Jul 16, 2020

What is a Wholesome, balanced meal?

 
"Wholesome, balanced meal" - I keep mentioning this phrase often in my blog posts as well as in my workshops. I suggest this as a solution to fix sweet cravings, to curb junk foods, to prevent mindless snacking etc. As I pondered deeply on this question - "What is a wholesome, balanced meal?", the initial answers that came to my mind are
  1. The meal plate should have a good combination of carbs, proteins, fats and fiber
  2. For a vegetarian like me, the meal plate should contain a good proportion of dals, 1-2 vegetables and indigenous rice/millets
  3. The plate should include more vegetables and greens
I wasn't quite satisfied with these answers. I felt there is something more to a "wholesome, balanced meal". The questioning continued and I reflected on the times when I felt like I have eaten a wholesome, balanced meal. Based on my personal observations, this is the answer I have come up with

"A wholesome, balanced meal is the one that gives YOU SATIETY"

First, the focus is on YOU, the individual. The meal that makes me satiated may not make you feel satiated and vice versa. That's the reason why generic diet plans don't work. Each of our preferences, taste buds and satiety levels are quite different. It is best to understand the key principles in nutrition and then take the responsibility to come up with a meal plan for ourselves.

Let's come to the key topic - SATIETY
Satiety is the feeling of satisfaction we get after eating a good meal. 
Being satiated means that we don't think about food for the next 3-4 hours. 
Being satiated means we don't feel sluggish and drowsy after a meal.

When you eat a pack of chips, do you feel satiated? No
When you eat a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast, do you feel satiated? No

That's because of the fact that most packaged/junk foods are "calorie-rich, nutrient-poor". After eating such foods, our body craves nutrients and we end up feeling hungry within 30-45 minutes. 

Being mindful of how we feel after eating a meal will help us understand the kind of meals that give us satiety. Food tracking in a journal is quite helpful to identify the patterns. Apart from tracking the "What", "How much" and "When", it is also important to track "How did the meal make me feel?"
Satiated, 
Over-eaten, 
Deprived,
Sleepy,
Bloated, 
Sweet craving post the meal

Examples of meals that make me feel satiated
  • Handpounded rice, sambhar, 1-2 vegetable kari
  • Bisibhelebhaath, raitha and pappad
  • Matta rice, aviyal, rasam and pappad
  • Idli with a chutney or sambhar
  • Phulkas, dal and sabji/salad
Examples of meals that don't make me feel satiated
  • Lemon rice, potato kari
  • Pasta
  • Idli with molagapodi
  • Salad as a meal
  • Soup + Salad
Satiety depends on multiple factors - not just the right combination of carbs+proteins+fats. It depends on our individual food preferences, foods we ate while growing up, foods that our digestive system feels happy about. 

The ONLY way to figure such meals is by OBSERVATION and AWARENESS within oneself.  Calorie tracking apps or dietitians cannot help us here. Machine learning algorithms can't predict whether a meal will make us feel satiated or not. It is only up to us to figure that out.

Jul 9, 2020

Free Printables to help in meal planning

By now, you all know my love for the Indian Food Composition Tables 🙂 I have been going through the document in detail and have been compiling the list of foods rich in specific nutrients. If you haven't taken a look, you can access the complete list - Plant-based sources of macro and micro-nutrients. There is a separate post for each individual vitamin/mineral. It's still work-in-progress and not a complete analysis yet. 

My intention is not to promote Nutritionism but rather to help people recognize and appreciate the wide diversity of local and seasonal foods that are available in India and that can meet our nutritional requirements without the need for artificial supplements/health drinks.

Going through each and every post might be time-consuming. So in order to make our lives easier, I plan to make a master compilation that you can print it out and pin it up on your fridge. Whenever you write down your weekly/monthly grocery list, my wish is that you refer to these printables and plan your meals. 

Instead of asking "I want a diet chart for weight loss/PCOD/thyroid etc", let's take the effort to understand the key principles and plan our meals ourselves. It is more fun and empowering this way than to blindly follow a diet chart prepared/followed by a random stranger on social media.

The first printable I'm sharing is on the foods rich in key minerals - calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium. There will be more printables I will be sharing in a similar format for vitamins and macro-nutrients as well.

Compilation of plant-based sources of minerals

Right Click on the image and click "Save Image as".

Let me know if you find this printable helpful in your meal planning.

Jul 6, 2020

How I brought down my Youtube subscriptions from 148 to 28?


"Mindful content consumption" or "Dejunk your mind" - pick a name for this exercise. I'm planning to share my journey on how I'm moving away from content overload to conscious content consumption. My first post in this series was on Instagram usage. Check it out if you haven't.

In this post, I plan to talk about Youtube content consumption.

Though Youtube has been around for a while, the content creation in India started to explode sometime around 2017. More content creators started to use this platform and create content frequently on a wide range of topics. 

