Are You Playing Enough?

Sitting down to discus food regimens with women is a definite part of the work I do. By this point, the client and I would have interacted a fair bit and the relationship would be established between us. Because of the trust cultivated, we both bring our very vulnerable selves to the table. And the when reality of food regimen is about to become active in their routine, it almost brings them tears. It is as if the fun, creative, playful lightness that one associated with food and leisure is leaving the shores of one’s life. Forever. Never to come back again! What exactly are we fearing losing in this context? Is it really food? I’d like to talk about this.

One dominion factor comes to mind. Bollywood. Just how ubiquitous this bollywood stuff has become! From the clothes we wear and the songs we sing to the songs we sing to our kids and the dance moves they’re taught, the infinite number of programs that are created to entertain these babies, grannies and everybody in between – including Lord Ganesha himself, at our pandals – everything is something to do with bollywood. If not that, it’s still one of several ‘other-wood’-s!

Like bollywood and ‘other-wood’ related activities that seem take up time-space, food has come to define leisure to us humans. We reach for food to relax us, de-stress us, to uplift us, it is a main component of bonding experiences and more. Oh and, not to mention the dozens of food related programs and entire channels dedicated to everything food. A leading chocolate brand surveyed some years ago and declared with great pride, that a whopping 52% women preferred chocolate over sex. Without a doubt, we’re allowing food to the point of crowding out every other leisure activity we enjoyed as adults one time. So, in the context of discussing food regimen, it is no surprise that it feels so threatening. Why food is not suited for leisure or as play component is an important question you must ask yourself. But first let’s see why play is important to us as humans.

Author Diane Ackerman writes, ” for humans, play is a refuge from ordinary life, a sanctuary of the mind, where one is exempt from life’s customs, methods, and decrees.” Playing is the most instinctive, play for play’s sake kinda activity there is. Playing is beyond just fun, and definitely beyond gender and age. Scholars have not arrived at any one specific definition of play but they’ve agreed upon this – play is any solo or social activity that has elements of anticipation, surprise, pleasure, understanding, strength and poise. Given just how play-deprived that modern societies are becoming, there are Play Health experts nowadays. In a hospital and/or clinical setting, these specialists design appropriate play activities for clients. Like how we’ve come to painfully discover, opposite of play is NOT work. It’s often some manifestation of depression, suicidal tendencies and addictive behavior towards the screen or cyber-loafing as it’s called, food and substance addiction, and so on. And play is believed to be the serious missing factor that could heal these people.

There are many benefits to play and some of them are, developing
– a handle over one’s emotions
– perseverance
– resilience
– problem solving skills
– boost in creativity

At some point, for a variety of reasons ( sometimes related to play pathology like isolation, bullying etc) we take to substituting play with food. Given that food also shares some of the elements of play, such as pleasure and surprise – we resort to using food. This is alarming, to say the least. Food and eating as an activity that is steeped in purpose. But play is entirely for it’s own sake, food doesn’t lend itself to this type of treatment. But given that it is pleasurable is often misleading as a play activity.

We’ll continue this discussion in the coming posts. But for now, here’s what I’d like you to do – share below some of the leisure activities you’ve enjoyed so far in this month. If by any chance, were these activities involving food, say that too.

If Love Is A Verb … How Do You Express It To Yourself?

Many many great people have echoed the sentiment of how every relationship is a mirror of one relationship, the one we have with ourselves. In extension of this standpoint, our responsibility is towards learning to clearly express love in this all important relationship. This is of great importance, not just because of upcoming Valentine’s Day, it is owing to the fact that matters relating to wellness and self-care are a function of this.

In my one on one coaching sessions with women, I ask them how they’d express love or appreciation for themselves. They’ll say how they’ll buy themselves a gift – anything ranging from a book to saree to experience of some kind – like a spa treatment, eating out, travel etc. This is all okay, I’m not going to find fault with any of these choices. That said, it doesn’t convey love deeply enough to the person inside you.  These are more like toppings on an ice cream! What good are the toppings _without_ the ice cream?

What does self-love look and feel like?

It involves being in your own company showing a deep interest for all things about your inner person – her feelings, her needs, her fears, her shortcomings. Hand-holding her through her challenges patiently and lovingly. Not criticizing her or feeling exasperated for her errors and fall-downs. Learning about what she likes and dislikes and allowing for them by way of learning to speak up for her. Seeing her as deserving of good things in life. Joining hands with her to bring her dreams to fruition. This will very likely mean that you’ll have to let go of your leanings for comfort. You’ll have to develop an ease for doing newer and more complex tasks. And herein lies self-love – seeing your inner person and her desires as worthy of being pursued.

If you did not carve out time and space for this type of engagement with yourself, no amount of shopping for handbags, eating chocolates, drinking beer or buying sarees will satisfy your inner muse. This fact feels very awkward to deal with, for a lot of women – they say, they’re better giving/expressing love to others but with themselves, this is the only way they know to do it they say. Or they kinda feel lost.

So, here is a very personal post in that sense – am sharing notes from how I express love to my own inner muse. The promises I’ve made to myself, likes and dislikes that I’ve come to accept as important to me, rules that she’d like me to live by are all part of this. The only reason I share is, to motivate you to compile and curate your own list. And keep in mind, love is a verb. It is a promise of what you’ll do as an expression of self-love. So, write it like you mean it  – using action words, as if it is a to-do list.

with self:

  1. say it exactly like it is – ‘say the truth to yourself’ can sometimes feel heavy and hard. It can even make you defensive. where as ‘say it like it is’ is simple and easy to follow.
  2. comfort myself when I feel down – I’ve collected some of my fav songs, speeches, discourses and activity prompts so that I don’t have to think at that time.
  3. find myself opportunities to do what I do well.
  4. feel your feelings – pretending like they aren’t there, or like they don’t matter, or suppressing them is going to make them show up at odd times – better to just feel them as they come.
  5. own your power – it comes with immense responsibility and you can learn to be responsible. But girl, own your power! There’s no greatness in being a doormat.
  6. evaluate criticism wisely, Girija – don’t do things so as to stay in somebody’s good books – somebody else’s good books is not a good reference point.
  7. do the right thing – don’t overthink this – all day long, you live with you, so do what’s right by your standards.
  8. see clearly – see things for what they are, not what you’d like them to be.

with others:

  1. meet friends in person whenever you can – but don’t let this bother you when it’s not possible. Virtual meeting and connecting over phone is not all that bad either.
  2. share a hearty laugh whenever you can – I’ve learnt to honor my goofy side.
  3. learn to ask for and receive help gracefully.
  4. state your position on things – this will effectively sieve out those that may not vibe well with you.
  5. release the need to like and go along with everyone and for everyone to like you and go along with you.
  6. get-together with people can be over a walk or painting or a shared activity of some other kind.
  7. gift books – you don’t have to loan your books. As a younger person I’d love for a friend to read the books I read and it would pain me when they would lick their finger o turn pages, ugh!
  8. stop – do not compare your inner story with somebody else’s outer story

food related:

  1.  remember – if hunger is not my problem, then food is not my solution.
  2.  eat just enough.
  3. cook with love.
  4. stop – never ever force me to finish the food on the plate.
  5. don’t accept food if am not up for it.
  6. don’t accept enjlu or joota – I had an aversion for this even as a child and I’d sneak out at the time of cake cutting and birthday parties given how adults indiscriminately offered ten people a bite out from a same damn piece of cake.
  7. eat with joy, always.
  8. eat only plants! Period.