Jan 18, 2017

How to reduce eating junk foods?

Image Source: https://www.thehunt.com/finds/U7qmmh-no-junk-food%2521

Short answer - Eat 3 wholesome, balanced and nutritious meals in a day.

Coming to the long answer :-)

This revelation occurred to me yesterday. My usual morning routine involves Yoga, cooking breakfast and lunch, packing lunch-box for my husband and then I sit down with my breakfast. Yesterday, this whole routine went for a toss when my husband had to leave very early for work. I ate a little bit of left-over lemon rice that I had packed for my daughter’s snack box. In the afternoon, I didn’t have the time to cook a proper lunch, so it was a little rice + potatoes. Around 3PM, I felt hungry and I grabbed a cup of coffee. Around 5ish, I was terribly hungry. I stepped into the kitchen, rummaging through the various shelves (which I wouldn’t normally do). I ate a couple of dates and a banana to satisfy the “health-conscious” in me ;-) But the hunger pangs didn’t reduce. So I took my daughter along to a nearby sweets shop and grabbed a cup of rasmalai ;-)  I bought a pack of cashew pakodas too, which I would end up munching at 7PM before dinner.

You see the pattern here? Though such days are rare, I have to admit that I’m too lazy to cook for myself. So I prepare what my daughter likes to eat and end up eating little of the same. Both my breakfast and lunch were nothing but simple carbs.

Yesterday’s terrible meals taught me a valuable lesson -
Take time to cook for yourself”. 
 I have seen many women make similar mistakes. We feel cooking is not worth the time and effort if it’s just for ourselves. So we end up grabbing some snacks or a light meal and numerous amounts of tea/coffee.

On days when I eat proper, wholesome meals, I don’t feel the urge to snack. If my lunch had a good mix of grains, lentils and vegetables, then I can go on with my day, without the need to open the snack counter/fridge every hour. My grandparents ate 2 proper meals (one around 11AM and another around 7PM) and I don’t remember seeing them snacking in between their meals, except for a small cup of filter coffee.

Snacking mindlessly is the reason behind many of our health-related issues. While working on an intellectual problem - for e.g., replying to an important email, preparing a report, putting together a presentation, a mentally stimulating conversation with a colleague etc, we end up munching a few biscuits, a piece of chocolate and downing cups mugs of tea/coffee. Over time, this piles up unknowingly, resulting in obesity and various other lifestyle diseases.

Apart from mindless snacking, we also end up craving for certain foods IF our main meals aren’t nutritious. If you crave for something, it is an indication that your body is lacking in certain vitamins and minerals. For example, low magnesium levels in your body lead to chocolate cravings.  Low calcium and magnesium levels lead to sugar and salt cravings.

So the solution to cut down on junk foods is to make sure that your primary meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are wholesome and they provide with all the adequate nutrition you need, including micro-nutrients.

A few ways by which you can get your primary meals right:
- Plan ahead what you need to cook / eat during the day
- Make sure your meal plan includes a combination of whole grains, lentils, vegetables and fruits.
- If you need to cook only for yourself, spend a few minutes the previous night thinking about what can be prepared with less effort but more nutrition - Salads are a better choice for preparing for just 1 portion size.
- Be more conscious of what you would eat if hunger pangs strike at 5PM (danger zone!)
- Maintain a food log - a personal diary

Do share in the comments below how you plan your meals in advance.

Jan 16, 2017

Book Review: Appa Ennum Villain by Bharathi Baskar

Book #2 of #50booksin2017
When I read about the news that Amazon Kindle has started to list books in regional languages, I was ecstatic and happy. Being a Kindle Unlimited member, I quickly browsed through the list of books and this one titled Appa Ennum Villain by Bharathi Baskar caught my attention. Having read her previous books, I know I would like her way of writing. 

On a beautiful Monday afternoon, I finished reading this book in a couple of hours. It is a collection of 8 short stories with themes ranging from working women's issues, friendship, parenting to love for literature. In her signature style, she has crafted engaging stories with a clear message. 