I have been subscribing to many cooking channels, people who post interesting vlogs, cleaning and organizing videos, product management related content, productivity, time management, and much more. When I tried to curb my Instagram consumption last year by bringing it down to 30 min per day, all I was doing was switching over to Youtube for mindless scrolling and content consumption that captured my attention at that very point in time. There have been days when my Youtube watch time was nearly 3 hours 😞 I would end up watching so many recipes but would have tried only a few. When I questioned myself on my behavior, it wasn't fear of missing out (FOMO). Rather, it was the thirst towards learning and gathering new information on topics I'm most interested in. Also, whenever I would complete a task, I would end up relaxing for 10-15 minutes with my phone, consuming more content from Youtube. I felt like I deserved it and that it was my me-time.

Off late, my perspective towards me-time has shifted and I want to become more conscious about the information I feed my mind. Here's the step-by-step process of how I cleaned up my Youtube channel subscriptions.

1) I need to first become aware of the number of channels I'm subscribed to. Awareness is the key to making any change in our lives. As on 1st July 7:30PM, I was shocked to note that I had subscribed to 148 channels. I didn't expect this high number.

2) I had set myself a target that I would bring it down to 50 channels. I also announced it as an Instagram story to keep myself accountable.

3)The very same night, I sat down for 30 minutes and started unsubscribing to many channels using the following criteria:
  • Channels from which I haven't viewed content in the past one month
  • Channels that no longer upload any videos
  • Channels on topics that I no longer invest any effort in - there were a few channels that I had subscribed related to B2B sales, selling, sales enablement etc when I used to work with Mindtickle back in 2014-15.
Coming to the second criteria, as I was scrolling through the list, I came across this channel "geetradhu". I used to be a big fan of mama and mami a few years back. Such fun and candid conversations. But for the past year, they haven't uploaded any videos and as a subscriber, I had no idea that no new content was being posted. Our attention is being hijacked by the new and shiny.  On Instagram, if I remember someone not posting for a while, I might DM him/her to check if everything is okay. Let me admit, this happens extremely rarely. Whenever I take a break, I do hear from 5-6 people who would care to check if I'm doing okay. This is mainly due to our own efforts. The platforms don't enable such options.

Does any platform provide a way to connect with people who are no longer uploading/posting content? "Hey, you have been following geetradhu but they haven't uploaded in a while. Do you wanna message and check with them?" 

If I were a product manager of a social media platform, I would prioritize this feature. 

I digressed a bit here, but this needed to be highlighted.

After the first pass, I brought the subscriptions down to 72. Yes, around 50% unsubscribed.

4)I took a break for a couple of days and came back to this exercise. The main reason we subscribe to a channel is to ensure we don't miss out on their latest uploads. For videos that can be searched, we can simply use the Search option. For example, recipe videos can be easily searched given the name of the recipe. If we like a particular video, we can Save it. There is no need to be subscribed to a channel for these use cases.


Subscription is a way of inviting new content to our attention.

For the second round of cleanup, I asked myself a simple question, "Do I look forward to this content creator's new videos?" Using this question, I have now brought down my subscriptions to 28. Yes 28. Much less than the target of 50 🙂 So this gives me leeway to subscribe to a few more content creators if I find their content worthy of my attention.


Our attention is such a precious resource. Let's use it wisely. 

I see so many random vloggers who vlog every single detail of their lives. There is quite a bit of drama created in many of the vlogs. TV Serial makers can go on retirement now 😉 The thumbnail image and the title caption is being used extensively to grab our attention. Why invest our time and attention in such unwanted dramas?

Even if I choose to ignore all the drama creators and follow people who post useful content, how much of the content have I actually started practicing in my own life? What's the point of overloading our brains with more information if we are not putting it to use?

If you are spending too much time on Youtube, I hope these pointers will help you become more conscious of your content consumption.
Last but not the least, after you do this cleanup, whenever you are browsing Youtube, make sure you check the Subscription tab ONLY. If we go to "Recommended" section, we are again sucked into the world of content overload.  

Jul 3, 2020

The conversation

Last night, I couldn't sleep and was tossing and turning quite a bit. Then a conversation started happening in me that brought a lot of clarity.

Let's call the two characters - Logical Anu (LA) and Dreamer Anu (DA)

