Mar 29, 2012

Breaking unwanted habits

The last two years have been a good experience in terms of breaking a couple of habits which I no longer wanted to continue. I felt it might be useful to share my experiences here for people who want to adopt a similar change in their day-to-day routine.

For years (from 2004 to 2009, to be precise), I used to be a big fan of Lays chips. Whenever husband and I went for grocery shopping, we would pick up a few packets casually and dump them into our shopping cart. Though husband would try different flavors, I would always go for the cream cheese & onion flavor. Every evening, as soon as we come from work, we would dig into a pack of chips, sitting in front of the idiot box. In no time, the pack would be emptied. Isn't Lays chips a pack of air with a few potato chips thrown in?

With sedentary lifestyle, no exercise and no diet control, my body became very inflexible. Thanks to my genes, my weight wasn't increasing though. So in 2010, we decided to stop eating Lays chips. Call it, the New Year resolution or whatever. It required certain amount of will power but we completely stopped eating Lays chips. The idea was very simple - when we go to a supermarket, we consciously avoided the aisle containing chips and other savory items. It's better to avoid the sight of such foods and getting tempted by them.

But something had to be substituted in place of chips, isn't it? The hunger pangs would start immediately after we step into our apartment. We started to buy a lot more fruits than we usually do. Yes, they are on the expensive side. But it's better to spend on something healthy rather than eat junk food and spend later on for hospital bills and medicines. We also started eating whole wheat biscuits (McVities, Nutrichoice) and believe me, they go very well with tea.

As we talk about tea, my most favorite beverage in the world, I should also mention about coffee. I'm a coffee person too. During college days, my dad would prepare fresh filter coffee using the traditional coffee filter. I always rate it as my most favorite. While I was working for Yahoo!, there were times when freshly prepared filter coffee would be served right at your desk (good old times, I say). After a while, when the company started expanding, the fresh filter coffee was still available but you would have to drop by the cafeteria. I didn't mind it, as it gave me an opportunity to take a short walk. Coffee used to be the perfect accompaniment while having a quick chat with a colleague or a friend at work. I moved to Cleartrip and the serving-coffee-at-your-desk privilege came back again. Though I always prefer my morning beverage to be tea, coffee began to enter into my routine much more frequently. I wanted to stop this caffeine addiction. A reason, no better than pregnancy helped me to break this habit. Ever since I realized I was expecting a baby, I stopped coffee completely. If it was an addiction, I couldn't have stopped it so easily. It was just my mind tricking me into thinking that I need caffeine in order to be alert and productive.

For 8 months last year, I did not have a single sip of coffee. Though I have read that limited coffee (upto 2 cups a day) will not affect the growing foetus, I decided not to drink it. Even when I had gone to my dad's place, I said No to his amazing filter coffee. My daughter was born and the nightly feeds began. There were nights when I slept at 2:30 AM because my daughter couldn't sleep. I had to keep myself awake in order to feed her. So I restarted the coffee habit but ensured I don't drink more than a single cup in a day. Now that the frequency of nightly feeds have reduced, I have stopped coffee again. The ability to decide what to have and when to have and sticking to it is such an empowering feeling. Sometimes, we just go with what the mind says or asks for.

I always strive to be the master of my mind but sometimes the mind tends to take over the lead. By being conscious and aware of my thoughts and actions, it's becoming easier to take control over the mind. Has this ever happened to you? How do you ensure to take the lead? Would like to know!

Mar 21, 2012

The vegetable vendor

Though I hate shopping in general, I love to shop for vegetables. The fresh produce, different colors and textures give a nice feeling and inspiration towards cooking. The supermarkets these days stock up different varieties of vegetables but sometimes they don't seem fresh. I hate the sight of packed ones because invariably, there will be one or two veggies that had gone bad. I'm the sort of person who like to examine each vegetable and pick the ones I like. Moreover, we end up with more plastic because of the so-called-modern habit of pulling a plastic cover for each vegetable. If I ask the salesperson who weighs the vegetables to combine 2-3 varieties in one plastic cover, he would give me one nasty look as though I'm asking for something stupid.