My favorite of them all is the last one titled "mei thirupadham mevu". I adore Ms.Baskar's books and speeches, one of the many reasons is that she quotes a lot of examples from Tamil literature. Through this story, she emphasizes how the children of today who are brought up with the ONLY notion of winning/competing turn out in their lives. And how parenting with a good dose of literature and spirituality can help the kids to be stronger and peaceful in their lives. Amazing insight !

Loved reading this short book. Do pick it up if you get a chance. 

Why Working Lunch is bad for your health

In many corporate work environments, I see this phrase being used quite often - “let’s do a working lunch”. The scenario under which this phrase is used is when someone is extremely busy with back-to-back meetings in a day and doesn’t have time to talk to someone who’s in need of his/her time. Let’s say, A wants to talk to B about something important. B’s calendar is filled with meetings that there’s no free slot available for that day. So B would suggest “let’s do a working lunch”, which implies A and B would catch up over lunch and discuss that important issue. Sometimes, team meetings would also be scheduled in the pretext of "working lunches". And the motivating(?) factor for the team to attend such meetings would be sponsored sandwiches, pizzas and aerated drinks.

I just can’t understand why we want to multi-task during mealtime. We think of mealtime as a passive activity where our hands automatically take the food, stuff it in our mouth while our minds are idle. So the super-productive planner in us comes to the forefront and thinks we can use the mealtime to engage our minds. It could be any activity such as watching a video, reading a document, listening to a podcast or even scheduling a meeting with someone and giving a fancy name like “working lunch”.

When you talk to someone about an important issue, both you, the speaker and the listener are completely engaged in the conversation. So there’s absolutely no focus on the food that’s been eaten - no appreciation or gratefulness for the farmer who harvested the grains/vegetables OR for the person who has taken the effort to prepare the food.

Healer Baskar, who runs this organization named Anatomic Therapy says
The key reason behind today’s rise in lifestyle diseases is due to improper digestion. When we talk or open our mouth while eating, the air interrupts the digestion process that happens in our mouth using saliva

Our elders had instructed us when we were kids - Don’t talk while eating. Chew your food nicely”. 

How many of us follow this simple rule? Eating has become a mindless chore for most of us where we gobble up the food quickly and get on with our busy lives.

We don’t fuel our cars while it is running. We stop for a couple of minutes at the gas station to refuel them. Why can’t we stop for at least 10 minutes to refuel our own body?

My request to you through this post
- Avoid working lunches as much as possible
- When you are eating along with your colleagues/friends, avoid talking when the food is in your mouth. Finish chewing and swallowing and then talk.
- Chew your food nicely without opening your mouth
- Concentrate on the food and the act of eating
- Be mindful of the taste, texture and smell. Engage your senses
- Offer a token of gratitude to the farmer

Jan 14, 2017

Post Project Completion Syndrome

Have you ever felt the feeling of emptiness after a successful completion of a project? That nagging “what next” feeling.

Instead of feeling elated and accomplished after a project completion, I have experienced feelings of dullness. It may be due to the fact that we have invested so much of our attention onto that ONE particular project that our minds were consciously working towards the subsequent steps, leading up to the D-day.

For example, whenever I prepare for a talk at a public forum, my mind would be busy churning out ideas and planning the flow/structure for a couple of weeks before the talk. A few days before the talk, I would be sitting down and giving my full focus and attention in preparing the slides, looking for relevant images and finalizing the outline. On the D-day, the talk would get over and a few people would appreciate or share their comments about the talk. At the end of the day, I would feel bored and dull since the one thing that my mind was completely focused is no longer there. I have experienced this feeling multiple times after the completion of various projects. And this happens not just with big projects but also for projects as small as hosting a get-together.

I was wondering what would be the solution to avoid such “blues”. Does it require being busy all the time - with more projects lined up and more deliverables with due dates? Or do I start to appreciate the times when there are no looming deadlines? I don’t have an answer yet but will write more when I figure it out.

I googled to find a good read that outlines the feelings of “post project completion syndrome” :-) Check it out if you are interested. And do share if you have faced similar feelings of PPCS.