DA: I'm not able to sleep. And I know the reason. I've been hosting these workshops in the past few weeks but there are hardly any signups. Today, I announced the workshop for Saturday and there's only one confirmed registration so far. 
LA: Didn't you say it's for parents with children below 5 years age? How is it possible for them to sit through a 2-hour workshop?
DA: That's true....I was hoping that the mother and father can take turns and listen to the workshop, take notes and then have a fruitful interaction on how they can implement some of the ideas being shared.
LA: Hmm, that's possible but chances of it happening are farfetched. Child Nutrition is still the sole responsibility of the mother in our society. What other reasons do you think?
DA: Maybe, people have other commitments at the same time
LA: Yes, many online workshops are happening on Saturdays, people might have signed up for them.
DA: Also, there's a possibility that people might think Rs.500 for a 2-hour workshop is steep
LA: You have put in so much effort in researching, exploring and compiling the content for the workshop. If you offer it for free, people won't value it. I don't believe Rs.500 is steep in today's standards
DA: People might also think "She has been sharing her content for free through her blog and Instagram. Why pay for a workshop?"
LA: Yes, that's a valid point. But the blog content is based on individual ideas. You have tied them together in a proper structure for the workshop, along with personal experiences and anecdotes. That's what makes it valuable.
DA: True, I'm confident in the content I have prepared.
LA: What about marketing? What are the channels have you explored?
DA: I just posted on Instagram stories and updated my blog.
LA: Duh, Have you forgotten all you learned about marketing in your MBA programme? You will have to identify your target audience, figure out the online spaces where they frequent (groups, social media) and promote your workshop aggressively. 
DA: Hold on, I'm not looking for a large crowd. If I can empower at least 10 parents with the information I share, I'm more than happy. 
LA: How about influencers on Instagram? Did you reach out to any of them?
DA: No, I find the whole process so artificial. If anyone believes what I'm offering can make a difference in someone's lives, they would be motivated to share it themselves. Sucking up to influencers is definitely not my cup of tea. I have seen how an individual who used to say nasty things about an influencer then goes onto commenting nice things on every single post of that influencer, just because she wants to promote her business. I don't want to label her as a hypocrite because that's how the system is designed to be. 
LA: You are one adamant girl with respect to your principles. Maybe, you should put up videos of D more often. And for God's sake, why D? Why not reveal her real name? 
DA: hahaha....D is my daughter but that doesn't give me the right to invade her privacy. She might be too young to understand privacy but I don't want to use her. I see so many parents sharing videos of their kids, just before announcing their workshop on parenting. Why are these so-called influencers painting such a rosy picture of their lives? Why aren't they also showing reality? 
LA: Again, it is your personal value system coming to play here. It is your choice not to show a video of your daughter in a public forum, as much as it is their choice to show videos of their kids.
DA: Moreover, how is it going to help a young mother when she sees my daughter eating a bowl of veggies? If her child doesn't eat vegetables, it will only make her feel uncomfortable. I'd rather share the process I experienced and learned that has helped me in making my daughter eat her vegetables.
LA: That's a good perspective. Maybe, you should make your posts sound extremely aspirational. People will then feel more curious. Why not share raw vegan ideas or similar such higher goals? Why post a picture of kesari and bajji?
DA: I want people to know the reality, lady.....this is what I eat. People should be able to relate to me easily. This will motivate them to implement the ideas I share. We can aim to climb to step 10 of the ladder, only if we climb steps 1 to 9. Just standing at step 1 and looking at people in step 10 wouldn't help. 
LA: Phew....I ran out of my logical questions now. What do you plan to do?
DA: I enjoy conducting these workshops. I'm in a total state of "flow" during those 2 hours where I get to talk about the topic I'm most passionate about. I wish I had this information handed to me in a platter when D was a baby. I want young mothers to feel empowered. So even if it is just one registration, I'm going ahead with it. I don't treat this as a business but my CALLING. I'm answering this calling in multiple ways, one of them being these workshops. While I do my duty, the universe will take care of bringing the people. 

Jul 1, 2020

Mindful Content Consumption on Instagram

 
Most of us have become more conscious about what we put in our mouths. We have now reached a stage where we need to become more conscious about what we put in our minds as well.

Similar to junk for the body, there is junk for our minds too. Yes, I'm talking about the various forms of content we consume. It is even worse, you know how? Even if you can gobble up a party pack of Lays chips in one go, our stomach would eventually push the Stop button and say, "Enough, I can't take it anymore". But with content, we can keep consuming so much in a single day. Our appetite for new content can never be satisfied unless we end up with eye irritation or headache late in the evening.

I love reading and I consume content in all forms - books, videos, articles, blogs, news etc. I used to be active on all social media platforms. I used to "Pocket" so many links, just so that I can read them at a later point of time. I used to open so many tabs in my browser. Many times I would hit a half-century of open tabs. My laptop would slow down but I wouldn't.

Last year, after reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, I consciously started taking note of my content sources and consumption patterns. I had implemented a few changes then, which are still going strong. I completely stopped using Facebook and Twitter. I was sharing my content on nutrition and packaged foods but I hardly got much engagement. I could no longer resonate with the content I was consuming. After a point, I just lost interest in these platforms.

I also realized that I was spending more time on Instagram. So I came up with a 30-min time slot per day when I would install the app, post/comment/reply to DMs and then uninstall the app. This was working fine to some extent but the number of DMs and comments started to increase and it was hard to keep up with them in the 30-min slot. Moreover, I couldn't really engage with the posts of people whom I follow.

That's when a major realization happened. I "follow" someone because I find something of value from their posts. 

