Nov 19, 2020

Benefits of eating an early dinner

 One major positive change that I made in 2020 is to have an early dinner before 7PM. I have mentioned this in a few posts but I believe this one needs a separate post in itself. 

Until last year, I used to finish my dinner by 8PM on most days. I slowly shifted the timings to 7:30, 7:15 and now 7PM. This shift by just an hour has made a huge difference in my life in multiple ways.

(1) I automatically feel sleepy by 9:30-10PM 
(2) Since there is a good 3-hour gap between the time I finish my dinner and the time I go to bed, the food I eat gets digested easily
(3) My stomach feels light when I wake up the next morning
(4) Bowel movements are regular 
(4) Sleep quality is much better
(5) I start to feel hungry by 8:30-9AM and my stomach is ready to eat a proper breakfast
(6) I have lost a few inches around my tummy. These were quite stubborn inches, by the way :-) And people with PCOD would know how hard it is to lose weight around the tummy
(7) My mind feels fresh and active the next morning. No sluggishness or lethargy

My dinner menu is quite simple. Usually, it is either dal rice, kichdi, dosa+chutney/sambhar, sambhar rice, rasam rice etc. Yes, I prefer to eat rice for dinner, as it suits my body and it digests easily. No soup, salad or rotis. Figure out what foods work for your body and choose accordingly. There are no universal guidelines applicable for all. 

Whenever I talk about early dinner, I get atleast a couple of DMs asking whether I would feel hungry around 9-10PM. I don't feel hungry after dinner and I don't eat or drink anything else. I usually chew 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds (sombu/saunf) after dinner. This helps to ease the digestion. At the same time, this habit acts as a signal to my brain (and tummy) that no more food would follow from hereon.

Having an early dinner helps our body and mind in so many ways. Do give it a try. Take it slow, shift it back by 15-20 minutes at a time, continue it for a few weeks and then shift it further. 

P.S. If you sleep late by midnight or post that, then you might end up feeling hungry if you have an early dinner. Try to fix your sleep routine first, before changing your dinner timings.

Nov 13, 2020

Dealing with unexpected situations

A few days back, I stumbled upon a speech by Tamil Actor Satyaraj. It was just a small clip, a few seconds from his speech. Wish I could get hold of the entire speech.

I'm translating what he spoke in Tamil

"In life, if we want to be happy, we have to stop doing two things

(1) Stop worrying about what other people think of you

(2) Stop trying to change how other people should behave"

This was such a powerful statement. As I pondered over it, I realized that I have reduced the first thought pattern to a large extent over the years, which has brought in a lot of peace.

But I also realized that I get caught in the second thought pattern more often. Not just that, but I try to take it even further - Trying to change not just how people should behave but also change the different situations I encounter. Yeah, wishful thinking!

Life throws unexpected situations at us. They can neither be predicted nor be molded in a way we want them to unfold. Complete acceptance is the solution I hear from many. But I find it hard to reach that level of complete acceptance and surrender to the situation. I see myself resisting a lot when the situation is unfavorable to me.

Ever since I became aware of this nature of mine, instead of pushing myself hard to accept the situation, I have started to follow this 3-step process.

(1) I ask myself this question - "Can I do anything to change the situation?"

More often than not, the response is NO.

(2) I pick up my journal or open Evernote and journal about the situation on the following lines:

  • Why am I feeling uncomfortable about this situation?
  • How would this situation affect me?
  • Are there any positives that this situation can bring in?
  • What are the possible negative outcomes I'm foreseeing?
  • How can I address these? Are there any workarounds I can figure out?

(3) I reflect on my priorities and realign my schedule to accommodate the new situation but at the same time, not give up on what I needed to do for my happiness and peace.

From my experience, the key learning in the past few months is this - Acceptance and surrender might be the destination - a state of utmost peace, but for people in the journey, trying to practice complete acceptance without clear thinking and planning will only lead to more frustrations and helplessness.

The situation we encounter might be out of our control, but how we deal with it in an empowered way requires a good deal of planning and reflection.

Nov 9, 2020

Generalist or Specialist?

Yesterday, this thought flashed in my mind while I was pondering over certain things - "Be a generalist student and a specialist teacher".

There's this classic debate that's been going on for decades - "Should I be a generalist or a specialist?". I've been gravitating more towards being a generalist, as I'm curious to learn about a wide range of subjects. I'm yet to read the popular book "Range" by David Epstein that talks about the benefits of taking a generalist approach. It's on my reading list and I hope to get to it soon.

Why do I prefer to be a generalist? 

  • Life is too short to go deep into just one single area of interest. As you grow older, your interests start to change
  • When there is curiosity, it is best to ignite it by reading about the subject, researching and talking to people about the same.
  • By being interested in multiple subjects, you can cross-reference the ideas from each other.
  • Sustaining interest levels on a single topic for a long time is a big challenge for me.

Having said that, I also understand that if we are still learning, if our understanding is still evolving, it is best we don't teach or preach to a wider audience.

In Albert Einstein's words, 

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

Teaching is considered the most effective way to learn a subject better. If the intention to teach is to learn effectively, then we can share our learnings with a close friend or a family member and see if the way we explain it to them helps them understand the topic.

But teaching to a larger audience on a subject in which our understanding is still evolving leads to a lot of repercussions. 

  • The audience will easily be able to spot the contradictions. As our understanding evolves, what we believed to be true a few weeks back might undergo a shift, which is perfectly normal.
  • When students have a doubt or need clarification, it becomes difficult to answer them with clarity of thought. We start to fumble. Our body language and vocal expression would clearly show that we are not thorough with the subject. This breaks the trust of the audience.
  • Without going deeper, spending adequate time and effort in researching a subject and trying out the ideas ourselves for a good amount of time, we wouldn't be able to make an impact. It might end up confusing the audience more than being helpful.