I have been shopping online for groceries for the past few months because I cannot step out of my home leaving behind my 5 month old daughter. Before that, I used to go to this friendly neighborhood vegetable shop. It's a small place, neatly stocked with fresh vegetables. The vendor who runs this place is a friendly person, always willing to suggest what has arrived fresh. Being a regular customer, he would immediately recognize me and my husband. The variety of fresh produce he had was just awesome, with many locally grown veggies and fruits which you wouldn't normally find in a supermarket. He allows us to take half a bunch of greens - ability to customize according to customer's needs. We used to carry a big jute bag where he dumps the veggies as and when we order. Sometimes, he would even suggest us to take more "why 800 gms of tomatoes, madam? take 1 kg" We couldn't deny, of course.

There have been discussions around how allowing FDI in retail will impact small vendors in the country. I strongly believe, given our habits and culture, small vendors will flourish, even when organized retail picks up big time. Their level of customization, personalization and just being friendly to customers can never be matched by the biggies.

Tips for moms-to-be

This post has been lingering in my mind for quite sometime now. Better late than never. 2011 had given me a lot of insights into motherhood and childcare. Though many of the moms-to-be and new moms might be aware of these, I want to share some of my learnings which might be of help to some of you. Please note I'm not a medical practitioner and so I would highly recommend you consult with your doctor.

Even before the stick confirms the happy "news", taking folic acid supplements is essential. Eating healthy, keeping stress levels low and taking adequate rest are required while you are planning to conceive. One very important point which I found quite difficult to practice while pregnant was to drink adequate water (3-4 litres per day). If you don't have this habit, it's better to start early.

I had severe nausea during my first trimester and the taste of food was sickening. I started taking lemon juice an hour before lunch and dinner and it reduced the discomfort to a great extent. A glass of buttermilk also helps. Since having a full meal is nearly impossible, it's better to munch on something every 2 hours.

Once the nausea reduces, it's time to focus more on eating nutritious foods. Include a lot of protein in your diet in the form of pulses and sprouts. Raw sprouts may cause indigestion and gas problems. So it's better to steam them for 5 minutes before consuming them. I'm not really a salad person. I'm used to eating cooked vegetables. But the dietician advises that one must include 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits in a day. So I would add raw veggies such as cucumbers, lettuce, capsicums, tomatoes and onions in my sandwiches.

I also started to include a lot of greens, especially spinach (palak) and fenugreek (methi). The gourd vegetables such as ridge gourd, bottle gourd and snake gourd doesn't give a heavy feeling to your stomach. So I usually cook them with lentils for lunch. Occasional binging on cravings should be fine. I used to have cravings for sweets and chaat items but I ensured I didn't eat too much of such foods.

As far as exercise is concerned, walking for 20-30 minutes everyday is advised by my doctor. But I didn't follow it religiously. I used to walk inside my home after lunch and dinner for around 15 min. Other than this, grocery shopping every week gave me a few more opportunities to walk. I kept myself active at home, with cooking and other household chores. So I guess all these compensated for my lack of doing pre-natal exercises.

Once you start your third trimester, it's better to start planning for the new arrival. The list of things I purchased before my little one arrived are:

   * cotton shirts/tops (for day wear)
   * bodysuits (for night wear)
   * sleepsuits (didn't find them useful as it didn't fit my daughter. Better to buy bodysuits and put on socks to cover the feet)
   * cotton nappies
   * diapers
   * blanket (it was winter when my daughter arrived)
   * sweater
   * caps
   * socks
   * swaddling sheets
   * feeding bottle (just in case of emergency)
   * towels
   * baby soap
   * rubber sheet

Things that I purchased immediately after she was born (wish I had purchased them earlier) are :

   * mosquito net
   * bucket and a mug (better to have a separate one for the baby)
   * baby lotion
   * baby shampoo
   * soap case
   * dustbin with a lid (for disposing the used diaper)
   * cloth drying stand (for drying the washed cotton nappies)

I had arranged a maid to give bath and massage to my baby. Since you might be recovering from your delivery, it's better if someone more experienced can handle the delicate newborn and give bath everyday. Once you feel comfortable holding your baby, you can bathe him/her yourself.

If you are planning to place your baby in a crib, spend time before hand to buy a good quality one. We decided to co-sleep with the baby since it's convenient for night feeds and my daughter feels secure. We tried the traditional cloth cradle but she didn't like it at all.

I hope these tips were helpful for anxious new moms. If you have any other queries, feel free to post them in the comments and I will be glad to answer them.

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