"Value" could be ideas (recipes, cooking tips) or inspirations (parenting, life hacks, productivity, personal experiences). 

The habit of randomly consuming content or bookmarking relevant posts seemed counter-productive until and unless I make the recipes or try out the insights I learned. 

Around that time, I was following around 150 people. I decided to set a "following" target to 100 and the decision to follow/unfollow happened with the help of these three questions:

Do I enjoy the content shared by this person?
Is the content from this person something I can practice in my life right away?
Do I feel overwhelmed or anxious when I see their content?

I was able to bring down the following count to 100 and was sustaining this number for quite some time. I used to have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in my 20s but no longer in my 30s.

Then COVID happened and my content consumption went haywire in March. I went back to my twitter and Linkedin feeds, which only added to more anxiety. After a few days of panic and confusion, better sense prevailed. For most of April, I stopped using all social media platforms. From May, I starting using Instagram again, and even with the limited following count, there was just too much information for me to absorb. Pruning happened yet again and I have brought down my following count to 60, using the same three questions.

If you feel overwhelmed or disturbed after using social media, take a break for a few days. When you come back, make sure you go through the list of people whom you follow. If someone's content(including mine) makes you feel anxious or disturbed, mute them or unfollow them. Decide the technique based on what works for you. I personally don't like to mute as it gives a false perception. Moreover, I want to engage with the content of people who I follow. 

"Wait a minute. You have only spoken about consumption. What about connections and friendships we form on social media?", I hear your question.

There are 3 Cs that we try to accomplish by spending time on social media - Creation, Consumption and Connection.  The main objective of this article is to be mindful of the 2nd C - Consumption.

Regarding the 3rd C, I asked myself - How are Connections formed on social media? 
It again goes back to discovery through value. I find something valuable and interesting in a post. I start following the person. As I explore their previous posts, I start noticing synergies in our thought process/ideologies/beliefs. I connect with the person more through his/her posts, we DM each other and we form a bond of friendship. This whole process takes time and doesn't happen overnight. For someone like me, I prefer to have this circle of friendship quite small. It is just not feasible for me to build a large network of "friends" on social media. Friendship needs time commitment from both parties involved. 

In this post, I have shared how I'm mindfully consuming content on Instagram. In the subsequent posts, I'll talk about newsletters, emails, Youtube channels, WhatsApp groups etc.

Jun 25, 2020

Me-time



What is me-time? This is a question I'm pondering about. 

These are the activities I earlier considered as me-time:
reading, browsing my phone (Instagram, Youtube), browsing my laptop (articles, blogs), watching movies.
I've started to take a different perspective these days.
Me-time is when I'm with myself and my thoughts without any distractions.
All the activities I had listed above are not really my thoughts. I'm investing my time and energy in the thoughts of others in the form of books, movies and social media updates. These are filtered information that is being shared. There are quite a few insights that I have gleaned from these sources over the years. But only when I started incorporating those insights in my life, I learned more about what works and what doesn't work for my situation.

Learning from others doesn't give a complete picture of the context. What we see/hear/read is only the final outcome that a person shares on any platform. This blogpost is a filtered output of my thoughts on how I have started to interpret me-time.

Let's take social media as an example - we only share what we want others to see. We don't share a complete view of us - the good, the bad and the ugly. Firstly, it is humanly impossible to share each and everything that happens in our day-to-day lives. Even if we roam around with a camera on hand all the time, we filter and show only the parts of our day which we feel like sharing.

When we see a post, our mind immediately creates a perception of the person sharing that post. These perceptions are shortcuts that our mind creates to categorize people. This happens subconsciously based on our beliefs, the environment we grew up in and many other factors.

These mental shortcuts are useful for us to foresee any danger and be prepared to fight/flight. But they can also mislead us and we might end up forming false perceptions of a person. "Don't judge a book by its cover" equivalent of "Don't judge a person based on what he/she shares on social media", if I may say so.

Recently, I had assumed something about a person based on what she shared on her social media feed but later when I realized the assumption was wrong, I felt a tinge of disappointment.

My point is that we try to grab our "me-time" from our loved ones, in order to scroll through our phones and absorb these false perceptions created on social media. Same goes with youtube channels where many people show their perfectly crafted lives in the form of vlogs but the reality is totally different. 

Yes, we can take inspiration from many people but a mere collection of ideas will not take us anywhere. As I reflect deeper, the books I love the most are those from which I have been able to incorporate certain ideas into my work or personal life. 

I'm trying to be more mindful and conscious of my "content consumption" these days. I have started to ask myself the following questions:

How much time I'm spending on consumption?
What is the quality of the content I'm consuming? Is it worth my time?
How much is the quantity of the content I'm consuming? Is it worth the context switch I'm experiencing, consuming on a wide range of topics?
How do I feel after consuming the content? Is it triggering or influencing my emotions in any way?
What are the learnings/takeaways from the content consumed? How do I plan to apply the same?