Jan 11, 2017

Break from social media

 A few days back, I was sitting on my couch, feeling extremely cold. It was a winter afternoon, with the sun shining brightly but the heat couldn't be felt. I noticed my cat who was happily stretching herself and basking in the sunshine in my balcony. I took the book I started reading recently and sat down on the swing, close to her. The next 90 minutes felt so blissful - reading an interesting book, soaking in the sunshine and admiring my beautiful feline friend. I didn't check my phone during this 1.5 hour time period. That's exactly what I wanted in 2017 - less screen time, more focused work, more outdoors.

I hadn't set this goal in the last day of Dec on a whim. Rather, this has been lingering in my mind for a while. The hypothesis was that I had been checking my phone a little too much. To validate this hypothesis, I installed an app called Checky. I had monitored my usage for a period of 3 months, so the data is statistically significant. The results weren’t surprising. On an average, I was checking my phone around 35-45 times on a weekday, whereas on a weekend, the range was between 15-25 times. Based on my usual activity hours between 7AM - 10PM (15 hours), this amounts to checking my phone 3 times every hour.

On 31st Dec, I spoke to a friend from school after a long time. She casually remarked that I seem to be spending a lot of time on Facebook. I knew that too and didn’t defend myself. On Jan 1st, I un-installed FB app from my phone. So much peace, I should say!

Cal Newport in his TEDx talk says,
“Social media is a source of entertainment. These companies offer you shiny treats for minutes of your attention and bites of your personal data, which can then be packaged up and sold. Many of the major social media companies hire individuals called “attention engineers” who borrow principles from casino gambling to try to make these products as addictive as possible"

He also talks about “the constant background hum of anxiety".

I didn’t post anything on my FB account since Jan 1st while I continued to share food pictures in my EthnicPalate FB page. Yesterday (10th Jan), I shared a blogpost link that I wrote with so much passion on something I believe in. The background hum of anxiety kicked in and I felt the need to constantly check for likes/comments from my desktop. At the end of the day, I decided that this anxiety is detrimental to my productivity and focus.

I argued with myself that I’ve only been sharing informative posts on healthy eating, fitness and productivity, and also that I haven't been posting much of photos/personal updates/jokes/memes/fwds etc. But it also hit me that I don't want to be constantly distracted and would rather stay away from any anxiety related to likes/comments. If I’m sharing something, then I’m contributing a teeny tiny bit to the reason behind someone’s social media addiction. Imagine if everyone stops adding updates to our timeline, then there won't be any reason for us to visit social media sites, right?

Why not moderation? one might ask. I believe moderation will not work in the case of digital addictive products, where we don’t really “feel” the limit. Even if you LOVE donuts so much, you can’t eat more than say 2 or 3 pieces. Your tongue would signal you, saying “Enough” :-) But in the case of social media, you might think you’d casually browse for a couple of minutes. But you would end up scrolling through the timeline for 15 minutes and also end up with 10 new tabs open. And the worse part is that this would happen EVERY single day.

So long story short, I have decided to take a break from social media (FB, twitter, Instagram) and regain my attention and focus. 

I will continue to pursue my passions more rigorously - writing, cooking, reading, productivity hacking, fitness etc. I have a long list of books to read, topics to write about, recipes to try and new projects to kickstart. I will be writing more frequently in both my websites - this one for all blogposts and EthnicPalate for all food related (ideas, recipes, pictures). But I don’t want to share them through addictive channels like FB/twitter/instagram on a daily basis.

Here’s a little time management tip - off late, I have started scheduling 15-min time slots once a week/fortnight to go through blogs/work of people whom I like to follow. This helps me to be more aware of my time and the outcome is also more focused. Do try this tip. Also, if you find my posts valuable, I recommend that you schedule a 15-min slot once a fortnight in your calendar to check my blogs. That way, it would be a focused conscious activity and not a random update on social media on a daily basis. Thanks for your understanding. If you would like to connect, drop me an email at anuradha.sridharan at gmail dot com.

Hopefully, with the distraction-free times, I’ll be able to increase my productivity and accomplish more in 2017.

If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work. - Cal Newport

BTW, the book that kept me hooked for 90-min that afternoon is "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. Fascinating read so far. It talks about how habits are formed and how we can break them. Will post a detailed review once I finish it.

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