This thought - "Be a generalist student and a specialist teacher" seems to be in alignment with the T model of learning, where we go deeper on a specific subject, build expertise and practice that gives us the clarity to teach others and at the same time, develop curiosity over a wide range of subjects.

Did this post resonate with you? Are you a generalist or a specialist? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Oct 30, 2020

How to beat procrastination?


Apart from laziness and lack of consistency, the third challenge that most of us face when it comes to achieving our health goals is Procrastination.

Imagine this situation - you woke up at 7 AM, made yourself a nice, hot cup of coffee. Your mind tells you that you need to head for a brisk walk. But you are too occupied with scrolling through the social media feed that you tell yourself - "I'll step out around 9 AM". 9 AM comes and you are in the kitchen making breakfast. The brisk walk reminder triggers in your head and you tell yourself - "There's so much work to do now. I can't step out for a walk. Maybe, I'll go in the evening". 

It is 4 PM. You do want to finish that brisk walk but one of these three situations pan out.

  • It is lightly drizzling. And your family demands some hot bajjis for an evening snack. 
  • It has been a tiring day and you just want to lie down and scroll through the Instagram feed
  • It is still too hot and you don't want to get the migraine that triggers whenever you walk under the hot sun

Similar such excuses crop up and the brisk walk plan is put on the back burner. The misalignment between your thought and your action (or lack of) gives that uncomfortable, nagging feeling but you put it aside by distracting yourself with a Netflix series.

Sounds familiar?

Procrastination comes in various shapes and forms.

I'll start exercising from 1st Jan 2021

I'll start eating healthy from the beginning of next month

I'll cut down on processed foods completely starting next week

I'll control my social media usage from tomorrow morning

When we put aside every little habit for a future time and date, procrastination kicks in. Yes, tomorrow is also the future and it is uncertain. 

Today is all we have.

Reflect on those activities/habits/tasks that you tend to procrastinate. Do you see a pattern emerging?

As I reflected on my behaviors, what I have realized is that I tend to procrastinate on tasks where I want the results but I don't enjoy the process.

For example, I have been meaning to shoot a few videos but I have been procrastinating it for weeks with various excuses. The main reason for procrastination is that I don't enjoy editing videos and I find it to be too cumbersome.

As I reflected more, I started to understand the reasons behind procrastination.

Procrastination occurs 

  • when we want the results but the process isn't enjoyable
  • when the result is not tangible or measurable
  • when the result takes months/years to materialize
  • when the steps towards achieving a goal are ambiguous 

We also tend to procrastinate when we put others' needs before ours. This is especially true with women and our health. Some of us even feel guilty when we take time out for our exercise/well-being. 

Now that we have a fair idea of procrastination, how can we beat it to achieve our goals?

(1) Shift the mindset from "I have to do this particular task" to "I want to do this particular task"

(2) Be extremely clear with yourself on WHY you want to do a particular task. Journal about it, write it down in your own words, read through the journal entries now and then. When the WHY is clear to you, you'd automatically figure out ways to get it done

(3) Do not obsess over the results. Let it happen at its own time and pace

(4) Break down an ambitious goal into smaller milestones that are easy to measure. For eg, if waking up early is your goal and you are clear about WHY you want to meet this goal, break it down into

  • For the next 5 days, I will wake up at 6:30 AM
  • Once I'm able to do this, I will start waking up at 6 AM

(5) For ambiguous goals, identify the very next action to take that is currently feasible to you. 

(6) Make a little progress every single day. Wrote about this in an old blog post

If we are procrastinating something, it is also worthwhile to check if we are precrastinating something else. Are we spending too much time on tasks that are neither urgent nor important? Read all about precrastination in this blog post.

Hope you found these pointers helpful. Do share your tips and tricks to beat procrastination.

Oct 29, 2020

Jelimals Immunoz Review

 Immunity is the buzzword these days, with brands leveraging this magic word left, right and center. Be it their marketing campaigns, advertisements or even the product line variation, brands are exploiting this word big time, given that there is no regulation controlling the use of this important word in the present pandemic situation.

A candy loaded with synthetic colors and sugar using the word Immunity must be the biggest joke of 2020. Take a look at the Ingredients list - the first two ingredients are Sugar and Liquid Glucose. Each recommended serving (2 jellies) contain 2 tsp of sugar.  Whether this product provides immunity or not, the added sugar will deplete whatever immunity is already present in the child.

The product emphasizes on added Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and Zinc (zinc sulphate) as the sources of immunity. For a serving size of 2 jellies, as per their nutrition facts table,
Vitamin C - 20 mg 
Zinc - 1.35 mg

A single medium sized guava (100 gm) would give around 220 mg of Vitamin C.
A serving of capsicum (100 gm) would give around 120 mg of Vitamin C.
Most vegetables and greens provide more Vitamin C than these sugar-loaded jellies.

Let's look at Zinc. 100 gm of wholewheat flour provides 2.85 gm of Zinc. Most nuts and seeds provide adequate amounts of Zinc. So are the lentils and pulses that we commonly use in Indian cooking. Do refer to this compilation of sources of Zinc along with their values.

The first two phrases about Vitamin C and Zinc are targeting the parents whereas the last two phrases about exciting toys and fun fruit flavours are targeting the young kids. When I showed this article to my daughter, the first thing she spotted was the Toys. It didn't catch my attention whatsoever. Here's her comment verbatim - "If the kids buy these toys and they don't use them, then it goes to waste". How much of cheap plastic being used and wasted!

The fun fruit flavours are nothing but nature identical flavours and attractive synthetic food colours. 

Let's be vigilant about what we buy for our kids in the name of immunity. 

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