As I'm reducing my content consumption patterns, I'm also trying to grab me-time opportunities where I'm with my thoughts completely. An important idea I learned in my minimalism workshop with Durgesh Nandhini is this - "Chores are a form of meditation with eyes open". This statement was an eye-opener. Though I never detested doing chores at home, I never thought of it from this perspective.

Thanks to lockdown, I'm more engaged in household chores for which I had a house-help earlier. I'm also now making sure that I don't multitask while doing chores. I used to proclaim, "multitasking is my strength" but I now seek out opportunities to focus completely on a single task at hand without any distractions.

My me-time is now shifted to the following activities:
  • Cooking
  • Washing dishes
  • Sweeping and mopping
  • Folding clothes
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga and Pranayama
  • Walking (no step counters, no music, no podcasts, no audiobooks)
  • Sitting quietly without doing anything - toughest one but I'm trying 🙂
What is me-time according to you?

P.S. The structure of this blog post came to me while washing dishes last evening :-)


Jun 20, 2020

Birthday cake

 
 
For the past few months, whenever I attend a birthday party or see pictures of a birthday party, I ask myself, "Why do we need a birthday cake?" The immediate answer that comes to my mind is "Duh, that's how people celebrate birthdays all over the world".

I haven't researched the history behind birthday cakes but as I look back, my brother and I never had a birthday cake during our childhood. Our parents used to buy us a new birthday dress every year. We would wear it to school and distribute chocolates to our classmates. We would take blessings from grandparents and they would give us a small token of money as a gift. Our grandmother would make payasam (kheer) on our star birthday date (which would mostly be a different date than the English calendar date). That's the ritual for kids' birthdays up to the age of 10-11 years. Our parents never celebrated their birthdays. I don't think it is due to financial constraints but more about the mindset. When we ask why they don't celebrate their birthdays, Appa would just say, "ezhu kazhudai vayasaachu, inime enna birthday celebration!" (We are old enough that we don't need any celebration for our birthday).

These days, every family who can afford a birthday cake buys one for each family member, irrespective of age. Children enjoy the cake whereas adults eat with a lot of guilt and apprehension - "Let me just take a small slice", we tell the host. Most bakeries and home bakers take birthday cake order of 1/2 kg minimum, which is quite a large quantity for a small family of 3-4. We might end up either overeating, distribute to a few others or end up throwing the remaining cake. The bigger the cake, the larger the wastage. For most birthday parties, people end up ordering large size of cake with sugar-loaded fondant or rich icing, decorated with artificial colors. Again, a big portion ends up in the trash can. That scene from the first story of "sillu karupatti" is heart-wrenching, where the kids scour through trash in a landfill to find fondant of an Elsa doll on a birthday cake. 

A few days back, my husband K decided to bake a chocolate cake. While he was getting the ingredients ready, he screamed out loud, "How much sugar and butter go into this! I didn't realize it this long". The same realization happened with me when I started baking in 2014. The amount of sugar, refined oil and maida that goes into baking a cake is just unbelievable. I try and substitute with slightly healthier options - 50:50 wholewheat flour and maida, jaggery or cane sugar in place of white sugar on the rare occasions I bake at home. But most of the commercial bakeries don't choose healthier ingredients. With home bakers, unless we specifically ask them to make a healthier version, they would also use the same maida, sugar and oil combination.

One might argue, "It is just a once-a-year event. Why fuss over so much?". Let me break the harsh truth - Even if we have reached ezhu kazhudai vayasu (adulthood), birthday cakes are being bought for us. So for a family of 4, there are 4 birthday cakes in a year. Add a wedding anniversary cake and a couple of other celebrations like New Year, Valentine's day etc. Not to forget the umpteen birthday parties in the apartment community, office birthday parties, school friends' parties etc. No wonder, birthday cake bakers are raking in the moolah while we keep wondering how our HbA1C levels are climbing. 

For the past two years, I asked my husband not to buy me a cake on my birthday. I'd rather enjoy a small bowl of paruppu payasam with jaggery on my special day than eat junk. 

Why treat our bodies with junk on our special day? Is this how we want to celebrate?

That brings me to the next question.

"Why do we even celebrate our birthdays?" 

Celebrations are a good opportunity to spend time with loved ones, feel special and be treated extra special. It is a perfect day to create good memories.

But can't we celebrate our lives on a daily basis? Why wait for that ONE special day? Why can't we feel special every single day?

It is okay if you disagree with this post. I'm just sharing my thoughts here. Let's not argue over it.

The one thing that has struck me from Durgesh Nandhini's minimalism workshop is "Question everything". I question the need for a birthday cake through this post. Recently, she posted a picture of her daughter's birthday cake made with fruits. How beautiful is that cake! Layers of watermelon surrounded by grapes and banana slices. Just amazing! Maathi yosikkalaame !! (Let's think differently)




Jun 17, 2020

How to sustain motivation?

 
I was talking to a startup founder a couple of weeks back and one of our common interest areas was "health and wellness". He brought up an interesting point, "I believe the key problem to address in this space is the lack of sustained motivation". 

