work for folks like us!!’, get back to doing your meal prep promptly on Saturday. That’s it!

  1. Define what eating healthy means for you, very clearly.

As in, say ‘ I will make sure to have two veggies for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this week. One of them to be served raw, the other in cooked form”. See how it carries its own action steps for you? All that’s left is for you is to figure out what veggies you will need for which dish.  

  1. Bridge the knowing-doing gap with DONE and DON’T lists.

Imagine a list like this on the refrigerator: Carrots – grated, Potatoes – boiled, Quinoa – cooked, Garbanzo and Pinto – boiled, Onions – sliced 1, diced 1, Garlic – peeled, Cilantro and Mint – chopped, with a tick mark against each. Will you not feel a sense of accomplishment? It is this joy of success which will propel your next series of steps in the desired direction.

DON’T lists have their place as well. Especially if doing the bad thing has become a habit. I have stuck a pink post it that reads NO EMAILS on my kitchen table as it had become a mindless activity to check them while eating, in the mornings. My intention was to get mindful about what was going into my mouth and enjoy the tastes rather than going through emails at that time. I have similarly stuck a “STOP@5” postit reminder on the raisins bag.   

If you have to or already have organized your kitchen for cooking and eating healthy, what are/were your TOP three steps? I would love for you to share it the comments.

Love,

Giri

 

Knowledge and Behavior are two different things

Let me share with you this insightful conversation I once had with a stranger. We were both  at an airport, having some time on our hands before we could board our airplanes. She goes ‘ we all know we shouldn’t be hogging on potato chips. But I do!  As a dietitian do you also feel like it, how do you deal with it?’

Here’s my confession: I love  deep fried food, I always have. Chips, banana fritters made the Indian way, Onion and Cashew Pakodas (haven’t heard ..? go look up) don’t even get me started. I can hog on these any time of the day or night but I don’t.

Up until my mid-twenties I just ate whatever my heart yearned for, so long as it was vegetarian. Around this point, I took a course to learn what it meant to be a counselor. And my mentor there said two things – to be helpful to others and understand them, one needs to understand oneself.

Second one was, writing is a very useful tool to look inwards. So, I got into the habit of keeping a journal. It was a no holds barred kinda writing. It would have all areas of my life running into each other in a way it made sense ONLY to me! From this I’ve dug out four findings about myself over the years, that helps to this day, in managing my ways with many things, definitely around food.

  1.  Am lazy
  2. Love simplicity
  3. Need routines
  4. Am highly motivated to do the right thing

Laziness is a wonderful trait to have if you want to eat healthy. This is what drives me to cook a one-pot meal in a pressure cooker versus deep frying fritters, standing the entire time in front of a hot stove, making it. Rather than fight laziness, I’ve found ways to creatively use it to my advantage. For instance, we keep Cookies or other treats in the top most cupboard, above the refrigerator, in our house. And for extra discouragement, I’ve put our water filter over the step-stool! It takes me a good fifteen minutes PLUS back-breaking hard work  to get to that damn thing that I rarely ever eat what’s up there!! This is such a foolproof method for me, you gotta try to see what I mean.

And if you combined this love for simplicity with laziness, you can get more uses out of the combo. Like, eating salad becomes a breeze. Especially, if you’re the kind who has trouble getting started with a veggie dish but eventually love that you decided upon it. Or you may come up with new ways of substituting elaborate dishes that take only a fraction of the time. For instance, Medjool date stuffed with

For instance, Medjool date stuffed with nuts  makes for a very satisfying dessert. We were served this at a party recently and it vanished off the plate in just minutes. Nobody thought it was stupid or blah! The hostess here definitely came across as someone who embraces her simplicity. We have another couple in our friends circle. And in their house, breakfast for the warmer half of the year is always fruit. Just plain fruit – a bowl of berries or sliced melons or a banana or some fruit.

I’d be totally rattled if I have to figure out a schedule for the basic stuff on a daily basis. Not happening! Mondays and Thursdays, I walk with friends – it is all fixed – time, duration, where we meet, everything. Three days a week we eat some dish made of greens. This is my Indian thing – many of us skip the evening meal on the eleventh day of the moon cycle, four days before the full moon. Many of us have and like our routines but what is key to understand here is that they are not set in stone. If there are some habits you had as part of your routine that aren’t serving you well, they can be changed. Habits do fall off with me too and I put them back from time to time. Recently I’ve re-introduced  the sprouts into my routine.

When you are highly driven to do the right thing, even a slight support from people in your lives can do wonders. And it is even better when we can articulate how we’d like to be supported and delegate. For example, you can ask them to encourage (or discourage) at the right times. Last evening, I wanted to munch on something very badly. My husband was his usual generous self to get up and bring some goodies on a plate. Then I went ‘oh, my mouth is all too sweet and now I want some savories’.

I’ll pause right here. This is where the craziness can use some help. On my own, I tend to forget to get mindful. I am all caught up about the party in my mouth and little else matters. But! If there is a well-meaning person that can recognize the craziness on your behalf and help you get aware, it can be averted. Over years, I’ve come to a point where I need only a slight help and not a whole lot. So, if we’ve company then my husband says a blank-faced ” huh??” and pretends not to have understood me. It’s enough to redirect me to whatever activity on hand. If we’re by ourselves he may suggest that I fetch it for myself.

Going back to the story, he quipped  just in time ‘sure, just go bring it’ – I took the cue and decided to  focus on  the movie instead!  The tricky part here was to see that he was helping me and therefore not get sour about him. Was it purely my motivation to do the right thing, it’s difficult to say for a fact. But in combination with my laziness, it sure worked in my favor.

One month after that airport lounge chat, my new friend Facebooked to say she had figured out one useful finding about herself: how she likes four of everything. She went by the number four as if on a autopilot – four spoons of oil, four cookies with tea, four servings at meals! Next, she decided to pre-cut all the cookies in the jar to a half. She switched the spoon next to the oil jar to a smaller one. And when she baked a pizza next time, she first packed away one half and only served the other, cut into four wedges. She noticed she did not even miss it. And it was a treat to have more left for tomorrow’s lunch, without even trying! I remembered her saying she was a leading Actuary in her town and it all made sense how she had expertly drawn these conclusions.

So, why am I sharing all this with you?

Here’s why – I’d like you to deeply understand one thing – we don’t get healthy by reading a book or getting a masters degree in health sciences. All this add to your knowledge base. It’s like saying, I’ve got bags of food loaded in my pantry. This does NOT mean your hunger is satiated. Right? You gotta put in some effort to translate that knowledge to real action steps which comes down to what we do in tiny increments day after day.

You need to take time to observe yourself for these traits and quirks that drive your behavior so you can modify them in a way that works for you. It is just like acknowledging the motorist tendency to speed at particular points and putting a speed breaker in place. Only, you are responsible for installing your own behavioral controls for certain things in life.

Did you find this useful? Share about one behavior that you’ve happily retained or modified and what was your tool to achieve that?

Love,

Giri