I have been mulling over this phrase - sustained motivation and started observing myself to understand this phrase in depth. 

This morning, I rolled my Yoga mat to start my morning practice. The next one hour felt so blissful as I stretched and pushed myself. I wouldn't have done this self-practice a couple of years back but now it has become a habit every morning, especially since the lockdown in March.

What has changed in order to feel this motivation and sustain it for a period of time? I think it boils down to these 4 reasons:

Intrinsic desire:
I have started telling myself, "I want to do Yoga". The statement is no longer "I have to do Yoga". This simple change in the conversation we have with ourselves makes a world of difference. We need to feel that want, that desire in order to pursue a goal.

Tiny wins:
While going for my classes, I used to set tiny goals for myself - hold a particular asana for at least 7 counts, hold the plank for at least 15 counts etc. I'm continuing the same habit while doing self-practice these days. Recognizing and appreciating tiny wins matter. Let's not link success with big outcomes like losing 10 kgs in a month OR doing shirsasana as soon as we enroll for Yoga. Knowing our current potential, setting tiny challenges to improve ourselves and valuing these tiny wins is the way to sustain motivation in the long run. 

Results and process:
Since I have been practicing Yoga for nearly 5 years, I have realized the tremendous benefits it has brought in me, both in my body as well as mind. Let me admit - results do motivate me quite a bit. Having brought up in a society that values achievement and accomplishment, I'm not gonna feel bad for saying that out aloud. I have also realized that until I enjoy the process, I don't see myself pushing towards the intended results. The process needs to be fun and joyful in order to feel motivated. For any wellness related effort, after a time period of 3-6 months, our body starts to respond beautifully. Enjoying the process for those 3-6 months is essential for us to start noticing the intended results.

Influence of our family/society:
It is quite upsetting to see the health ailments that my family elders deal with - diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis, obesity etc. I don't want to get into the trap of lifestyle diseases and the numerous medications (and their side effects). It is not about anxiety or worry but more about understanding my priorities that prevention is better than cure. I visualize myself to be a fit and active person in my 60s and 70s. 

What motivates you to sustain your effort for a longer period of time? Share in the comments.

Jun 15, 2020

Plant based sources of Selenium

Trace minerals are required in very little quantities but they play a vital role across multiple functions in our body. The nine trace minerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. Yes, iron is a trace mineral too.

I had earlier shared the plant-based sources of iron and zinc

In this post, let's focus on Selenium as it seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, specifically with respect to immunity. 

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, protecting against oxidative stress. It plays a vital role in our heart and thyroid functions. It helps to reduce insulin resistance, which makes it an important nutrient for diabetics. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

The intention of this post is NOT to elaborate on the benefits of selenium. You can get the information easily from a Google search. Most of the material available on Youtube/Google search talk about selenium-rich foods either not local to India OR predominantly meat-based sources. 

All I wanted to share through this post is the list of plant-based sources of selenium compiled from IFCT-2017.

According to the note shared by FSSAI, the RDA for Selenium is 40 mcg per day. Many of the US-based health institutions have specified an RDA of 55 mcg per day.

Here's the list of plant-based sources of Selenium:

Selenium
(microgm per 100 gms)
Cereals
Wheat flour, atta53.12
Samai40.4
Bajra30.4
Jowar26.3


Pulses
Bengal gram, dal51
Green gram, dal50
Peas, dry50
Lentil dal (Masoor dal)49.5
Bengal gram, whole41
Horsegram29.5
Black gram, whole27.98
Cowpea, white26.55


Green leafy veg
Beet greens47.75
Radish leaves33.05
Agathi leaves30.7
Amaranth leaves, red22.55
Curry leaves17.25
Mint leaves10.79


Vegetables
Broadbeans9
Tomato, green8.25
Onion, stalk5.22
Lotus root4.61


Fruits
Papaya12.78


Condiments & Spices
Omum (Ajwain)87.04
Mustard seeds71.47
Pippali (long pepper)20.5


Nuts and Seeds
Niger seeds, grey154
Garden cress seeds54.41
Gingelly seeds, brown52.64
Flaxseeds47
Niger seeds, black39
Dry coconut25.25


Wheat is a rich source of selenium. So are the local millets - little millet (saamai), pearl millet (bajra) and sorghum (jowar).
Most of the lentils and pulses that are commonly available in India are excellent sources of selenium.
Beet greens and radish greens are good sources of selenium but we hardly get these veggies along with their greens in urban areas. 
There are very few vegetables and fruits (except papaya) that contain selenium. 
Commonly used seeds like sesame seeds and flaxseeds are decent sources of selenium. The other not-so-common seeds such as niger seeds (gurellu / uchellu in Kannada) and garden cress seeds (halim seeds) are good sources, with garden cress seeds being rich in iron as well.
As you can see, it is possible to meet our daily requirement of selenium by including a combination of millets and pulses in our daily diet. Let's not evaluate a food item solely based on whether it contains "carbs" or not. There are high chances we would end up with micronutrient deficiencies with such a mindset.

Jun 11, 2020

எலி ஓட்டம் (Rat race)

எப்பொழுது தொடங்கியது
இந்த முடிவில்லா ஓட்டம்
கல்லூரிப் படிப்பில் சேர்ந்த பிறகா
வேலைக்கு சேர்ந்த பிறகா

சிறிது நேரம் அமர்ந்து
யோசித்த வேளையில் 
அந்த நொடிகள் 
ஆர்ப்பரித்தன கண்களில் 

முதல் மதிப்பெண் எடு
என்ற அம்மாவின் அறிவுரை

பனிரெண்டாம் வகுப்பில்
நன்மதிப்பை பெரு 
உன் வாழ்க்கை
சிறந்து விளங்கும் என்றனர்

பொறியியல் படிப்பை 
தேர்ந்தெடு 
உன் எதிர்காலம்
பிரகாசமானதாகிவிடும் என்றனர்

நல்ல வேலையில் 
சேர்ந்து விடு
உன் வாழ்க்கை
கனிந்து விடும் என்றனர்

மேலாளர் பதவியை
அடைந்து விடு
உன் பொருளாதாரம்
சிறந்து விளங்கும் என்றனர்

இருபதுகள் கடந்தன
இவை அனைத்தும் 
செய்து முடிக்க
மறு பேச்சு பேசாமல்
இளைப்பாற நேரம் இல்லாமல்
சமூக எதிர்ப்பார்ப்புகளை
நிவர்த்தி செய்ய

முப்பதுகளில் காலடி
எடுத்து வைத்தேன்
இன்னும் வேகமாய் ஒடு
இன்னும் சிறப்பை தேடு
என்ற அறைகூவல்கள்

மடியில் என் குட்டி தேவதை
என்னை மீட்க அவதரித்தாள்
வேகத்தை குறைத்தேன்
நிமிடங்களை சேகரிக்க தொடங்கினேன் 

என்னை தேட துவங்கினேன்
என் தனி தன்மையை அறிந்தேன்
சமூகம் மதிக்கும் வெற்றி இலக்கை
நோக்கி ஓடாமல்
என் இதயம்  துடிக்கும் பாதை
தேடி மெல்ல நகர்கின்றேன் 


Jun 10, 2020

5 points to keep in mind when starting your PCOS reversal journey


 If you have been diagnosed with PCOS and are starting on the journey to make lifestyle changes, I would suggest that you remind yourself of these 5 key points daily:

1. Give yourself enough time
PCOS is a lifestyle disorder. It is not an ailment like cold/cough/fever where you take medication for a fixed time and it gets cured. It takes time for the lifestyle changes to reverse the damage done and set you on the right path. The weight gain didn't happen in a single day. Please don't expect overnight weight loss. I know it is easier said than done, given the pressure we face from our family members and the stress we put on ourselves. Be patient. Tell yourself, "I'm gonna give myself 6 months to get my health back on track".

2. Be consistent with the lifestyle changes
PCOS is mostly given attention when you are trying to get pregnant. I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2004 and the gynecologist whom I consulted with said to me, "We don't need to intervene now. Come back to me when you are ready to get pregnant. We will handle this situation then". I'm sure the treatment protocols have changed now and many gynecologists advise you to make the necessary lifestyle changes. 
These lifestyle changes need to be followed throughout your lifetime. If you go back to old wrong habits, the symptoms would start to reoccur. Even after you have conceived and delivered, follow the lifestyle changes diligently.

3. Give equal importance to all areas
There are four areas under which the lifestyle changes to address PCOS fall into. They are food/nutrition, activity/exercise, sleep and mental wellbeing/stress management. But our attention is completely hijacked towards food and diet. Even if you eat a low carb diet and all the superfoods of the world, if you don't focus on the other three areas, you wouldn't see the desired results. Aim to achieve 80% in all four areas, not 100% in food.

4. Focus on daily habits, not end outcomes
Instead of checking your weight daily, I'd recommend that you focus on your daily habits. Set a daily habit tracker and track them - Did I get a good sleep tonight? Did I eat balanced, wholesome meals? How do I feel today? Did I move around adequately? Did I get my yoga practice done?

5. Take responsibility
It is easier to complain and feel self-pity towards yourself. But the right thing to do is to take responsibility for your health. Start making small changes day by day. Don't feel overwhelmed. Make a list of lifestyle changes to make. Convert them into measurable daily habits. Pick 2 each week and make sure you focus on them that week. For the next week, add a couple more and focus on the 4 habits for that week. 
 
Which of these 5 points resonate with you? Which one do you find it more challenging? Share in the comments below.

Jun 8, 2020

Plant-based sources of Potassium


Most popular packaged foods such as instant soups, pasta sauces, salad dressings, processed cheese etc are extremely high in sodium. Excess sodium affects our health in so many ways - raises our blood pressure, thereby putting pressure on our heart and our kidneys. 

When we consume excess sodium, it leads to water retention in the body. This increases the volume of blood in circulation, leading to high blood pressure. Diet high in sodium increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. If the dietary intake of calcium is low, our body is forced to let go of the calcium from the bones. Loss of calcium leads to osteoporosis or weakening of bones.

As our diet becomes more and more Westernized, we end up consuming way more packaged foods. Our daily meals are being prepared with highly processed sauces, dips, spreads and dressings. As much as we are cutting down on our sugar intake, it is equally important to cut down our salt intake as well. 

Along with cutting down sodium, let's also focus on increasing our potassium intake. 

What's the role of potassium in our body? 
Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in multiple functions of our body - 
helps to manage the fluid balance
regulates our blood pressure, 
reduces potential stroke risks,
helps in muscle contraction/relaxation
and much more.

According to this Harvard article,


Too little potassium and too much sodium is bad for the heart and general health.


Potassium and sodium together play a huge role in regulating blood pressure.

When the kidneys flush out excess sodium from the body, it also removes potassium. 

One way to flush sodium out of the body is by getting more potassium. The higher the ratio of sodium:potassium, the greater the chance of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Increasing potassium and reducing sodium intake => both need to happen together
The article also states that the sodium requirement of our body is 200 mg a day, whereas the potassium requirement is around 4700 mg for adults.

According to WHO, the potassium requirement is around 3510 mg per day for adults.

Potassium is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, greens, lentils, nuts and seeds. Here's a list of plant-based sources of potassium compiled from IFCT - 2017 (Indian Food Composition Tables).



CerealsPotassium
(mg per 100 gms)
Quinoa474
Ragi443
Amaranth seeds420
Bajra365
Jowar328
Wheat flour, atta311


Legumes
Red gram(thuar dal)1395
Rajma1360
Moth bean1356
Green gram, dal1268
Cowpea1241
Black gram, dal1157
Horsegram1065
Bengal gram, dal957
Peas, dry922


Green Leafy Veg
Agathi675
Betel leaves660
Brussels Sprouts639
Spinach625
Curry leaves584
Amaranth leaves570
Coriander leaves546
Mint leaves539
Parsley466
Ponnanganni457


Other Veggies
Red gram, tender, fresh616
Lotus Root611
Colacasia514
Yam, Elephant501
Plantain flower488
Potato474
Garlic450
Drumstick419
Ginger407
Plantain, green402
Mango ginger384
Jackfruit, seeds376
Plantain stem373
Ashgourd372
Broad beans362
Sweet potato345
Cauliflower329
Jackfruit, raw327
Knolkol327
Bittergourd326
French beans315
Beetroot306


Fruits
Raisins1105
Tamarind836
Dates804
Bael fruit409
Avocado377
Wood apple347
Banana330
Custard Apple278


Condiments & Spices
Turmeric powder2374
Red chillies2245
Cumin seeds1886
Pipali (Long pepper)1852
Omum (Ajwain)1692
Black pepper1487
Coriander seeds1473
Cloves1434
Cardamom1262
Fenugreek seeds891


Nuts & Seeds
Pistachio1053
Garden cress seeds952
Dry coconut739
Niger seeds716
Almond699
Mustard seeds694
Groundnut679
Flaxseeds655
Cashewnut635
Gingelly seeds480
Walnut457


Jaggery488
Coconut water215
Button Mushrooms318



  1. Most green leafy vegetables that we easily get in India are rich in potassium (>250 mg per 100gms). I have highlighted the top 10 above.
  2. Similarly, the various lentils and pulses that we eat on a daily basis are all so high in potassium
  3. When it comes to grains/cereals, millets like ragi, bajra and jowar are on the top of the list. They are not only rich in potassium but various other minerals such as calcium, iron etc
  4. Many of the local (country) veggies such as plantain flower, colocasia(arbi), drumstick etc can provide us enough potassium, along with other nutrients.
  5. Most of us are aware that banana is a good source of potassium. 100 gms of banana contains 330mg of potassium. Including this fruit on a daily basis isn't a difficult task, given that bananas are available throughout the year.
  6. The various condiments and spices that we use on a daily basis in Indian cuisine contribute significantly to our micro-nutrients intake, not just potassium. 
My intention to compile these nutrient specific sources is not to move our thought process towards nutritionism

As you can see from my earlier posts as well, all I want to highlight and emphasize is this crucial point -  Local produce available here in India are so rich in various micro-nutrients, be it the veggies, greens and the local fruits. The indigenous millets and pulses also help us significantly to meet our recommended dietary intake of various nutrients. There is no need to take additional synthetic/artificial supplements or buy expensive health mix powders unless you have a serious medical condition.

Let's plan our meals to include a variety of veggies, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses. I had shared some thoughts in an earlier post - How to plan for nutritional variety?

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